Chicago Auto Show showcases vehicles for the trades too

March 1, 2011
CHICAGO — This year, the Chicago Auto Show not only featured the latest cars and trucks for the consumer and concept cars for the car aficionado, the auto show also showcased commercial and fleet vehicles.

CHICAGO — This year, the Chicago Auto Show not only featured the latest cars and trucks for the consumer and concept cars for the car aficionado, the auto show also showcased commercial and fleet vehicles — some being alternative fuel vehicles — for the business owner and contractor.

The 2011 Ford Transit Connect Electric, one of the first electric vehicles from Ford in collaboration with Azure Dynamics, a solutions partner that has developed proprietary electric and hybrid electric drive technology for the light to heavy duty commercial vehicle categories, was showcased. The Transit Connect Electric features Azure Dynamics’ Force Drive battery electric drivetrain and Johnson Controls-Saft’s advanced lithium-ion battery technology.

The Transit Connect Electric is suitable for fleets that travel short-range routes with frequent stop-and-go driving. The vehicle will have a maximum speed of 75 mph with a targeted range of up to 80 miles on a full charge. It can be charged with either a standard 120V outlet or preferably a 240V charge station installed at the user’s operations base. A transportable cord that works with both types of outlets will be available for recharging at both types of locations.

The charge port is located above the passenger-side rear wheel well, and the onboard liquid-cooled 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack is charged by connecting the charge port to a power outlet. An onboard charger then converts the AC power from the electric grid to DC power to charge the battery pack.

Other features of the Transit Connect Electric include more than 135-cu.ft. of cargo space, two sliding side doors and two swinging rear doors, low side and rear load floor, seating for two and an open cargo box. Some commercial-friendly features on the Transit Connect, including an in-dash computer with Internet access and available printer, a tool-inventory system, and a vehicle-tracking device for fleet users, may be offered on the Transit Connect Electric.

The 2011 Chevrolet Express CNG (compressed natural gas) Cargo Van was also showcased at the auto show. Compressed natural gas is produced domestically and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The cargo van has a specially designed engine for gaseous fuels and comes with a fully integrated and warranted dedicated gaseous fuel system in place.

The 2011 Chevrolet Express and Savana CNG Cargo Vans utilize a 6.0L Vortec V8 engine with factory-installed hardened exhaust valves and intake/exhaust valve seats. Two fuel tank systems are offered: a three tank system and a four tank system. The three tank system provides a range up to 250 miles, and the four tank system provides a range up to 350 miles. The CNG option is immediately available on Express/Savana 2500 and 3500 cargo vans.

Also showcased was the Silverado HD, which was recently named the 2011 Motor Trend Truck of the Year. It features new frame and suspension designs, a Duramax diesel engine with 397 horsepower, 765 lb.-ft. of torque, and improved highway fuel economy by more than 11%. It is capable of towing up to 21,700 pounds and a payload of up to 6,635 pounds. The heavy duty truck also offers features for towing, including electronic trailer sway control, hill start assist and smart exhaust brake system.

Three cab configurations are available on the 2011 Silverado HD, along with two box lengths, 2WD or 4x4, and single and dual rear wheel offerings. Each HD comes with a removable tailgate and a stamped box that is more than 4-ft. wide with stake pockets, two-tier loading capability and four cargo tie-downs. The 2500HD Extended Cab and Crew Cab offer a 6.5- or 8-ft. long box for hauling. And Chevrolet Wi-Fi by Autonet Mobile is available for any Silverado HD via dealerships.

Also at the Chicago Auto Show, Ram Truck announced the new trim package, The Tradesman, a value-priced option package designed to meet the needs of contractors working at jobsites.

The Tradesman starts with the Ram 1500 ST trim package and adds features such as a standard HEMI engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. HEMI-equipped Ram 1500s are rated at 390 horsepower/407 ft.-lb. torque and 20 mpg highway. Also included in the Tradesman package is a standard Class IV trailer hitch with lighted, above-bumper four- and seven-pin trailer wire connectors. The Tradesman also features heavy-duty engine cooling and a heavy-duty transmission oil cooler.

All Ram 1500 models, including the Tradesman, feature segment-exclusive multi-link rear coil suspension. A coil-spring setup centralizes and absorbs bumps and impacts and reduces the amount of friction in the spring system.

Available in either regular cab short-bed and long-bed models, the Tradesmen comes with a choice of 4x2 or 4x4 powertrains. It is also equipped with a variety of standard features, including 17-in. full-face painted steel wheels exclusive to the Tradesman; 160-amp alternator; 17-in. steel spare wheel and full-size spare tire; 26-gal. fuel tank on the short bed or 32-gal. fuel tank on the long bed; 3.55 rear axle ratio; 700-amp maintenance-free battery; cargo bed lamp; and front and rear heavy-duty shock absorbers.

Standard interior features include, but are not limited to, a 12-volt auxiliary power outlet, media center with CD and MP3 player, six speakers, audio jack for mobile devices, behind the seat storage, driver and passenger assist handles, and instrument panel with tachometer. The Tradesman will go on sale in the second quarter 2011.

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About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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