UK’s most powerful large van relies solely on an electric motor – and to good effect

The Transit Custom is the darling of Ford, having secured its place in the history books as 2021’s best-selling vehicle in the UK. Yet the firm’s most important vehicle this year has to be the new E-Transit, Ford’s first electric commercial vehicle at a time when companies are looking to clean up their public images.

Unsurprisingly, Ford hasn’t held back: the E-Transit is now the most powerful large van on sale, thanks to a 265bhp motor, while even the lesser variant is punchy, with 181bhp. Both make a massive 318lb ft of torque.

You might fear that the lack of an engine would mean you have to listen to plenty of wind noise and road roar, but not so. And even in our prototype, the well-built interior was rattle-free.

The option of two power ratings is rare for an electric van, and rarer still is to offer multiple bodystyles, but the E-Transit has an impressive 25. Short, medium and long wheelbases, two roof heights and three different gross vehicle weights of up to 4.25 tonnes make it the most comprehensive electric van on the market. And there will also be chassis-cab and double-cab models, too.

One choice customers aren’t given is battery size. A 68kWh pack is the only option, giving a range of up to 196 miles. While that should be sufficient for most use cases, rapid-charging from a 115kW charger will fill it from 15% to 80% in 34 minutes.

Despite the heavy battery and big motor in the rear axle assembly, the E-Transit has a payload potential of up to 1758kg, with the 3.5-tonner able to move more than 1000kg. Load volumes go up to 15.1m3.

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The E-Transit is almost identical to the regular Ford Transit externally, but those with a keen eye will notice the new rear coil springs (replacing the leaf springs on diesel vans) and the motor when behind one on the road.

Inside, it’s a different story, due to the addition of the 12.0in touchscreen from the Mustang Mach-E. It will run Ford’s Sync 4 connectivity system to give infotainment, sat-nav, over-the-air updates and a range predictor that factors in weather and traffic data.

The Transit has always handled like a van half its size and it’s better still in EV form. With the battery bolted under the chassis (rather than between the rails), it feels stabler and it’s enhanced further by the rear coils.

Then there’s the power: it feels more than fast enough with the entry-level motor, while the 265bhp one has the potential to cause upsets in races away from the traffic lights.

Fleet managers will therefore be pleased to learn of Eco mode, which limits the power to improve range. In Normal mode, it’s punchy and entertaining, while Slippery adds a sensible safety net by adjusting the traction control and power delivery.

The E-Transit is unquestionably well balanced and entertaining to drive – perhaps the best in Ford’s van range. It does feel a bit sterile, but that’s merely a reflection of its quietness, rather than a criticism.

Ford’s approach to regenerative braking is also slightly different from rivals’. An ‘L’ button within a dial on the dashboard gives full regen, which is strong enough to make the E-Transit a real one-pedal machine, or you can use the brake pedal and adjust the regeneration with a single or double tap, giving moderate and then L-mode levels of retardation. It is a bit convoluted and would probably be better as a steering wheel-mounted control but still works well.

You can almost get two Transits for the price of one E-Transit, but that shouldn’t be held against the EV, as it’s notably cheaper, more powerful and rangier than its most obvious rival, the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter.

The added benefits of solutions like Pro Power Onboard – a power supply of up to 2.3kW to run tools, lights or fridge units without the need for a generator – and the bird’s-eye view of the van’s surroundings on that huge screen will only add to the appeal.

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George Barrow