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Product, Service & Design Innovation
Ford Reveals 5 Fleets for TfL PHEV Pilot, Launches Closed-Loop Aluminum Recycling System

Ford continues its push to be a global leader in electric vehicles and sustainability with two new announcements.

Earlier this year, Ford announced a new multi-million-dollar pilot project in partnership with Transport for London (TfL) to reduce emissions and improve air quality in London through the use of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) transit custom vans that run solely on electric power. The automaker has now revealed the five fleets that will be participating in the program.

The Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid van pilot program is part of a $4.5 billion Ford investment along with the introduction of 13 new electric vehicles globally over the next five years to give customers greater capability, productivity and performance. The plans are part of Ford’s expansion to be an auto and mobility company, as well as a leader in electric and self-driving vehicles and new mobility solutions.

The project is designed to explore how lower-emission plug-in hybrid electric vans could support cleaner air targets, while boosting productivity for operators in urban conditions — the toughest working environment for commercial vehicles. Its arrival is timely — air pollution poses a serious problem for London and the capital city surpassed its 2017 air pollution limit just days into the new year.

The program features a 12-month pilot of 20 new Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid vans that reduce emissions by running on electric power for the majority of inner city trips. Equipped with range extenders, the fleet is not limited by battery range, making them capable of the longer journeys that may be required by businesses and police and emergency vehicle services.

The participating fleets represent a cross-section of city-based businesses that will integrate the vans into their day-to-day operations, including the Metropolitan Police with two Transit Custom PHEVs — one marked for second response to traffic accidents and one unmarked as a forensic support unit. In addition, TfL will use three of the vans for freight duties.

The five confirmed fleets include:

The vans will collect data on the vehicles’ financial, operational and environmental performance using a Ford telematics system to help understand how the benefits of electric vehicles can be maximized.

“Over the past 50 years, the Ford Transit has been the UK’s favorite commercial vehicle. Our customers have always been at the center of our development, so working directly with our fleets is vital in delivering an electrified CV that adds value to the many different businesses going in and out of our cities every day,” said Andy Barratt, Chairman and Managing Director of Ford of Britain.

The program will launch this fall with support from Transport for London and the UK government-funded Advanced Propulsion Center. The automaker plans to introduce the vans to market in 2019.

Meanwhile, three Ford factories in the US have introduced an expansive closed-loop recycling system that enables the company to reduce waste, save energy and improve sustainability. Ford is now saving enough recycled high-strength military-grade aluminum alloy — approximately five million pounds a week — to build 51 commercial jetliners or more than 37,000 new F-Series truck bodies a month.

According to the Aluminum Association, reprocessing aluminum scrap uses one-tenth the energy required to make new aluminum. The organization estimates that because of how cost effective it is to recycle aluminum, 75 percent of all aluminum produced is still in use today.

“Not only does this make sound business sense, it’s helping Ford reduce its environmental impact,” said Chip Conrad, a Ford stamping engineer and lead on the development of the automaker’s closed-loop recycling system.

The automaker first explored a closed-loop recycling system for aluminum back in 2015, when it partnered with Novelis — the largest global producer of rolled aluminum products. The collaboration saw a shift in Ford’s Dearborn manufacturing facility from steel to lightweight aluminum and the construction of new automotive aluminum production lines and recycling infrastructure at Novelis to process the return scrap. The partners additionally worked together on vehicle designs that allow for higher amounts of recycled aluminum content.

Developed at the Dearborn Stamping Plant and now in place in Kentucky Truck and Buffalo Stamping, the closed-loop recycling system is powered by an automated vacuum system and more than two miles of tubes crisscrossing the plants. As doors and fenders are stamped into shape, scrap material is shredded into chips, roughly the size of a dollar bill, which get sucked into the system and routed via a series of computer-controlled gates to a multi-ton pile in the back of a semi.

“Our ability to recycle leads to improved fuel economy and capability for our truck customers. And it helps us build more affordable, high-performing, efficient trucks.”

As Ford expands the use of aluminum in its product lineup, closed-loop recycling systems will be essential to the long-term viability of lightweight materials and meeting overall sustainability targets.