Category Archives: Alternative Fuels

Posten Renault Kangoo Z.E.

Norwegian posties make the switch to electric vans with Renault

Cold weather performance is often cited as a concern by people considering electric vehicles, but it doesn’t seem to be a big problem for Posten, which is Norway’s postal service.

Posten already has a fleet of 900 electric vehicles and has just ordered a further 240 Renault Kangoo Maxi Z.E. electric vans, which will be used to deliver the post in urban areas.

Posten Renault Kangoo Z.E.

Posten provided an interesting statistic I’ve never seen before, revealing that it is currently responsible for 1% of Norway’s total CO2 emissions. I’d like to see how that compares to Royal Mail’s footprint within the UK’s total emissions. Posten is committed to reducing its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020, hence the drive to use more electric vehicles.

Renault estimates that the Kangoo Maxi Z.E. has a real-world range of between 52 and 84 miles, depending on ambient temperatures and driving conditions. This is enough for many urban delivery routes, as it would be in the UK.

Electric vehicles provide other benefits for Posten, too. In Norway, electric cars are exempt from VAT and road tax. They pay no parking fees, road tolls or ferry charges, and they are entitled to use bus lanes. All these costs add up and being able to drive in bus lanes is certainly a time saver.

Posten’s decision to go electric is not unusual in Norway. The government provides a range of incentives for electric vehicle owners and electric vehicles currently account for 20% of all new vehicle sales in Norway. By 2020, 10% (200,000) of all vehicles are expected to be electric.

Alongside this, UK electric vehicle sales look pretty feeble. During the first ten months of this year, Renault sold 1,475 electric vehicles in the UK. We’ve still got a way to go to match the Norwegians.

Merseytravel Nissan e-NV200 Combi

Merseytravel goes underground with electric power

It’s hard to imagine a more suitable place to use an emission-free electric van than in a busy tunnel.

So it makes perfect sense that Merseytravel, which operates the Kingsway and Queensway tunnels under the river Mersey, has started to make the switch to electric power.

Merseytravel Nissan e-NV200 Combi

One of Merseytravel’s e-NV200’s in action in Liverpool’s Kingsway Tunnel

In addition to the two tunnels, which handle 90,000 vehicles a day, Merseytravel operates seven tunnel ventilation stations, three ferry terminals and various bus stations. The firm bought its first electric vehicle, a Nissan LEAF, last year and has recently added three Nissan e-NV200 Combis to its 40-strong maintenance fleet.

The electric Combi vans will be used to transport work crews and their tools around the Merseytravel estate. The company is also backing the wider adoption of electric power in Liverpool by operating the government-funded Recharge initiative. This aims to provide a network of charging points at key locations throughout Liverpool City and West Cheshire.

So far, 30 chargers have been installed at locations including ​Seacombe  Ferry Terminal, Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Broad Green Hospital, and Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

For further information on the Recharge network and electric vehicles – www.merseytravel.gov.uk/recharge

New Iveco Daily will launch June 2014

Iveco unveils New Daily Electric van

New Iveco Daily will launch June 2014

The standard version of the new Daily.

Weighing in at up to 5.6 tonnes and with a load space of up to 19.6 cubic metres, the new Iveco Daily Electric is probably the biggest electric van on the market.

The improved Daily Electric, which is based on last year’s New Daily model, offers up to 20% longer battery life than the outgoing model. That translates to range of up to 280km, using a three battery configuration.

Drivers can choose between Eco and Power modes, depending on whether they want to limit torque in order to maximise battery life or not. As you’d expect, the Daily Electric also uses regenerative braking in order to eke out battery charge a little longer.

The vehicle is naturally almost silent in operation, making it ideal for urban use and night time deliveries. Iveco does fit a pedestrian acoustic alert system, however, which comes into play automatically at speeds of less than 30km/h.

Inside, the New Daily Electric is equipped with a 7’’ detachable tablet and an electronic dashboard for vehicle data management, while best-in-class navigation technology comes courtesy of TomTom® Bridge for Iveco.

This system for Iveco New Daily Electric is the unique result of TomTom® and Iveco teaming up to offer professional drivers a tailor-made navigation solution. A semi-integrated dashboard dock delivers the comfort of a built-in system and the flexibility of a detachable device.

Solihull Council powers up Nissan electric van for 2p per mile

Solihull Council Nissan e-NV200 CombiFancy running a van for 2p per mile and saving an average of £300 per year on running costs?

That’s what Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council is expecting to do as a result of swapping a standard diesel van for a new Nissan e-NV200 Combi electric van.

According to Nissan, total cost of ownership is expected to be £1,200 lower than a comparable diesel vehicle over a four year ownership period.

The Combi model was chosen to balance seating capacity with load capacity, and Solihull Council’s first electric vehicle will be used by its Neighbourhood Services team to co-ordinate community projects such as park improvements and sport facilities such as skate parks.

