Azure Dynamics Bankrupt, Built Ford Transit Connect Electric

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2011 Ford Transit Connect Electric

2011 Ford Transit Connect Electric

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Well, that's not particularly good news: Azure Dynamics, the company that converted a handful of Ford Transit Connect small commercial vans to electric power, filed for bankruptcy on Monday.

It laid off about 120 employees at a variety of locations in MIchigan, Massachusetts, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

The 2011 Transit Connect Electric was unveiled with great hoopla and fanfare at the 2010 Chicago Auto Show by Ford, although technically it wasn't a Ford but an Azure Dynamics vehicle--a distinction that tended to get lost in the publicity.

Production of the electric conversion was halted Monday with the bankruptcy filing. Azure had built roughly 500 Transit Connect Electrics in the 18 months since it went into production in late 2010.

Ford isn't saying much about the bankruptcy so far.

In response to our query about Azure Dynamics and the bankruptcy, spokesman Wes Sherwood deferred all queries to Azure Dynamics.

Azure spokesman Mike Elwood told The Detroit News the company hopes to reorganize, and thinks the electric Transit Connect has a bright future. But he wasn't sure whether production would resume at some point in the future or end permanently.

Ford Transit Connect electric van in production

Ford Transit Connect electric van in production

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Ford's Sherwood added that his company's "priority is to ensure that Azure’s Transit Connect Electric customers continue to have support throughout their ownership experience," wording identical to that appearing in The Detroit News.

And then he pointed out that Ford's own electric-vehicle plans remained on track as part of a broader initiative to boost fuel economy across the company's lineup. And he summarized the company's many efforts to do so.

Since corporate average fuel economy levels rise continuously from 2012 through 2016, his statement appears to indicate that Ford will be complying with the law--a good thing.

But back to the Transit Connect Electric. Small urban delivery vans are viewed by many analysts as fertile ground for electric drive, since they cover predictable routes--generally of 50 miles or less--and return nightly to the same garage or base, where they can be recharged.

More than that, fleet managers are supremely rational buyers, looking not just at initial purchase price but total cost of ownership. Ford's cost and emissions calculator tool for fleets plays to this desire, and includes plug-in vehicles in its alternatives.

But electric vans will never reach a fraction of the volume of plug-in cars sold to consumers (about 17,000 were sold last year in the U.S.). So for Ford, the 2012 Focus Electric may be a more important vehicle.

Which is why it would seem a bit concerning that the company has sold only 10 of them after three months on the market.

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