California Vanpool Authority (CalVans), a public transit agency that meets the needs of the state’s commuters, has purchased 403 new Ford E-Transit vans through Model 1 Commercial Vehicles, the nation’s largest bus and transportation services dealer. CalVans’ fleet of nearly 1,000 vehicles included many traditional-fuel units that had exceeded the recommended lifecycle or were reaching end-of-life.
CalVans uses 12-person and 9-person passenger vans which are used to transport residents in less populous areas with employment centers. The additional vans will affect 32 counties, which include many rural areas in need of agricultural workers. According to Model 1, the individual drivers will charge the E-Transits at their own residences, and that they are expected to primarily use Level 2 chargers, with Ford's chargers the most prevalent brand,
“This single move will grow our fleet by more than 40% and save millions in miles not traveled in the next year—greenhouse gas- and gas-free,” said Steve McShane, CalVans Board Chair.
The move to EVs was made in part due to CalVans’ difficulty in finding parts to maintain older gas-fueled models, as well as obtaining traditional unit options within the timeframe needed. Since the pandemic, Model 1 had invested in EV inventory, infrastructure, product support and technical training, allowing the dealer to fulfill the large order, the company stated. Model 1 represents more than 20 top commercial vehicles (bus, van, EV, and other alternative fuel) manufacturers across the country.
“It’s encouraging to see adoption of electric vehicles happening at a significant scale,” said Tony Matijevich, President of Model 1. “We hope the move by CalVans—and their collaborative approach with Model 1—emboldens other agencies and organizations to make the commitment to EV units.” Matijevich noted that Model 1 has units in stock as other organizations and agencies are expanding their fleets and considering EV.
Along with reducing emissions at the tailpipe, the move should greatly reduce CalVans' maintenance costs. According to Ford Pro estimates, an E-Transit should have 45% lower scheduled maintenance costs per year than a gas-powered 2022 Transit over 5 years or 75,000 miles. The total estimated annual average maintenance costs for a gas-powered Transit is $1,420, while the E-Transit would cost the user $769 per year. With no need for oil changes, scheduled maintenance would comprise tire rotations, swapping out cabin air filters, and brake fluid changes. And because electric vehicles leverage regenerative braking, which reduces brake wear and tear, brake maintenance in general should be less frequent as well.
Ford Pro's service network expansion
Ford Pro, the company's commercial vehicle business unit started in 2021, is also in the process of scaling up to expand its service network and improve customer uptime.
“Uptime is the lifeblood for all businesses, especially small and medium businesses, who with government municipalities make up roughly half of our customer base," noted FordPro CEO Ted Cannis at Ford's Capital Markets Day in May. "We are building our service capability to offer fast, reliable, data-driven service that is essential to keeping vehicles on the road."
This includes the addition of 120 Service Elite Centers in North America, with the first opening earlier in 2023. Ford Pro also has more than 650 specialized Commercial Vehicle Center dealers, all of which are EV-certified.
"These centers specialize in high throughput of commercial vehicles, including fully upfit Super Duties, Transits, and medium-duty trucks," Cannis said. "They have bigger service bays and longer service hours."
Keeping in line with the growing industry trend of mobile maintenance, Ford Pro has more than 1,000 Ford Pro Mobile Service vehicles on the the road. In July Tim Baughman, general manager of Ford Pro, said the company will double that number by the end of this year.
Pairing predictive maintenance and dedicated uptime experts FORDLiiVE command centers is another big part of Ford Pro's strategy. These centers are currently active in North America and Europe.
"They help maximize uptime for customers by cutting the time a vehicle is off the road through proactive fleet monitoring and issues resolution, like expediting repairs and parts ordering," Cannis said. "In 2022, we helped our customers in Europe avoid 300,000 days of downtime, equating to around $150 million of savings, or $500 per day."
Cannis added the potential savings from FORDLiiVE could reach the billions.
Cannis noted that Ford Pro's "secret weapon" is its collaboration with more than 500 vehicle upfitters in Europe and North America. In 2022, more than 270,000 of Ford Pro’s new vehicles were upfitted, adding cranes, snow plows, shelves, seating, and much more. The new Ford Pro Upfit Integration System (UIS), which was rolled out with the 2023 Ford Super Duty, will make this process even easier. Instead of analog switches, accessories can be programmed from the vehicle's "infotainment" touchscreen.
The upfitting for CalVans is handled by Forest River Bus. Several configurations based on routes were used to meet ADA compliance and make room for passenger bags and tools. The ADA passenger units are fully tested and certified by Forest River Bus, BraunAbility, Q’Straint and Freedman Seating Company to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) requirements.