DEARBORN, Mich., June 4, 2010 – When Tim Conlon, president of California Yellow Cab, first laid eyes on the new Ford Transit Connect, he wondered if it had a future in taxi service. Now, having seen the award-winning small commercial van in person, he says it has potential to be "the iconic taxi of the future."
In fact, Conlon is so confident of the Transit Connect Taxi package – which goes into production and arrives in dealerships later this year – he's already put in an order for 25 units.
What drove Conlon's decision – and is driving interest among other taxi companies – is the Transit Connect's alternative fuel engine prep package, which enables conversion to efficient, clean-burning compressed natural gas (CNG) or propane (LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas).
Both CNG and LPG are popular among taxi operators because of their low cost of ownership. California Yellow Cab of Santa Ana will convert its Transit Connects to CNG, to take advantage of the availability of natural gas fueling stations in Orange County. With the acquisition, Conlon expects California Yellow Cab to become the first taxi company in the Southern California to operate half of its 220-vehicle fleet on natural gas.
"California Yellow Cab started to use natural gas in 2002 before there were many refueling stations," Conlon said. "Now that the infrastructure has built up, we'll be able to help protect Orange County's air quality even more with the Transit Connect. It's a perfect fit for our drivers, and its roomy, easy-to-access interior will appeal to our customers as well."
The flexible interior of the Transit Connect is well suited for both taxi service and conversion to CNG and LPG. The vehicle's 135 cubic feet of cargo space accommodates a compressed gas tank while leaving ample passenger legroom and cargo capacity.
To serve taxi operators, Ford will provide calibration guidance for the CNG or LPG conversion. By properly following Ford's recommendations, the conversion can be completed without voiding the engine's warranty.
Wooing customers and winning fans
Conlon was one of many taxi operators to place orders for the Transit Connect after seeing the vehicle at the recent Taxicab Paratransit Association's (TPAC) annual convention in California.
"Everyone wanted to see the Transit Connect – it was the hit of the show," said Steve Wood, co-owner of South Bay Ford in Los Angeles, one of the largest service dealerships in the U.S. "Once they hit the streets, every taxi operator is going to want them."
Driving interest in Transit Connect Taxi in California is the mandate of many of its municipalities adopting standards for fleet operators to use cleaner, low-carbon fuels. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, CNG is less expensive and burns cleaner than gasoline, resulting in 30 percent to 40 percent less greenhouse gas emissions. Propane also burns cleaner than gasoline.
"Compressed natural gas and propane offer more than sufficient power for vehicles because they are high-energy fuels," said Rob Stevens, Transit Connect chief engineer. "Another natural benefit for these fuels is they provide overall lower emissions of greenhouse gases compared to gasoline. Additionally, using CNG or LPG provides operators lower fuel/operating costs for their fleet."
Nearly 87 percent of natural gas used in the United States is domestically produced, contributing to a greater desire for energy independence. There also are government tax credit incentives for fleets to convert to alternative fuels.
Transit Connect is just one of several Ford vehicles that offer CNG/LPG conversion capability. Ford has shipped more than 3,000 CNG/LPG-prepped engines for its E-Series vans with 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gas engines. A similar package will be introduced for F-Series Super Duty trucks this year.
A conversion-ready interior
Transit Connect Taxi offers an outstanding interior package for people and cargo. With its open architecture, the taxi provides excellent interior headroom and passenger visibility. The vehicle's rear seat has been moved back 3 inches to maximize passenger comfort. The 6.5 inches of ground clearance allows passengers to step easily through the dual sliding doors. Additional climate control ventilation has been added for rear seat passengers.
The Transit Connect Taxi also features a wiring upfit package with a hole in the roof for signage, vinyl front and rear seats, vinyl flooring and standard third-row windows – all factory installed. Additional installation of taxi modifications such as roof signage and the optional seating partition are handled by taxi upfitters in local markets.
"Transit Connect already has proven it offers tremendous versatility for commercial fleet use," said Gerry Koss, Ford fleet marketing manager. "The Transit Connect Taxi, combined with the capability for CNG/LPG conversion, further demonstrates its flexibility."
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 176,000 employees and about 80 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford, Lincoln, Mercury and, until its sale, Volvo. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford's products, please visit www.ford.com.