Archive for the ‘Alternative Fuels’ Category

VW to Show Concept Electric Van at Geneva Motor Show

Friday, March 1st, 2013
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

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013
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

Monday, January 28th, 2013
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

Monday, September 10th, 2012
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

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

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

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

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

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

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.

New Electric Vans: Introducing Mia Electric

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012
The Mia U electric van

The Mia U electric van

We take a look at the forthcoming Mia Electric van, which is eligible for the plug-in grant.

Following yesterday’s announcement of the initial list of electric vans eligible for the government’s plug-in grant scheme, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at one of the lesser-known names on the list, Mia Electric.

Mia Electric is a French company with three models, the Mia, Mia L and Mia U. The Mia and Mia L are passenger models – the L is a longer wheelbase variant.

The Mia U is the company’s electric van offering and is based on the Mia L.

Although it is just 3.19m long, it has a load capacity of 1,500 litres and is a single seater – the driver’s seat is centrally located in the cab.

I don’t know about you, but I think it looks rather good, in a Smart Car kind of way.

How Much Does It Cost?

The plug-in grant scheme gives buyers of qualifying electric vehicles a discount of 20% or £8,000 – whichever is less. Mia Electric’s van and car models do not go on sale in the UK until May but the company says that any motorist wishing to buy a mia electric vehicle when they go on sale in the UK market later this year will be entitled to a discount of around £5000.

This additional Government support means the mia’s standard short wheelbase model (mia-U) will retail at approximately £21,000 and the two extended models, the mia L and the mia box van, will both retail at approximately £22,000.

Mia says that the Mia U is currently on trial with a “major UK company” that is considering a large-scale switch to electric vans and Mia Electric’s Head of UK Sales, Richard Deslandes, said:

“The box van is a key component of the product range mia electric plans to bring to the UK market later this year. We hope the Government’s decision to extend the grant to cover vans will incentivise business owners to use electric vehicles and so reduce their carbon emissions.”

More About Mia Electric

The Mia Electric range was designed by the former head of design at Volkswagen, Murat Günak, and comes in three configurations – the standard short wheelbase model and two extended models, the mia L and the mia box van. The models were first shown in the UK at the 2011 EcoVelocity show at London’s Battersea Power Station.

The standard model weighs only 765kg (extended models weighs 786kg) giving it extremely economical power consumption and low running costs, which Mia estimates at approximately £1.30 per 62.5 miles.

All three vehicles are powered by an 18kW electric motor at the rear of the car that gives a top speed of 68 mph (100km/h). A 120 to 130km range is available from the 12 kWh battery pack that comes as standard and the lithium iron phosphate batteries can be fully charged in five hours. This technically sound battery system is exceptionally safe and helps alleviate range anxiety by allowing “no memory effect” charging. This means the battery can be charged for short top-up periods with absolutely no adverse effect to the life of the battery. (e.g. a ten minute charge will give an extra 8km of range).

The standard short wheelbase mia has three seats in total, while the extended mia L has four. Instead of three back seats, as in the mia L, the mia box van features a cargo capacity of 1,500 litres.

To find out more, visit www.mia-electric.com.

Electric Vans Eligible For Plug-In Grants Confirmed

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

The Department of Transport has published a list of the first electric vans to be approved for the plug-in grant scheme for electric vehicles, which was extended to include vans in January.

Buyers of qualifying vans will be able to receive up to 20% – or a maximum of £8,000 – off the purchase price of a new electric van.

The first seven vans to be made eligible for the grants are;

  • Azure Dynamics – Transit Connect Electric
  • Mercedes-Benz – Vito E-Cell
  • Renault – Kangoo ZE variants Kangoo VAN ZE, Kangoo Van Maxi ZE, and Kangoo Van Maxi Crew ZE
  • Smith Electric – Smith Edison variants SE2 and SE3 (Ford Transit-based van)
  • Faam – ECOMILE (available March 2012)
  • Faam – Jolly 200 (available March 2012)
  • Mia-Electric – Mia U (available May 2012)

Vans used in towns often have predictable, low-mileage routes and return to a fixed base every night – ideal operating conditions for an electric van.

Businesses that run electric vans can benefit from reduced refuelling costs, are exempt from the van benefit charge, attract capital allowance concessions, and also receive a 100% discount for the congestion charge in the London. British Gas looks set to become one of the first large UK businesses to adopt electric vans in scale; Gearoid Lane, Managing Director of British Gas New Markets said:

“Extending electric car grants to cover fleet vehicles is a positive step in lowering emissions on our roads. With our network of engineers repairing boilers around the country we are keen to include electric vans in our own fleet, with 100s scheduled to be introduced over the next few years. We are also at the forefront of helping people with their own electric cars by installing charge points in homes up and down Britain.”

You can find full details of the plug-in grant scheme here: www.dft.gov.uk/topics/sustainable/olev/plug-in-car-grant/

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has also published a guide to electric vehicles, which can be downloaded free here.

Are you considering an electric van for your business? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Govt Biofuel Targets Could Cost Motorists £2bn per Year

Monday, February 13th, 2012

The biofuels farce rumbles on…

Government targets to increase the proportion of biofuel in standard petrol and diesel to 10% by 2020 could cost drivers an extra £2bn per year, according to new research commissioned by Friends of the Earth and Action Aid UK.

The report found that by 2020, the cost of bioethanol (added to petrol) will be 16-35 pence more expensive than petrol per litre; similarly, biodiesel will be 29-42 pence more expensive than a litre of diesel.

This means that the cost of fuel could rise by the equivalent of one litre per tank by 2020 – in addition to ‘normal’ increases caused by increases in fuel duty and oil prices. These costs are likely to be passed on directly to you and I.

In the UK, biofuels currently account for 4% of transport fuels and this requirement is set to rise to 5% in 2013. The government has said that it will consult on whether to aim for the full EU target of 10% by 2020. Given the non-existent benefits so far demonstrated by compulsory biofuel targets, we can only hope that they decide to treat the 10% target with the indifference it deserves.

As I’ve reported many times before, EU and UK government targets on the compulsory use of biofuels in road fuels make no sense at all, costing more and increasing CO2 emissions while causing food price inflation in developing countries.