As with so many vans, this e-NV200 won’t stray that far from its base — ever — so the official 106 mile range should be more than adequate.

The council is happy so far and will consider more electric vehicles, according to Councillor Tony Dicicco, who is Cabinet Member for Environment, Housing and Regeneration:

“The e-NV200 has shown us just how electric vehicles can work for us.

“From our perspective, the technology has come so far that every time a department has a need for a new vehicle or a lease comes up for renewal we’ll be looking to see if there’s a viable electric option.”

Launched last year, the Nissan e-NV200 combines the NV200 – a former International Van of the Year – with the proven technology of the record breaking Nissan LEAF – the world’s bestselling electric car.

The e-NV200 is available in panel van form with a 700kg payload, or as a five or seven-seat Combi crew cab model. Prices start from £13,568 in panel van form (including the government plug-in grant).

Van operators could save £2.6bn per year by switching to electric, says manufacturers

Nissan e-NV200 electric van at CV ShowThe cost of running almost half (48%) of the vans of the UK’s roads could be reduced if the vans’ owners were willing to switch to ultra-low emission electric and hybrid models, according to a new campaign backed by leading vehicle manufacturers*, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and the SMMT.

Go Ultra Low has been setup to demonstrate the money-saving benefits of choosing low emission vehicles to the UK’s business owners. According to the group, UK commercial vehicle operators are currently missing out on up to £2.6bn per year in fuel savings alone.

The survey’s findings are an uncanny echo of a 2013 Nissan campaign, which also suggested that, er, 48% of operators could save by making the switch to electric. Nissan’s e-NV200 electric van is one of the most successful electric models to date and the firm is, of course, a member of the Go Ultra Low campaign. I do wonder just how new these calculations on potential savings are, however — not least because diesel prices are significantly lower than in 2013…

Anyway, according to Go Ultra Low, millions of operators running small and medium-sized vans as back-to-base or short-haul vehicles (a very common scenario with vans) could profit by switching to pure-electric vans (e.g. the Nissan e-NV200 and Renault Kangoo Van Z.E.) and plug-in hybrids (e.g. the Mitsubishi Outlander 4Work).

This is a song I’ve sung on these pages many times before, and I remain convinced that the numbers add up despite the fall in diesel prices we’ve seen over the last six months. If you’re still not convinced, it’s worth noting that the typical fuel saving from switching to an electric van is £1,459 per vehicle, per year, based on an annual average mileage of 20,000. That’s not small change and equates to nearly half the annual fuel bill for a van doing 20,000 per year, based on my calculations.

On top of this, ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), with CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km, all exempt from road tax. and pay no congestion charges in London. There’s also a growing national network of free recharging points and a government grant of up to £8,000 towards the initial purchase price, which effectively makes electric vans as cheap to buy as diesel models.

If you’re still on the fence, visit www.goultralow.com for more information.

*Audi, BMW, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen.

Nissan unveils e-NV200 electric 7-seater

Nissan e-NV200 7-seater

The Nissan e-NV200 7-seater still leaves ample luggage room behind the third row of seats. Both rows can be folded out of the way.

Growing demand has prompted Nissan to bring forward the launch of the latest variant of its popular e-NV200 electric van, a 7-seater people carrier or minibus model.

Nissan Europe’s director of electric vehicles, Jean-Pierre Diernaz explains the introduction, commenting:

“We have always planned to offer a higher-seating capacity version of the Nissan e-NV200. Marketplace demand has meant we have moved this introduction forward by several months to satisfy this need.

Nissan has had requests from taxi companies, VIP transfer services, hotels and private motorists who are interested in buying this uniquely flexible and capable vehicle.”

The seven seat version of the e-NV200 is configured with two seats in the front, three in the middle and two in the rear. Both the second and third rows can be folded to allow for larger quantities of luggage to be carried, making the new variant a hugely flexible vehicle for commercial or private use.

The second row rolls forward and the third row folds to the sides to open up an enormous 2.94 cubic metres of cargo capacity, which is enough to transport three bicycles with the wheels in place, unique in this class. With all three rows in place, the luggage capacity is 443 litres under the tonneau cover, and up to an impressive 870 litres when measured to the roof line, allowing the possibility to carry seven people and a large volume of luggage.

To increase passenger comfort the seven seat passenger version comes equipped with additional rear air conditioning to ensure a more even temperature through the cabin, even for those in the third row of seating.

The new model is available with the CHAdeMO quick charging system, which gives the access to the most widely installed rapid charging system in Europe today with over 1,500 accessible points. The quick charging option allows businesses or drivers to extend journeys or do multiple short journeys in a day with a quick top up. Already, users of the e-NV200 like Taxi Electric in the Netherlands and C&C Taxis in the UK have installed their own quick chargers to increase utilisation and flexibility.

