Former Hummer Factory to Build Electric Ford Van

DETROIT - AM General LLC, best known as the maker of military Humvees and Hummers, is going greener with a new foray into the electric vehicle business.

The South Bend, Ind., company will handle final assembly of Ford Motor Co.'s electric Transit Connect commercial vans, which will go on sale next spring. Azure Dynamics, which will make the electric driving system, made the announcement today.

Ford plans to ship engine-less Transit Connects from its factory in Turkey to an AM General facility in Michigan, where workers will install Azure's electric system. Azure Dynamics, based in Oak Park, Mich., won a $1.3 million state tax credit for the project, which will create an estimated 83 jobs.

This isn't the first time AM General has been involved in an electric vehicle project. In 1975, it produced 350 electric Jeeps for the U.S. Postal Service. More recently, the company has developed prototype electric Humvees for the U.S. military and vans that run on compressed natural gas, according to AM General spokeswoman Celeste Ross.

Still, it's a different direction for the company, which made Hummers for General Motors Co. until early last year, when it stopped producing the H2. Hummer, a victim of consumers' greener tastes, is being phased out as a brand after GM failed to find a buyer.

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Rick Smith, president of AM General's commercial business segment, said the company is eager to be part of the auto industry's advancements in alternative energy.

The electric Transit Connect will look like the regular version of the delivery van, but it's powered by a lithium-ion battery pack. Azure said it will be among the first fully electric vehicles available to the commercial market.

The electric Transit Connect will be available through dealers and through Azure Dynamics. Pricing hasn't been released. Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Moore said AT&T Corp. has bought two of the first vans.