Category Archives: Alternative Fuels

Nissan e-NV200 Is A Hit In London’s Square Mile

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

Nissan e-NV200 on trial with the City of London Corporation. The e-NV200 is due to be launched in 2014.

The City of London Corporation is the ‘local council’ for the square mile — London’s financial district, which has just 9,000 residents, but has 350,000 daily commuters and nine million annual visitors.

The dense, congested, urban environment in which the Corporation’s vehicles operate should be ideal for electric power, and two trials this year have confirmed this.

Earlier this year the City of London Corporation took part in a successful trial of the Nissan LEAF electric car, and it’s just completed a week-long trial of Nissan’s electric van, the e-NV200.

The Corporation found that the van could complete a typical daily usage cycle on one charge and received positive feedback from all of the drivers who tried the vehicle.

Using an all-electric vehicle means zero CO2 emissions at the point of use, and the cost of charging an electric vehicle is significantly lower than the equivalent cost of diesel.

The London trial is just one of several trials that Nissan has undertaken with the e-NV200, all of which have been successful. The van is due to be launched next year, and I expect it to be one of the first commercially successful electric vans.

Through its extensive trial programme, Nissan has provided key commercial users with a thorough understanding of how the van can be used, and assuming it is sufficiently affordable, I expect demand to be strong.

E-Up! Lad, That Must Be An E-Load Up! You’re Driving

Volkswagen e-load up! electric van

The Volkswagen e-load up! electric van is still a concept, but VW says a van version of the up! could make it into production if there’s enough demand.

One of the most ‘wrong’ posts I’ve ever written was one suggesting that small car-derived vans like the Fiesta Van had had their day.

The post was triggered by the news that Peugeot was to discontinue its 207 Van model, but since then, a number of new car-derived vans have hit the market — not least the gorgeous and desirable MINI Clubvan.

Volkswagen has now upped the ante with a suggestion that it might put a van version of its up! small car into production. To tantalise would-be buyers, its put an electric-powered concept model on display at the current IAA motor show in Frankfurt.

Catchily named the ‘e-load up!’ (they might need to work on that…), the e-load up! is aimed at the city courier, technician and pizza delivery market. Volkswagen says that the up! van would be suitable for all types of drive system and thus could be made available as a regular diesel-powered van, too.

The idea is simple, and very apt, given today’s sky-high fuel prices: a small van that’s full can operate more efficiently than a larger van that isn’t full.

Volkswagen has already prepared an electric production version of the up!, called the e-up!, so converting this to a van wasn’t a massive challenge and it certainly could work well.

Compared to the passenger model, the cargo capacity of the load up! rises from 951 litres to more than 1,400 litres. Maximum payload is 306 kg, which should be ample for the kind of load and usage it is likely to get in a city environment. The electric power train is slick and impressive, according to Autocar, which has tested a pre-production e-up!, and should have a range of in excess of 100 miles.

This isn’t the first electric concept van Volkswagen has rolled out at a motor show, but something tells me that the up! van might make it into production. Volkswagen says that given the right level of demand, a commercial vehicle version of the up!, such as the e-load up!, could be available soon. Watch this space.

All-Electric Renault Twizy Cargo Offers New Choice For Business Users

Renault Twizy Cargo electric vanElectric vans are fast becoming a meaningful alternative to petrol and diesel-powered models, especially in urban environments and on large sites where mileage and duty cycles are predictable, and recharging points are readily available.

Renault has been a firm believe in the potential of electric vans and has just added a second electric van model to its range.

While the company’s existing model, the Kangoo Van Z.E., is simply an electrical model of the conventional Renault Kangoo van, the Renault Twizy Cargo is rather different and is a single-seater, small capacity niche van aimed at users with very precise requirements.

Introducing the Twizy Cargo

Renault Twizy Cargo

Parking the Twizy Cargo is much easier than with a conventional small van.

