Ford's EV Partners: Smith Out, Azure In

| About: Ford Motor (F)

By Jeff St. John

Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F) has changed up its partners on developing its Transit Connect electric van, ending its work with Smith Electric Vehicles to switch to Azure Dynamics Corp., it announced Friday.

But that hasn't changed Ford's timeline for getting the electric van to market by 2010, to be followed by an electric Focus in 2011 and a plug-in hybrid of yet-undetermined model in 2012, the automaker said (see Ford Deploys Electric-Car-to-Grid Communication System).

Smith and Ford say they mutually agreed to end their partnership. Smith said the move would allow it to concentrate on making its electric Newton trucks, according to a statement from its U.K.-based parent company, The Tanfield Group.

Smith got a $10 million Department of Energy grant for its Newton trucks, as well as $4.5 million in orders through the US Clean Cities Program, and started producing vehicles at its Kansas City, Mo. plant this month.

Tanfield also announced that Smith would work with military and commercial vehicle maker AM General to develop all-electric post office delivery trucks.

Mich.-based Azure Dynamics, for its part, has turned to Johnson Controls-Saft for the lithium-ion battery cells and packs for the Transit Connect. Both Azure and Ford

Ford will continue to work with The Tanfield Group in Europe.