“This trial is the first time Ford has given such early prototype vehicles to customers. The response has been overwhelmingly positive – operators don’t want to give them back.”

Mark Harvey, Ford director, Urban Electrified Van programme 

Prodrive helped Ford create the first Transit PHEV (Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicle).  The vehicles were designed with a zero-emission driving range of 50 km (31 miles) with a 1 litre Ecoboost petrol engine range extender providing a total range exceeding 500 km (310 miles).  We were responsible for the integration of the hybrid powertrain systems into an existing Transit platform without any modifications to the engine bay or load capacity.    We also built the first 20 vehicles, to near production standards at our headquarters in Banbury, ready for their year long trials in London.   

Three months since the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) in London, results of a year-long trial in the U.K. capital suggest that plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) commercial vehicles could present the most practical, readily available option for businesses trying to meet clean-air targets in cities.


The trial supported by £4.7 million grant from the U.K. Government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre – consisted of 20 Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans covering 240,000 km (150,000 miles) over a 12-month period. The trial sought to test whether businesses could carry out the typical daily duties of their diesel-powered vehicles, while maximising the use of zero-emissions electric-only mode.

The participants in the trial – Addison Lee Group, Autoglass, British Gas, Clancy Plant, DPD, Heathrow Airport, Interserve, Mears Group, the Metropolitan Police, Morrison Utility Services, RNLI, Royal Mail, Speedy Hire, Sky, Transport for London and Vodafone – represented a cross-section of city-based businesses, and integrated the Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans into their day-to-day operations. 

During the trial, 75 per cent of the fleet’s mileage in Central London and 49 per cent in Greater London was completed using pure electric power. The results highlight that even without a fully established electric vehicle charging network, the hybrid vans were able to dramatically reduce tailpipe emissions in the inner city, using the flexibility of a petrol range-extender to complete longer journeys when required.


Mark Harvey, director, Urban Electrified Van programme, said: “We know that businesses still have legitimate concerns about the range of fully-electric vehicles, as well as their cost-effectiveness and reliability. These trials have helped Ford and its customers to investigate the extent to which PHEVs can help to achieve urban air quality goals, whilst not compromising on productivity.”


The vehicles were so good that, in the words of Mark Harvey, Ford director, Urban Electrified Van programme: “This trial is the first time Ford has given such early prototype vehicles to customers, and we’ve been able to incorporate their feedback directly into the production van.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive – operators don’t want to give them back.” 

"Drivers were excited about trialling the new technology and soon began to enjoy their driveability, with the knowledge they were contributing to a cleaner London"


Transport for London, the local government body responsible for large parts of the transport system in Greater London, U.K., tested three Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid vans for a year. One of the vans was based at the depot in Hammersmith, two more were based at the depot in Stratford, east London, and used by engineers carrying out ultrasonic rail inspections across the network, mainly during the night. Average mileage was low, and almost entirely in Greater London; the vehicles only occasionally entered the Congestion Charge Zone.


Speedy Hire offers plant and specialist equipment for hire, such as lighting for events, water pumps and cutting equipment for construction. The Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid van was used by engineers maintaining equipment on hire at customers’ addresses, and was fitted with racking designed for tools and parts. The van was plugged in overnight at the driver’s home in Greater London and
occasionally at the depot if the engineer needed to pick up some specialised tools during the day. Most journeys into the Congestion Charge Zone were short, but the van entered the zone 112 times, running in pure electric mode for 83 per cent of the time. The longest journey in one day was 402 km (250 miles), and 122 km (76 miles) were driven on pure electric power.

Exemption from the London Congestion Charge Zone fee saved Speedy Hire £1,288 during 112 visits. The vehicle drove using pure electric power for 83 per cent of mileage inside the zone

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