The Twizy Cargo is based on the standard Twizy — which is pretty wacky in the first place. The rear passenger seat is swapped for a 180-litre boot with an opening and lockable door.

The load area can take loads of up to 75kg and the rear door opens to 90 degrees, making it easy to load small packages quickly. The Twizy’s small size also means it can be parked at right-angles to the pavement, rather than parallel to it, as the picture alongside this article shows — this makes for speedy parking and getaways, even on busy streets.

As a car-derived van, with fully recoverable VAT, the Twizy Cargo is £650 cheaper than the standard model, at £6,241. According to Renault, VAT can also be reclaimed on its battery hire, from £36 per month (excluding VAT), making it even more financially attractive.

Although it could be used as a grounds vehicle on a large private site, the Twizy Cargo is clearly aimed at urban users and may tempt London businesses as it is exempt from the London Congestion Charge and offers eye-catching styling that should make it a great marketing tool.

Renault says that the Twizy Cargo has a real-world range of around 50 miles and can be charged from a standard three-pin electrical socket, by way of the in-built charging cable. A full charge takes just three and a half hours and will cost around £1, according to the French manufacturer.

Technical Specification

Top speed 56 mph
Range 62 miles (NEDC). Real world conditions circa 50 miles
Power 17hp
Boot capacity 180 litres
Boot dimensions 550mm (d) x 500mm (l) x 950mm (h)
Max load 75 kg
Vehicle dimensions 2338 x 1237 x 1454mm
Unladen weight 375kg
Kerb weight 474kg

Although the Twizy Cargo’s 56mph top speed isn’t going to tempt drivers out of town — and no doubt would be a slightly scary prospect on a motorway– it is more than adequate for urban use and sits well with the electric Twizy’s claimed real-world range of 50 miles.

With companies like Renault producing electric vehicles of this quality, I think that the future is looking good for electric cars and vans, although it will still be a long time until they become anything like mainstream choices, thanks to the continued problem of limited range and slow charging.

VW to Show Concept Electric Van at Geneva Motor Show

Volkswagen e-Co-Motion concept electric van

Volkswagen e-Co-Motion concept electric van

Volkswagen is to show an electric concept van, named the e-Co-Motion, at next week’s Geneva International Motor Show.

Yesterday, I took a look at Nissan’s electric van ambitions — the company reckons that nearly half of UK van drivers might be able to use an electric van to do their job, based on a daily mileage of less than 100 miles.

However, Nissan isn’t the only commercial vehicle manufacturer to have spotted this opportunity, and Volkswagen has been working hard on an electric van design too — although this one is only in concept stage, whereas Nissan’s eNV200 is almost ready for production.

Here’s how Volkswagen’s Brand Board spokesman, Dr. Eckhard Scholz, sees the future:

“Electric mobility – especially in light commercial vehicles – could play a crucial role in meeting the growing transport needs of the world’s megacities. Freight trains and conventional or hybrid-powered high capacity lorries would deliver goods up to the city limits.  Then, at transfer stations, smaller electric delivery vans would take over.  Their predictable travel routes and fixed depots would simplify battery charging and equipment maintenance.”

Volkswagen’s e-Co-Motion will be on show at the Geneva International Motor Show next week and is likely to draw some attention. It looks similar to the current model Transporter and is similar in size, too, at 4.55m long, 2m high and with a payload of 800kg, or 4.6 cubic metres.

The e-Co-Motion is designed to be flexible and allow a range of body types, built on top of a core drivetrain and battery system that is built below the cargo floor.

There’s no word yet on whether the e-Co-Motion will make it into production, but I suspect that Volkswagen may allow other companies to warm up the electric van market in advance of its  arrival — as yet, demand is pretty weak for electric vans, due to high costs, charging restrictions and range anxiety.

Citroën To Launch Electric Berlingo At Birmingham CV Show

Citroen Berlingo Electrique

Citroen Berlingo Electrique

Citroën will be showing its all-new Berlingo Electrique van at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show (NEC, 9-11 April).

