The cost of sitting in traffic is more than just time. It's also hopelessly inefficient, pumping thousands of tons of CO2 into the air while drivers just sit there, engine idling and blood boiling. Ford has teamed up with the City of London to cut pollution caused by commercial vehicles in traffic, with a fleet of plug-in hybrid vans to tackle short-hop deliveries.
The initial year-long trial in London will involve 20 plug-in hybrid Ford Transits, being used by local businesses to conduct short-hop deliveries and maintenance work. Given most of these trips are short range, low-speed errands, they're perfectly suited to pure electric power. When the underfloor batteries run flat, or if the trip involves more strenuous motorway running, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to extend range.
This isn't a new idea – everyone from Audi to Volvo offers four-wheel drives and sedans with a small pure electric range, backed up by internal combustion – but the use of plug-in hybrids isn't widespread in the commercial world, where the technology could be of huge benefit.
Although running 20 vans isn't going to have a huge impact immediately, widespread use of plug-in hybrid or purely electric delivery vans could be of huge environmental benefit, especially in traffic-choked cities. According to Ford, commercial vehicles make 280,000 trips on a typical London weekday, with vans making up around 75 percent of commercial traffic.
"The freight sector's transition to ultra-low emission vehicles is central to cleaning up London's toxic air," says Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. "Transport for London continues to lead by example by increasing the number of its own vehicles that are electric and will find the data from these trials an invaluable resource for the LoCITY program, which encourages the uptake of low-emission commercial transport."
At the moment, there's no word on the all-electric range of the Transit Custom plug-in hybrid, which should be hitting showrooms in 2019. It will be one of 13 electrified cars to be launched by Ford in the next five years, part of the brand's push to transition from an auto company to a mobility supplier.
The trial will begin in Q3 of 2017, with Transport for London among the businesses taking part.