New research commissioned by Ford Australia shows most people support eco-friendly businesses and want to see take-up of zero-emissions transport, results that have prompted it to finally enter the local EV market with at least five models by 2024.

Its announcement on Tuesday that its first EV in the Australian market would be its zero-emissions e-Transit delivery van was met with some surprise. I think many in the auto media (this writer included) had assumed, or at least hoped, that the first entry would be an electric ute.

After all, Ford’s Ranger is a favourite amongst tradies, and it is the US carmaker’s most popular model in Australia.

On top of that, the Ford F-150 Lightning promises a lot of things that will be game-changing for tradespeople, with on-board power for tools, the ability to provide emergency power if necessary from its underfloor lithium-ion battery, and of course that incredible instant torque that comes from an electric motor with no need to move through multiple gears.

Certainly, all the marketing that came out of Ford when it launched the F-150 was geared towards enticing tradespeople, although the base level commercial version will not be available until 2024.

(The e-Transit is offered in the US with on-board power also, although Ford Australia has declined to confirm at this time if the electric van will be offered with the same to the local Australian market.)

Nevertheless, the entry of Ford – one of the largest sellers of cars in Australia – into the fledgling local EV market with the e-Transit, and indeed the fact that it is finally making any move at all to bring EV models to Australia – is a pretty significant signal that local attitudes are finally changing.

On Tuesday, Ford cited the increase of online shopping as the key reason it is leading with the e-Transit.

Research by YouGov for Ford showed that with parcel delivery on the rise, more Australians say they want to see cleaner solutions for commercial fleets.

Although lockdowns may have reduced the emissions from private transport as Australia’s largest two cities were required to work from home if possible, the shift to online shopping may persist even though a path to more freedoms is now in sight.

And as Ford’s surveys shows, 71% of Australians are more supportive of businesses with a focus on sustainability, and 27% will even choose to buy from a business that gives more consideration to climate issues than from one that does not. Of the 1,045 surveyed, 63% said they want to see cleaner delivery fleets in operation.

This suggests that making the move to clean transport options will not only save businesses money in terms of fuel costs and maintenance, it could also save them from losing customers.

As Behyad Jafari, CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) notes, the shift in attitudes of consumers is not new.

“We have been surveying Australians for years and have consistently found a majority are enthusiastic for electric vehicles. But importantly, they want to see governments and businesses take early action to drive the market forward,” Jafari noted in an email to The Driven.

“Speaking with delivery fleets across the country, there is a growing awareness that electric fleets are already the more economic choice to make as well as the clear environmental choice.”

One hurdle to be overcome is the old chestnut of charging infrastructure. Ford’s survey showed that 71% believe there is not yet enough infrastructure to support demand for EVs.

Jafari agrees. “There are a range of identified issues like addressing charging infrastructure in depots, logistics customers have been keen to address these and work closely with the EVC to learn how they can most quickly transition their fleets to zero emissions,” he says.

When the e-Transit launches – with comes with a 68kWh battery and up to 317km range – in early 2022, it will join a very small number of electric vans available on the local market.

Its competitors, for the time being, are the Renault Kangoo ZE which has about 200km range, and the EC11 from EV Automotive.

The former is around $55,000 driveaway and costs about $20,000 more than its fossil-fuelled equivalents. The latter with 73.6kWh battery which offers up to 300km range, and is available for pre-order and is priced at $89,990 driveaway.

Although long-distance range is not necessarily a deciding factor for delivery and logistics, pricing is certainly a big factor.

Ford has declined to confirm if it will enter with the market at a price eligible for the NSW and Victorian EV rebates (ie, under $A68,750 in NSW, and $A68,740 in Victoria), or under the threshold to see stamp duty waived in NSW (under $A78,000). The latter does looks likely though – in the US, the e-Transit starts at $US44,990 ($A61,774 converted).

Regardless, Jafari says that the fact Ford is making moves now shows that the logistics industry is ready to transform to one that is able to help reach state net-zero targets, if not the federal government’s “aspirations”.

“Ford’s entrance to the market is a clear signal to the modern automotive industry, the future is electric and it’s urgent. If you’re not a part of this today, don’t expect your customers to wait around for you to catch up,” he says.

Extracted in full from: Ford’s entry to EV market shows massive shift in attitudes to clean transport (