Citroën’s CV Show stand will also be the launch platform for a number of other new LCV products, including the new Dispatch L1H1 HDi 125 6-seat Crew Van and Stop & Start equipped Relay vans.

In addition, Citroën will be continuing its ‘Citroën Vans – Business Class’ theme, with Citroën Contract Motoring personnel providing instant contract hire and other business-friendly finance quotations to the show’s visitors.

Berlingo Electrique

The new, well equipped Berlingo Electrique will be the sister vehicle to the Peugeot Partner Electric, which was shown at the Hanover Motor Show last September. The electric motor is positioned under the bonnet and the lithium-ion battery pack is located underneath the vehicle’s load deck. This means the load compartment of up to 3.7m3and payload of 636kg is equivalent to that of a similar diesel-powered Berlingo van.

With a total battery capacity of 22.5kWh, the Berlingo Electrique has a range of up to 106 miles. Using a domestic socket, the vehicle can be fully charged in around 8½ hours or, alternatively, it can be charged to 80% of capacity in only 35 minutes using a specific 380V three-phase terminal in quick-charge mode.

The Berlingo Electrique’s permanent magnet synchronous electric motor produces 49kW (67hp) and has a peak torque rating of 200Nm. The motor drives the front wheels through a speed reducer and a single-ratio gearbox.  This should translate to pretty perky performance, especially as the electric motor’s torque is available from a standing start.

Full UK specification and pricing will be announced closer to the CV Show, but among the Berlingo Electrique’s features are:

  • Eco-driving information, including an energy consumption/regeneration indicator, an instantaneous energy consumption gauge and an auxiliaries consumption gauge, which displays data on heating, air conditioning and other secondary power usage
  • A deceleration and braking energy recovery system
  • An electric heating system with an eco-mode to limit energy consumption
  • Hill start assist coupled to the ESP system

As I commented recently, I believe that electric vans offer a far more appealing commercial proposition than electric cars, at present — and once the initial purchase cost comes down a little, I expect them to become popular quite quickly.

The 2013 Commercial Vehicle Show will be held at the Birmingham NEC from the 9th – 11th April 2013. Visit www.cvshow.com for more details.

Nissan e-NV200 Gets Rave Reviews At Test Event

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

Fleet van operators are jostling to place orders for the Nissan e-NV200 electric van, according to Nissan, who recently ran a two-day demonstration event to promote the van, which is due to go on sale in 2014.

Nissan has received extremely positive feedback from the fleet industry on its new e-NV200 electric van when it was showcased in late 2012.

Five leasing companies, six major fleet operators and three used value guides visited Nissan’s Barcelona production facility and drove the new e-NV200, a diesel NV200 and the LEAF.

The group met the e-NV200 development team and were able to give their thoughts on all aspects of the vehicle, including how they envisage it fitting into a fleet strategy.  Nissan also shared its overall EV vision including product creation, development and future EV plans.

All delegates reacted positively to the 100% electric van’s driving and performance characteristics with many keen to put the vehicle into immediate use.

Personally, I’ve long thought that electric vans make far more sense than electric cars — with vans, you know exactly how far and over what route they will travel each day and you can plan to have them recharged in an off-road base each night.

Nissan’s findings certainly seem to suggest that this might be true:

“We were blown away with the response and we already have leasing companies and fleet operators who want to trial the vehicle, and some who want to order a fleet of vehicles for urban delivery use,” explained Matthew Dale, Nissan’s national LCV sales manager.

“After driving the vehicle on the two day trip they could immediately see the business benefit of running electric vans across specific parts of a fleet. Commercial vehicles are working tools and our guests recognised both the savings in fuel costs and reduced emissions offered by the e-NV200,” he added.

From a residual value perspective the used guides could see a definite role to play for the e-NV200 and that used prices should be strong based on the vehicle’s practicality and whole life costs, which will give it a second and third life in the used market.

