Ford (and GM, too) break the male-dominated mold and put women in leadership positions. So heading Ford’s electric Transit Connect program is chief engineer Lisa Drake, who chats with me about the company’s electric vehicle strategy in this video:

Ford has several arrows in its electrification quiver, and the small Turkish-built Transit Connect van (on sale by the end of the year) is the first heading for targets in the commercial space. “Glider” (engine-free) vans will be delivered to Ford partner Azure Dynamics in Michigan for drivetrain installation. The company will make 1,000 of them initially, and is talking to potential fleet buyers, including AT&T and Best Buy (which could presumably put the Geek Squad behind the wheel).

The Ford Transit Connect EV is the same basic concept as the Bright Idea, though the latter is a plug-in hybrid. Drake demurred when I asked her if a plug-in hybrid Transit iteration is likely, though it does seem a logical next step. Ford is developing a plug-in hybrid (and other next-generation hybrids) for 2012, and a battery version of the Focus for 2011.

After talking to Lisa, one of the youngest chief engineers in Ford’s history, I was able to take a short time behind the wheel in the Transit Connect. Unfortunately, New York’s crowded West Side is no place for test drives and we spent more time stuck in traffic than we did driving. Still, I got the impression that companies switching to fleets of this van would not have a drivers’ strike on their hands. It’s quiet, just as energetic as any four-cylinder alternative, and rattle- and whine-free.

The interior is appropriately understated, but well laid-out for the driver. Turn the key and let go. Nothing much happens, but when you step on the loud pedal it takes off with little drama. With a 28-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack, the range is about 80 miles, and top speed — if it comes to that — around 75. But most of these will end up hauling stuff around town. We don’t know what they’ll cost yet, but you’ll be the first to know.

This is MNN's second video interview with Lisa Drake. She told me her mother was particularly taken with this earlier one, from the Detroit Auto Show, saying it was the first time she saw her daughter on YouTube.

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