Image description
Image description
Image description

1. BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E BACKGROUND:

Right back to the dawn of motoring, around the turn of the last century, some of the earliest motor vehicles were electric and battery powered. However, the electric motor vehicle never gained the same engineering development & research compared to the petrol internal combustion engine and within a short time the flexibility and performance of the petrol engine proved easier to engineer and proved to be not only superior but universally popular. Despite the lack of development, the low-speed electric vehicles continued to play a small role in niche markets, such as door-to-door milk delivery, where silent operation in the early hours of the morning was a benefit and the lack of performance wasn’t a major issue.

During the 1960s there major advances in semiconductor technology which opened the way for the efficient and infinitely variable control of electric motors, this was coupled with modest advances in the energy density of lead-acid batteries which made higher performance drive systems a more realistic possibility. Pioneering research work undertaken by Lucas Industries in the UK on electronic controllers for Direct Currant (DC) motors led to the creation by Lucas of a dedicated Electric Vehicle (EV) project team with the aim of developing fully-integrated drive systems for “traffic compatible” EVs, meaning with competitive speed and acceleration in city and urban driving conditions. During the 1960s Vauxhall-Bedford were the only division of General Motors outside of the US to experiment in any meaningful way with electric vehicles. This wasn’t a wholly Vauxhall project though and was done in a joint development with the Lucas EV group and their then competitor Chloride. The first fruit of these joint projects was a conversion on an 18cwt Bedford CA petrol engine Van to electric power in 1968. The biggest problem with this prototype was the sheer weight of all the batteries under the raised rear cargo floor which meant there was virtually no capability to carry any sort of load without overloading the suspension, unless the van was going to deliver polystyrene blocks! Vauxhall uprated the suspension several times but the project was eventually dropped. Only one prototype was built and its fate is unknown but was more than likely just scrapped.

The motivation for a renewed interest in EVs during the early 1970s was not air pollution or global warming, but the Middle East Oil Crisis of 1973. EVs were not directly dependent on fossil fuels, and if recharged at night would not increase peak electricity generation, but would help with night-time “load- levelling” and enable power stations to operate more efficiently. In September 1969 the Bedford CA had been replaced by the much sturdier CF Van range and when Middle East oil crisis had gripped the Western World in 1973 so, again in conjunction with Lucas EV Group and Chloride, development work commenced on converting 20 Bedford CF Vans to electric power on similar lines to the CA project. By this time the battery development had improved the output in relation to size and Lucas had developed a higher output electric motor as well as improved control technology. These vehicles were trialled from 1974 onwards by a select group of fleet operators who were chosen specifically because their work suited a light payload, short haul, stop/start vehicle such as the Electric CF. Vauxhall liaised closely with Lucas EV Team and the vehicle operators as to the suitability and performance of the vans in service. Whilst the trial was relatively successful the one other barrier to series production was now cost – the price of a CF Electric Van would be double that of a comparable diesel CF at the time and its payload would be smaller and therefore it would take a mountain of years for the electric version to counter the initial outlay of the diesel versus the reduced running costs of the electric version. Despite this trials with selected fleet operators continued for the rest of the 1970s.