“Residual values are key to the success of any commercial vehicle so we were pleased to hear some very positive initial comments from the used vehicle experts,” said Dale.

The Barcelona trip follows successful trials with major fleets such as British Gas, FedEx and the Japan Post Service in 2011 and 2012 as Nissan prepares the e-NV200 for mainstream production. The e-NV200 is expected to go on sale in 2014.

Peugeot Citroën Confirm Electric Van Launch

Peugeot Partner Electric van

Peugeot Partner Electric van, due for launch 2Q 2013.

Update: Citroën will also be unveiling its Berlingo electric van at the Hanover Motor Show — the Electric Berlingo. As the Partner and the Berlingo come off the same PSA Peugeot Citroën  production line are basically the same vehicle, expect both to be very similar to the vehicle described below.

Peugeot has confirmed the details of its upcoming Partner Electric van model.

The van will be shown for the first time at this month’s Hanover Motor Show and is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2013.

The Partner Electric will be equipped with 22.5kWh of battery capacity which will be fitted under the body of the vehicle, either side of the rear axle. This will leave the load space unchanged from the standard model and keep the centre of gravity as low as possible, improving handling.

Peugeot claim that the van’s range of 105 miles on the NEDC (European testing cycle) will be the best in class.

Up front, the van will be powered by an electric motor offering 49kW (67bhp) and 200Nm of torque. In common with an increasing number of electric vehicles, the Partner Electric will support two charging modes:

  • Normal –  13A/16A connection and provide a full charge in 6-9 hours
  • Fast Charge – 125A connection will charge to 80% capacity in 30 minutes

To help encourage energy-efficient driving, the Partner Electric will have a energy consumption and recovery indicator on the dashboard, alongside an extra gauge showing auxiliary consumption — the extra, non-motive power used by heating, air conditioning and other auxiliary systems.

Full range of sizes

Like most electric vehicles, the Partner Electric will recover energy during deceleration and active braking by turning kinetic energy into electric energy and topping up the battery; the reverse of what happens under acceleration.

Like the standard model, the Partner Electric will be available in a full range of sizes, including L1 and L2 wheelbases and crew cab models.

Electric Transit Connect Maker Azure Dynamics Shuts Down

Azure Dynamics, the maker of the electric version of the Ford Transit Connect, has shut down its European operations and filed for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

The company, whose UK office was in Stevenage, was one of the first to have an electric van approved for the UK plug-in grant. It said that it had made 500 of the electric Transit Connects, of which about 240 had been sold in Europe. Ford UK said that only “a very small number” have been sold in the UK (including this one) and that it was currently trying to work out how to support customers who had purchased an Azure Dynamics vehicle.

We understand that the firm is being closed for restructuring and that those involved hope that it will be resurrected in some way, hopefully including the relationship with Ford.

For more information, visit www.azuredynamics.com.

Electric Van News: Kangoo Z.E. Wins Again + Price Warning On Electric Vans

Electric vans have been in the news this week – here’s a quick roundup of the two main stories.

Electric Vans Still Too Expensive

The Mia U electric van

The Mia U electric van - a new model for 2012

A new report commissioned by the Department for Transport has found that the total cost of ownership for an electric van may still be 10% higher than for a diesel van in 2030.

Examining the market potential for ultra-low emission van technologies, including pure EV, Plug-in EV and hydrogen fuel-cells, the report from Element Energy concluded that:

  • The current cost of ownership for pure electric large vans is more than 50% higher than their diesel-engine equivalents.
  • 10% is the maximum cost of ownership premium that van operators are willing to accept – with most unwilling to pay any.
  • Using government oil price projections, pure electric vans will still have a 10% cost of ownership premium over diesel in 2030.
  • By 2030, hydrogen fuel cell-powered vans are likely to reach cost of ownership parity with diesel vans – but there will be concerns over the level of hydrogen infrastructure.

