Departmental Spotlight: Facilities and its new Ford E-Transit Cargo Van

Recently, the custodial team took possession of a new, fully-electric Ford E-Transit Cargo Van. The purchase was expertly executed by Bob Harris, Manager for Procurement and Auxiliary Services and financed with funds from the annual Sustainability Fund. After taking a couple of snapshots of the van—which sports a maximum 126-mile range and 266 horsepower delivered by a 68kWh high-voltage lithium-ion battery pack—in September, we recently checked in with the custodial team to ask about their user experiences so far.

Edited lightly for length and clarity, here’s what Marc Field, Dave Boyer and Bob Harris shared with us.

Picture of electric car.

How does the new van compare to other vehicles you’ve used?

It has great cargo room for any task we would encounter during any normal work day. It has no blind spots when driving, doesn’t need gas, drives very nicely and we’re very appreciative for having access to it every day.

How did the idea to buy an electric cargo van come about?

Historically, custodial staff would inherit a repurposed internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle from the pool of college cars. Given their low annual mileage, we felt this might be a good opportunity for use of an electric vehicle.

Was it difficult to find a suitable model?

It wasn’t difficult, as a local dealership had two models on hand, and we were looking for another vehicle when we became aware of the opportunity.

For what types of tasks do you use the van?

We use it for the delivery of any/all the material that custodial needs throughout campus. During the winter months we will also supply ice-melt/shoveling duties as well.

What have some initial reactions by users been? What might be some of the benefits and concerns about going electric?

We have been thoroughly satisfied with the vehicle. The only drawback may be the lack of insulation which requires the use of heat/AC which in turn affects the range. Initial charging of once per week has now already increased to twice per week, and we may require even more frequent charging as colder weather sets in. The addition of a bulkhead might help, as it reduces the space that needs heating.

How do you handle battery charging of the vehicle?

Battery charging has happened primarily at the Facilities’ charging station, although other locations have been used at times as well.

Could you see opportunities to add or replace additional vehicles with electric models in the future?

Fleet vehicles, with their limited annual mileage, may be an opportunity, though the infrastructure for charging would require modification.

Any other thoughts or observations you would like to share?

The team is appreciative of the new vehicle, whose added height allows standing while loading / offloading and thus makes for improved ergonomics. Having had it only for a short amount of time, we will likely have more input as time goes on.

Interior view of car, from the trunk
We thank Marc, Dave and Bob for supporting the college’s vehicle electrification efforts and sharing their first impressions with the Ford E-Transit Cargo Van with us!


Information provided by Marc Field, Dave Boyer, and Bob Harris, Custodial Team

Article compiled by Tanja Srebotnjak, Director of the Zilkha Center and Mike Evans, Deputy Director of the Zilkha Center