COLOGNE, GERMANY - Ford Motor Co. and Azure Dynamics Corp. said May 3 that they have signed a collaborative agreement to begin delivering a pure battery-electric version of the Ford Transit Connect van to customers in Europe beginning in late summer 2011. 

Azure will integrate its Force Drive battery-electric drive train into Transit Connect vehicles in Europe to support the sale of the zero-emission battery-electric models in selected markets. 

The Ford Transit Connect was first launched in Europe in 2002. The vehicle is designed, engineered and constructed to meet the needs of small business operators. In 2003, the vehicle received the International Van of the Year award. 

Under Ford's global ONE Ford initiative, the Transit Connect was also introduced to the U.S. and Canadian markets in 2009 and received the 2010 North American Truck of the Year award at the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. 

"Adding a practical, full battery-electric, zero-emission alternative to the range further demonstrates the enormous flexibility of this vehicle and gives customers the option of being among the first to adopt this environmentally friendly technology," said John Fleming, Ford of Europe's chairman and CEO.   

Ford's relationship with Azure Dynamics is already well established in North America and is now extending to Europe. In North America, Azure develops hybrid electric and electric drive technology for shuttle buses and commercial trucks. This includes the Balance Hybrid Electric, which is built on a Ford E-450 "cutaway and strip" chassis for the medium-duty commercial vehicle segment.  

Michigan-based Azure began work on its collaborative agreement to deliver the pure battery-electric powertrain for the Transit Connect in the U.S and Canada in October 2009. The extension of this collaboration into Europe represents the first time Azure will operate in the region. 

"We're excited about the extension of the Transit Connect Electric program to Europe and understand that putting electric vehicles on the world's roads in significant quantities will be a long-term proposition," said Scott T. Harrison, Azure Dynamics CEO. "However, with the Transit Connect Electric, Ford and Azure are doing their part in helping to lead that transition. 

"The European Union and individual governments are keen to encourage adoption of electric transportation technology because they understand the potential benefits to energy infrastructure and to society at large," Harrison added. "We believe that European commercial vehicle customers will be eager to adopt the Transit Connect Electric into their fleets, to demonstrate their commitment to becoming part of the solution."