The report was carried out prior to the introduction of the Plug-in Grant for vans and its cost of ownership calculations also do not take into account incentives such as the London Congestion Charge exemption.

Although the plug-in grant reduces the cost of a qualifying electric van by up to 20%, it may still take some years for electric vans to achieve parity – and there is no guarantee of how long the plug-in grant will be maintained.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) is urging manufacturers to follow-up on the report’s suggestion that they investigate the business case for bringing more hybrid powertrains to market, particularly for smaller vans, where the economics are much more favourable.

Commenting on the report, John Lewis, BVRLA Chief Executive, said:

“This well-researched report is a massive wake-up call for electric van makers and the government. The government has put its money where its mouth is by delivering the Plug-in Van Grant and other tax incentives, but they need to give operators confidence that these will be more than just short-term measures.

“The vehicle rental and leasing industry is ready and waiting to step in and help create a sustainable market for ultra-low emission vans, but fleets make decisions based on cost more than sentiment.”

Renault Kangoo Z.E. Wins Ecovan Award

Renault Kangoo Van Z.E.

Renault Kangoo Van Z.E.

Renault’s all-electric Kangoo Van Z.E. has won the VansA2Z.com Ecovan of the Year Award.

The win is the third award for the Kangoo Z.E., which was also chosen as  International Van of the Year 2012 and What Van? Magazine’s Van of the Year.

The Kangoo Van Z.E. is the first electric van to be directly produced by a mass market manufacturer – it’s made in Renault’s regular factory and is not modified or assembled by specialist subcontractors.

VansA2Z.com judges hailed Renault’s innovative rental approach to the funding of the most expensive part of an electric van, the battery pack, and claimed it was “a very tempting prospect for operators with a suitable duty cycle”.

Website editor Neil McIntee added, “It is absolutely superb, the most complete electric vehicle and very driveable – it works beautifully. I have driven it many times in many countries, including the Brighton to London Future Car Challenge, and found it works completely effortlessly. It was the worthy winner in the ecovan category.”

Renault’s Kangoo Van Z.E. range was recently confirmed eligible for the Government’s new Plug-in Van Grant which brings the line-up’s already tempting starting price down to £13,592 excluding VAT.

Big Dribble For Vito E-Cell Van

Supporting WellChild - The Big Dribble Mercedes Vito E-CellAn all-electric Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell van is to be used by npower to power the Big Dribble – a UK-wide initiative designed to raise funds for national children’s charity WellChild and backed by Great Britain Hockey.

The npower Big Dribble will start in Edinburgh on 15 April and conclude in London’s Trafalgar Square on 2 May. As part of the 40 town and city stops in between, communities will be invited to be part of a world record attempt to ‘dribble’ a hockey ball for up to 100 metres per participant, for a total of 2012km.

Equipment for the fundraising initiative will be transported in the world’s first ‘off-the-shelf’ electric van, the Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL, which has been selected specifically to be able to test the UK’s electric vehicle infrastructure.

The Vito E-CELL will be powered using npower’s Juice-e charging posts at each stage in an effort to showcase EV technology; on a single six-hour charge from a 380/400 volt input, the vehicle has a maximum range of 130km (80 miles). Juice-e complies with OFGEM’s green supply guidelines for tariffs providing real environmental benefit. For every unit of energy used, npower matches it with renewable energy back into the grid.

Steve Bridge, Van Sales and Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz UK, said: “We’re used to our Vito Sport and Sport-X making people drool, and are delighted that our electric E-CELL is now helping the Big Dribble!

We are very proud to be involved and both to raise funds and awareness for WellChild, and to highlight the ease-of-use for running an electric van.”

The Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL is now available under a full contract hire package from Mercedes-Benz, with terms covering one to four years. It is now also eligible for the Government’s new Plug-In Van Grant.

To find out more, visit www.thebigdribble.com.