Neither Vauxhall nor Lucas / Chloride gave up on the electric van project and prototype building and testing continued throughout the rest of the 1970s as is shown by the spy photographs taken in 1977 showing a heavily modified CF in Lucas livery undergoing tests at Millbrook proving ground. Lucas EV Systems Ltd obviously felt confident enough to issue a book in 1978 detailing the projects they were working on. In 1981 Lucas, with its competitor, Chloride Group, established a joint venture company, Lucas Chloride EV Systems (LCEVS), to pool their systems technologies and resources and create a unified British EV programme. Given the limitations of the technology of the time (lead-acid batteries were still the only viable power source), Lucas and Chloride realised that electric cars were not a viable proposition, but research showed that around 50 per cent of medium vans (1 tonne payload) rarely covered more than 50 miles per day - a range which existing technology could satisfy. At the same time the two companies did not want to get involved with vehicle design and production and so in order to minimise investment in tooling, they needed to persuade vehicle manufacturers to fit their drive systems to existing petrol and diesel models with as few modifications as possible. The design brief thus became to produce a fully integrated drive system which could be fitted to a production van on a production line alongside conventional petrol and diesel models, giving the van a top speed of 50 mph and a range of at least 50 miles. This design specification required a 30kWh battery pack, hung underneath the chassis, which weighed around 1 tonne. But, by fitting the heavy duty suspension components from a long wheel-base model to a short wheel-base chassis, a 1 tonne payload was maintained. Detailed research into 1-tonne van usage in the UK highlighted a wide range of target applications, such as postal delivery, maintenance (eg Electricity Board jointing vans), newspaper delivery, and short-range people carriers. LCEVS embarked on a major strategic offensive, negotiating supply contracts with any vehicle manufacturers although Bedford, who had played a pioneering role with the CF and been involved in the project almost from the start, were the only volume manufacturer still interested in a production EV Van. Vauxhall-Bedford were also working hand in hand with Lucas Chlorides EV Group to campaign for Government support both for R&D and vehicle subsidies, persuading fleet managers to participate in market testing, and establishing a nationwide service capability for battery maintenance and drive system support. The latter involved recruiting a team of home-based service engineers, with national coverage. The marketing proposition was more complex. The production cost of the vehicle would be greater than that of a conventional vehicle due to the lack of economies of scale. The cost of “fuel” (electricity) would be much less than petrol or diesel fuel (typically 2p per mile at the time), but the battery had a finite life and would be costly to replace. LCEVS strategy was to offset the higher initial cost with a government subsidy and to lease the battery so that the combined battery lease and electricity cost more or less equated to the cost of petrol/diesel fuel over the life of the vehicle to the first owner. 

2. BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E TESTING & PRODUCTION:

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description

In November 1980, working to Lucas & Bedford’s specifications, Wilsdon & Co Ltd of Solihull were made responsible for the preparation of 100 Bedford CF electric vans as part of the Lucas / Bedford electric vehicle programme with the vehicles being offered for sale from 1982 onwards. The work involved completion of vehicles from van shells supplied by Bedford, and the installation of the Lucas drive system components. Many of the vehicles assembled in Wilsdon's workshops were placed in commercial service with select fleet operators both in the UK and overseas. On the 07 January 1984 Bedford announced the CF 1tonne Electric Van had gone into full scale production at the Luton Van Plant. This made the CF the first electric van in Europe to go into regular production. The new van was part of a £70m investment in the Luton facility and was claimed to be the 1st phase of what Bedford's General Manager, Mr J. T. Battenberg III, described as "the biggest facility and product development programme in Bedford's history." It was also the culmination of nearly 15 years of joint development with Lucas, by now renamed Lucas-Chloride EV Systems, the new CF Electric Van featured the latest electric drive technology, coupled with the highly developed practicality of the Bedford CF panel van.

Image description
Image description
Image description

As well as carrying out body design modifications to accept the electric drive system, Bedford engineers had also mounted major test programme at the company's Millbrook proving ground. Over 1m miles had been accumulated with prototypes both at Millbrook and operationally in trials with users. Operationally, the CF electric van was claimed to provide a 50 to 60mile range between charges and capable of up to 50mph with a 1 tonne payload. Firm orders had already been placed for over half the initial production schedule of 175 units. Typical customers included the public utilities, notably electricity authorities, & firms operating regular local delivery runs. The export potential was actively pursued by a specialist Bedford sales team, and 4 pre-production units were already undergoing evaluation in Australia at the time.

The other factor that had made the series production of the Electric CF possible was Government's Department for Trade & Industry had agreed to provide financial support to both Bedford and Lucas-Chloride EV Systems for R&D and sales subsidies and other financial support starting in 1982 for an initial 5-year period. In November 1984 Bedford announced that over 300 electric CF Vans had already been built at its Luton van plant and further models were being evaluated in Europe, Australia and the US. The UK Post Office was already running 40 electric CF Vans as part of their own electric van test programme.

