Category Archives: Alternative Fuels

Nissan and British Gas Launch UK’s Biggest Electric Van Trial

Nissan e-NV200 British Gas trial van

One of 28 British Gas Nissan e-NV200 trial vans that will be in service from November 2013 – April 2014 to test the vans’ winter performance.

Nissan’s long-term trial programme for its e-NV200 electric van has been a considerable success, as I’ve reported before. The company has now returned to one of its early test partners to launch the biggest electric van trial yet seen in the UK.

British Gas will be operating 28 e-NV200 electric vans on a pilot scheme that will run nationwide from November 2013 until April 2014, to assess how the vans perform in winter conditions during typical British Gas home services daily usage patterns.

Battery performance in electric vehicles worsens at low temperatures, and the scheme should enable British Gas, Nissan, and the wider van operating sector to determine whether electric vans are truly viable for fleet use.

The vans will only form a small part of British Gas’ 13,000-strong home service fleet, but if the trial is successful, it could be a significant boost for Nissan and other electric van manufacturers.

Total cost model and driver training

One of the challenges facing electric vehicle operators and manufacturers is cost. Electric vehicles are more expensive to buy than conventional alternatives, but savings are available on fuel. The Nissan-British Gas trial is being run in collaboration with Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions and Gateshead College, and will also include work to generate an accurate total cost of ownership model, so that 100% electric technology can be compared with conventional internal combustion engine drivetrains.

Gateshead College is close to Nissan’s Sunderland plant, and is a leading training facility for LCV development. The college has provided training for all of the British Gas drivers to ensure that they are aware of how to drive, and live with, the e-NV200, and all drivers have been provided with a home charging point and access to public charging points.

The e-NV200 goes on sale in the UK next year, and a successful and high-profile trial with British Gas could give it a major head-start over lower-profile peers, which haven’t benefited from the same widespread fleet exposure and trial opportunities.

Is this a tipping point?

I’ve long thought that the biggest opportunity for electric vans is in the fleet market, and if successful, this trial could be the tipping point that prompts widespread adoption. The potential is considerable — imagine how many electric vans Royal Mail might buy for urban delivery use, for example — but what’s needed is a clear demonstration that both costs and usability can match those of conventional vans. This trial could provide that.

Renault Kangoo Van Z.E. Retains ‘Electric Vehicle of the Year’ Title

Renault Kangoo Van Z.E. electric van

The Renault Kangoo Van Z.E. electric van has already sold more than 11,000 units, making it the best-selling electric van in Europe.

The all-electric Renault Kangoo Van Z.E. (Zero Emissions) has retained its GreenFleet Awards ‘Electric Vehicle of the Year’ award at the Public Sector Information magazine GreenFleet Awards ceremony, which took place on 17th October at London’s Emirates Stadium, the home of Arsenal Football Club.

Judges, including the editorial and research team and independent representatives from the likes of ICFM (Institute of Car Fleet Management), said Kangoo Van Z.E. “was more than a worthy winner again” and had no hesitation in reinstating it as the Electric Vehicle of the Year.

GreenFleet’s Colin Boyton, one of the judges, said:

“As well as winning last year’s Electric Vehicle of the Year award from GreenFleet, it scooped ‘Ecovan of the Year’ and ‘International Van of the Year’ accolades.  It is more than a worthy winner again.”

Kangoo Van Z.E. is Europe’s best-selling small electric van with sales of over 11,000. Since its launch at the end of 2011, it has been acclaimed repeatedly by the media and secured International Van of The Year award in 2012.

The zero-emission LCV was restyled in June and now features Renault’s new styling identity. In the cabin, the dashboard has been refreshed and enhanced, and owners can now programme the battery to charge remotely to benefit from off-peak electricity rates using their computer or smartphone thanks to the ‘My Z.E. inter@ctive’ pack.

We’ve yet to see electric vans make their way into mainstream van hire fleets, but they are making inroads into large urban van fleets, where their limited mileage and need for overnight recharging is not an issue, and their zero emissions at the point of use are a major benefit.

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 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