The van and five seat versions of the e-NV200 were launched last summer and have already met with a very positive reception with orders from taxi companies across Europe in addition to large fleets like DHL Express in Italy, and APM, part of the Maersk group.

Government must act to combat killer diesel pollution in cities

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

Electric van like the Nissan e-NV200 make perfect sense for London — and are competitive on cost, too.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, hit the headlines over the weekend with a call for diesel cars to be banned from the streets of Paris by 2020, as part of a plan to reduce pollution.

In London, monitoring data show that the capital City has the higest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in Europe, according to Bloomberg.

The government’s own figures show that 29,000 people die in the UK from air pollution every year.

NO2 is one of the most harmful emissions from diesel engines, and is linked to a range of respiratory diseases. However, when those clever people at the EU decided to focus on lowering CO2 emissions in 1998, they decided to ignore NO2, leaving the door open for a vast increase in the number of diesel vehicles on the road.

As we’re now discovering, despite their superior fuel consumption and lower CO2 emissions, diesel cars aren’t they healthy for urban residents — petrol would be a lot better. A new report from the government’s Environmental Audit Committee says that diesel is now “the most significant driver of air pollution in our cities”.

Of course, diesel remains the only viable option for most lorries and buses, but it isn’t necessarily the only option for cars and vans operating in urban environments. As I’ve written many times before, vans typically have predictable route and usage patterns and are often parked up off-road overnight, making them ideal candidates for conversion to electric power.

Of course, the EU is in full-scale denial mode: according to Bloomberg story, EU spokesman Joe Hennon claims that the EU’s stance on cutting emissions “is and always has been technologically neutral”.

Er, yes, except for the decision to focus obssessively on CO2 emissions, while allowing diesel cars to pump out 3 times the level of NO2 that petrol engines are allowed to emit. As a result, around half of the cars on UK roads are now diesel, up from less than 10% a couple of decades ago.

Regulatory action is needed for this situation to change: van manufacturers have their hands tied by the current tax regime, which is solely linked to CO2 emissions. Similarly, van operators will continue to buy diesel models because petrol alternatives are thin on the ground — and often cost more to tax.

Nissan launches e-NV200 electric van — the shape of things to come?

Nissan has launched its e-NV200 electric van, which the firm claims offers a 106 mile range, a top speed of 76mph and fuel costs as low as 25% those of a diesel-fuelled van.

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

The Nissan e-NV200 electric van

These claims should be more realistic usual, too, as the e-NV200 has been one of the most widely-trialled vehicles of recent years, thanks to trials with a number of large fleet operators.

At least one trial customer, British Gas, has already placed a 100-van order, suggesting that the e-NV200 does live up to expectations.

For my money, Nissan could sell a lot more e-NV200 vans than LEAFs, thanks to the more predictable and repeatable usage cycles of vans, many of which travel less than 60 miles a day on a fixed route, every day for years, returning each night to off-road parking in a secure yard, where they can be easily and safely charged.

Compare that to the average private car usage scenario: vans have the edge, and as I’ve mentioned many times before, I believe vans, not cars, will be the first vehicles to achieve commerical success in the electric vehicle marketplace. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say the the e-NV200 could be the van that tips the balance.

What about the van?

I digress. Getting back to the e-NV200, the van itself is based on Nissan’s NV200 diesel-powered van, while the e-NV200’s drivetrain comes from the Nissan LEAF, the firm’s electric car offering.

Nissan e-NV200 motor

The view under the bonnet — far fewer oily mechanical bits than usual. Plus it’s almost silent.

 

However, it isn’t just mash-up of two existing vehicles — 30% of the e-NV200’s parts are unique to the model, and the chassis, interior, battery pack and regenerative braking system have all be altered from their original (NV200 or LEAF) specifications.

The e-NV200 has a cargo volume of 4.2 cubic metres and can carry two Euro pallets.

Nissan e-NV200 can carry 2 euro pallets

The Nissan e-NV200 can carry two Euro pallets in its 4.2 cubic metre load compartment.

Scheduled maintenance costs are expected to be 40% lower, thanks in part to the lack of engine oil, engine belts and conventional gear box and clutch.

Although the e-NV200 van will be built at Nissan’s plant in Barcelona, the UK — a major European manufacturing base for Nissan — will get some of the action, as Nissan’s battery plant in Sunderland will produce the van’s lithium-ion battery cells.

Nissan e-NV200 cab interior

Inside the cab, it’s almost like a normal van — just a few control differences. Ideal for van drivers switching between vehicles.

The battery can be recharged overnight in 8 hours using a domestic 16-amp single-phase 3.3 kW charger, or in just four hours if the optional 6.6kW/32-amp charger is fitted and a suitable supply is used.