In October 1985, following the success of a single evaluation vehicle, Bedford Commercial Vehicles received an order to supply a further 35 electric CF vans to the United States for extended operational trials. The purchase of the vans was co-ordinated by the US Electric Vehicle Development Corporation, which represents public utilities. The EVDC chose the electric CF, branded GM Griffon in the US, following independent tests carried out with four other manufacturers of electric vehicles from Chrysler, Ford, AMC and Toyota. Phase two of the EVDC programme was carried out jointly with the Electric Power Research Institute, General Motors, Vauxhall Motors Ltd and Lucas Chloride EV Systems. It was to assess the suitability of the Griffon Van for fleet operations in America and establish a system for servicing it in North America and Canada. The project would also identify potential electric van customers and develop marketing strategies to attract them. The first six electric vans would go to the Detroit Edison power company. 

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description

In May 1986 Bedford reaffirmed its commitment to the electric panel van market with the news that from mid-October 1986 it will start regular on-line production of electric CF2 vans, with a production rate of up to 500 a year, at the Luton van plant. Over 300 one-tonne payload CF2 Electric vans, produced in two batches, had already been sold, with the last of them built at the end of 1985. Questions were raised at the time as to whether or not Bedford would be able to sell 500 electric CF-E Vans a year although Bedford's electric vehicle manager Ken Malis claimed at the time that over half of 1987’s production was already covered by firm orders from electricity boards across the UK. Although the level of Government subsidy given to electric vehicle manufacturers fell by 60% from the original figure of £4,200 per vehicle, Malia claimed that the CF2 would keep its original April 1984 launch price of £10,280 including battery pack and charger. Other UK manufacturers adopted a “wait n see” low profile in the electric vehicle market, Bedford on the other hand decided to launch a series of nine 1-day electric vehicle roadshows, in conjunction with the East Midlands Electricity Board and Lucas Chloride Electric Vehicle Systems. They were held at Bedford dealers in the East Midlands for the whole of June. Interest in the CF2 Electric van continued to increase outside the UK, despite its relatively low overall sales in Britain. Over 30 GM Griffons were being evaluated in the United States with the development trials being co-ordinated by the American Electric Vehicle Development Corporation. They had reached the second stage of a four-part trial involving fleet users in the US, which could have ultimately lead to production of a GM electric van being set up in America. Over 70 operators in Denmark, Sweden, West Germany, Japan and China were assessing the CF2 Electric at the time. 2 vehicles were ordered by the Mitsubishi Corporation with 1 to be used by Kyushu Electric, while another 2 were shipped to the major Japanese utility company Chuubu Denryoku. Bedford claimed in June 1986 that it would begin development trials with an electric CF2 van fitted with sodium-sulphur batteries in early 1987 that could triple its 50-mile range currently provided by a 1ton lead acid battery pack. Production of the sodium-sulphur battery-powered CF could even start before 1990. Compared with the standard lead acid battery pack in the CF2 electric, the sodium-sulphur battery pack would give better flexibility in payload and range owing to the varying number of cells that can be used. Then on 26 July 1986 came the bombshell, Bedford announced that it was to discontinue the electric CF2 Van just two months after announcing plans to produce up to 500 vehicles a year at its Luton plant from mid-October. The electric model had fallen under the axe in a rationalization programme to try and curb losses of up to £1.5 m per week sustained over the past two years by Bedford in the UK. Bedford said it would continue to provide back-up for the 300 electric vehicles already in service with operators. The decision came as Chloride Silent Power was on the point of fitting a sodium sulphur pack in place of lead acid batteries which would have extended the range for the CF2 to 100 miles with a payload of about I tonne. But for Bedford worse was to come, by 1990 the name had disappeared for ever.

BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E SPECIFICATIONS:

Bedford CF-Electric / GM Griffon (USA)

Model ID: 97370 RPO 123

Production plant: 1982 to 1984 = Wilsdon & Co Ltd of Solihull under licence from Vauxhall Motors Ltd & Lucas Chloride EV Systems Ltd

                                                  January 1984 to October 1986 = Luton Van Plant


Steering: CF-E RHD or LHD - GM Griffon LHD only - rack & pinion, ratio 19.8:1, 4.33 turns
lock to lock, 432mm diameter soft feel 2 spoke steering wheel

Motor: Lucas MT-305 Separately Excited DC 216V, 50bhp / 40kW continuous, max rated
speed 6000rpm - rear mounted

 

Motor weight:                          302lbs


Drive-train: "Direct drive" 48/25 - 1.92:1 step-down via chain/sprocket drive from motor shaft
to drive-shaft. 4.89:1 rear axle ratio.

Controller: Lucas Chloride EV Systems Mark 4A thyristor electronic controller, mounted at the
front under the bonnet, switchable variable regenerative braking

Batteries: 36 x 6.0v deep cycle Chloride tubular plate lead acid, connected in series giving
216v DC, fitted with centralized watering system. Batteries mounted in a steel
pannier, plastic coated for corrosion protection and mounted via quick release pins
under the cargo floor

 

Auxiliary battery:                    12v 55Ah mounted under the front bonnet. Re-charged by 25amp Lucas DC/DC

                                                  converter


Charger: Lucas Chloride Speigel SIP108/30. Input voltage 240v 50Hz single phase AC.
Input rating 45amps. Output current 30amps Heater: Diesel powered fitted at the
front under the bonnet, electric fan assistance DC/DC

Converter: Lucas 216V nominal input, 14V output @ 25A max

Brakes: Vacuum servo assisted hydraulic system with independent circuits for front & rear
drum brakes. Vacuum provided by electrically powered vacuum pump mounted
under the front bonnet. A regenerative braking system provided nominal
deceleration on releasing the accelerator pedal and during the initial "free play"
in the brake pedal movement.

Wheels & Tyres: 5.50J X 14 wheels, 205R 14C 8ply tubeless radial tyres

Instrumentation: Speedometer, Battery SOC meter, diesel heater fuel gauge. Top Speed: 50mph
(Fully laden) Acceleration: 0 to 35mph = 13.5secs

Range: 50 - 65miles depending on driven speed & lighting on or off and prevailing
temperature

Weights: UK Plated weights - front axle = 1440kg, rear axle = 2335kg, GVW = 3500kg

                                                 Kerb weight (est) front = 1155kg, rear = 1345kg, total = 2500kg, approx payload

                                                 capacity = 1000kg

4. BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E ENGINEERING:

Image description

This is the battery pack removed from the CF-E. It consists of 36 x 6v mono-bloc 184Ah batteries wired in series giving a nominal voltage of 216v DC. They are positioned in the centre, under the vehicle between the front and back wheels, as they weigh just over a ton. The first vehicles required these to be removed to allow them to be topped up with distilled water but this was a long and laborious job so Chloride invented the centralized watering system known as Autofil.

Image description

This is the Lucas-CAV traction motor from the CF-E. These motors are huge measuring nearly 2' long and 1' in diameter but they produce a 40kw / 50bhp. It is mounted at the back of the van under the right-hand rear door. Power is fed from this via a 2 stage step down gearbox and then to the conventional rear axle which is now turned 180 degrees over so the input shaft now points rearward to accept the power from the step down gearbox.

Image description

This is the controller for the motor which is fitted at the front under the bonnet. These controllers are very complicated with logic circuits and two control circuits one for the field windings and one for the armature winding of the motor. The CF-E features regenerative braking which allows the motor to be converted to a generator under braking to help recharge the batteries.

Image description
Image description
Image description

5. BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E PRESS RELEASES:

Image description
Image description
Image description

6. BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E BROCHURES:

Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description
Image description

7. BEDFORD 97000 - CF-E ROAD TESTS:

Image description
Image description