Alternatively, a dedicated CHAdeMO DC 50 kW quick charger can recharge the battery to 80 percent capacity in as little as 30 minutes, if the battery still holds some charge, meaning that e-NV200 can be charged while it is being loaded with goods for another delivery, for example.

In my view, it all adds up — especially as the e-NV200 has been priced in the UK to go head-to-head with diesel vans, with prices starting from just under £14,000.

Nissan e-NV200 plugged in to charge

Nissan e-NV200 electric van prices go head-to-head with diesel

Nissan e-NV200 electric van at CV ShowNissan has announced pricing details for its e-NV200 electric van, which will be available from July in the UK. As I’ve written before, I believe this vehicle could be the tipping point for electric vans, and indeed British Gas has already ordered 100 e-NV200 vans following its extended winter trial of the model.

Prices have been set to start from just £13,393, after the £8,000 government plug-in van grant has been subtracted — meaning that the cost to buyers will be almost exactly the same as a standard diesel-powered van, such as the new Ford Transit Courier, which starts at £13,350.

It’s worth noting that this price applies to the ‘Flex’ purchase option, which means that you buy the vehicle, but lease the batteries, which cost from £61 per month. An outright purchase option for van and batteries is also available, and this puts the van’s starting price at £16,562, again after the government plug-in grant has been subtracted.

Nissan claims that electricity costs will be just 2p per mile, whereas a similar diesel-powered van will cost 12p – 14p per mile in fuel, meaning that the fuel savings from switching to electric are considerable — as long as you don’t need to exceed the e-NV200’s claimed 100-mile range, and have the facilities available to recharge it every night.

Although the additional cost of the batteries — whether leased or purchased — has to be factored into total cost of ownership calculations, so too does the van’s zero-rating for road tax and London Congestion Charge exemption, and in my view, it looks very competitively priced.

The e-NV200 will initially be offered in two trim levels, Acenta and Tekna, and two body styles — a panel van, and a five-seat combi.

Manheim predicts sparky future for electric vans

Nissan e-NV200 British Gas trial van

Manheim’s head of commercial vehicles believes that the June 2014 launch of the Nissan e-NV200 electric van, see here on extended trial with British Gas, could be a tipping point for electric vans.

With impeccable timing, given the smog blanketing much of the UK, vehicle auctioneers Manheim have declared that 2014 could be the tipping point for electric van adoption.

James Davis, head of commercial vehicles at Manheim, says that technical and economical hurdles remain for electric vans in the used market:

These vans were expensive to buy new and were often funded from major PLC marketing budgets to satisfy their ‘green’ agendas.

In the used market, a buyer has to justify their price premium versus tried, tested and trusted heavy oil technology; without the budget or turnover of the original PLC owner. Diesel will win the day for a long time yet, until LCV running costs and taxes are more closely linked to emissions.

Nervousness over longevity and battery lease agreements are also deterring buyers, says Davis, although occasional hybrid models have seen strong demand at auction; Davis cites two AshWoods Transit hybrid conversions, which sold for between 125% and 131% of their CAP book prices at a sale in late 2013.

However, Davis suggests that that tipping point could come this year:

“Looking ahead, the official launch of Nissan’s e-NV200 in June 2014 will be a major landmark in the eVan market. A volume fleet order, most likely from one of the PLC fleets currently on trial, will surely launch used electric OEM vans as a real alternative to fossil fuels, with a viable dealer and charging network to follow.”

Strangely enough, Davis’ views about the Nissan e-NV200 echo my own exactly — as I explained in a post on this site at the start of March.

I strongly believe that the van market is currently the most realistic target for volume sales of electric vehicles. Time will tell if I’m right, but frankly, the competition from other alternative fuels is pretty thin. Hydrogen and fuel cells are still too experimental and complex, while looking back, LPG might have been a good idea, but the economic advantages were only ever based on fuel duty rates, not underlying fuel costs, and as Manheim’s James Davis explains, the game is now nearly over:

“In our view, LPG is all but extinct among mainstream fleets. Operation, tank size and its position in the payload area, coupled with a fragmented refuelling network infrastructure, conspire against the technology.”

I’m bullish on electricity and believe that when combined with range-extender and hybrid technology, it’s a logical and complementary way for internal combustion engined vehicles to evolve, while retaining the practicality we all value so highly.

Indeed, I’ll go further and say that in a few short years, hybrid technology will become a standard feature on many new models — to the point that it isn’t even badged anymore. After all, I remember a time, not so long ago, when vehicle manufacturers badged their vehicles to advertise the presence fuel injection, catalytic converters and turbos (on diesel engines).

Today, any new car or van without these features wouldn’t be fit for purpose, and I’m pretty sure the same thing will happen with hybrid technologies.