Category Archives: Alternative Fuels

Citroen Berlingo L2 electric van

Peugeot & Citroën stretch range with longer wheelbase electric van

The Peugeot Partner and Citroën Berlingo electric vans (the same vehicle) have been around for a while now. But so far they’ve only been available in the shorter L1 wheelbase offered by the firm’s on its diesel models.

The companies say that in response to customer demand, the Berlingo/Partner electric van will now be available in a choice of L1 and L2 wheelbases. Choosing the L2 option will enable van operators to extend available load length from 1,800mm to 2,050mm and load volume from 3.3 cubic metres to 3.7 cubic metres.

Citroen Berlingo L2 electric van

The Citroen Berlingo electric van in L2 (long) wheelbase.

The battery packs are fitted beneath the floor in this model, meaning that loadspace is the same as in the diesel models.

Faster charging

Both models will also benefit from being supplied with a 16A charging cable as standard. This enables the vans to be hooked up to fast charging points for more rapid recharging.

The 22.5kWh litihium-ion battery backs fitted to these models provide a range of up to 106 miles. They can be charged to 80% of capacity in 30 minutes from a dedicated rapid charge point.

Citroen Berlingo electric van under bonnet

Under the bonnet of the Citroen Berlingo electric van.

The Partner/Berlingo is eligible for the Plug in Van Grant (PiVG) from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). Prices for both vans start from £22,180 +VAT. All vans are exempt from road tax and will continue to be so under new tax VED rules from April 2017.

A new Berlingo Electric L2 550 LX will be displayed on the Citroën stand at the CV Show in April. I’m heading to the show so I’ll try and get a photo.

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

Nissan e-NV200 is top selling electric van in Europe

The all-electric Nissan e-NV200 van was the top-selling electric van in Europe in 2016. UK sales of the van rose by 20% last year, while total European sales rose by 7% to 4,319 units.

Nissan e-NV200 electric van

The Nissan e-NV200 electric van is the top-selling electric van in 17 European countries.

The top markets for the e-NV200 were the UK, Norway and France, but the van was the top-selling electric model in no fewer than 17 European countries.

Although the e-NV200 faces competition from the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner Electric in the small van segment, the e-NV200 is usefully larger and also comes in a choice of body styles. In addition to the panel van model, buyers can order the Combi and Evalia passenger variants which offer five and seven-seat options respectively.

This versatility plus Nissan’s attractive 5-year/60,000 mile warranty may be tipping the balance for a lot of buyers. It probably would for me. However, Gareth Dunsmore, Director of Electric Vehicles at Nissan Europe, was keen to emphasise the electric van’s other advantages:

“Aside from its obvious environmental advantages, e-NV200 owners also benefit from its low-running costs, starting from as little as two pence per mile, a smooth and near-silent ride and 40 percent lower servicing costs when compared with an equivalent diesel vehicle.”

I’ve been harping on about the attractions of these electric vans for some time now.

With a range of up to 106 miles between charges, I firmly believe they’d be suitable for a wide range of UK LCV operators. It’s only fear of the unknown and inertia that’s causing these firms to continue specifying poorly-suited diesel vans for low-mileage urban/semi-urban roles. This will eventually change, especially as diesels become increasingly demonised in our cities.

Vules Partagés Citroën Berlingo electric van

Electric van sharing scheme goes live in Paris

I wrote last week about Ford’s plans to trial 20 plugin hybrid electric vans in London. But as I mentioned in the same piece, a number of European countries are already embracing electric vans with much more enthusiasm than UK operators.

Postal services in France and Norway already operate thousands of electric delivery vehicles. Germany is set to follow suit this year. Today in Paris, a new scheme has gone into operation offering businesses access to electric vans through a vehicle sharing scheme.

Vules Partagés Citroën Berlingo electric van

Vules Partagés Citroën Berlingo electric van sharing scheme.

The service, known as VULe Partagés, will be available in the 2nd and 3rd arrondissement of Paris and will make ten vans available, including 4 Peugeot Partner and 4 Citroën Berlingo electric vans.

Small businesses in the city can register on the the scheme’s website in order to use the service.

France’s PSA Group — which includes Peugeot and Citroën — has been producing all-electric vehicles since 1995. The group currently sells five electric models, including two vans, the Peugeot Partner and the Citroën Berlingo (which of course are essentially the same vehicle).

Ford Transit Custom PHEV

Ford launches plugin hybrid electric van van trial in London

On a typical weekday in London, commercial vehicles make 280,000 journeys, covering a total distance of 18 million miles. 75% of the freight vehicles involved in these movements are vans, covering an average of 64 miles per day.

These are staggering figures, especially when you consider that the vast majority of the vans and trucks involved are diesel vehicles. Urban pollution from diesel is already a major public health issue.

While the Euro 6 emissions standard promises to achieve a reduction where Euro 5 failed, diesel-fuelled air pollution is still a concern, as is the noise pollution caused by all these rattly diesel engines — still far louder and more raucous than petrol equivalents.

In an effort to improve the situation and prepare the ground for a large-scale move into the electric vehicle market, Ford has partnered with Transport for London to launch a 12-month trial of 20 plugin hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) Transit Custom vans.

Ford Transit Custom PHEV

One of the 20 new Ford Transit Custom PHEV due to go start a 12-month trial in London later in 2017.

Ford will provide 20 PHEV Transits to a range of commercial fleets across London, including Transport for London’s fleet, to explore how such vans can contribute to cleaner air targets while boosting productivity for operators in urban conditions. The project is supported financially by the government-funded Advanced Propulsion Centre.

These vans are forerunners of the Transit Custom PHEV production model that’s scheduled for commercial production in 2019. Ford is the first company to offer PHEV functionality in the van sector.

How a PHEV van works

How the Ford Transit plugin hybrid electric vans will be used in and around London (click to enlarge)

The idea is that the vans can be charged from the mains and will run solely on electric power for the majority of the time they’re operating in Central London. They will however retain the ability to cover longer distances without recharging using their standard engines.

“The freight sector’s transition to ultra-low emission vehicles is central to cleaning up London’s toxic air,” said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London. “Transport for London continues to lead by example by increasing the number of its own vehicles that are electric and will find the data from these trials an invaluable resource for the LoCITY programme, which encourages the uptake of low emission commercial transport.”

Ford is planning to launch 13 electric vehicles globally in the next five years. The Transit Custom PHEV is one of these. In my view, the operating case for electric vans in cities has already been made several times over. It remains a mystery to me why — for example — large postal operators in other European countries are buying thousands of electric delivery vehicles, while Royal Mail chooses only bicycles and diesel vans.

Hopefully London Mayor Khan will be a more forceful and effective advocate of electric vans than his predecessor. It’s high time that London and the UK started to lead the way in modernising Europe’s transport infrastructure and vehicle parc.

StreetScooter Work electric van

Deutsche Post DHL will put 2,000 StreetScooter electric vans on the road in 2017

StreetScooter probably isn’t a name you’re familiar with. But that could soon change. This German startup was founded in 2010 to make affordable electric vehicles for urban use. It caught the eye of Deutsche Post  DHL Group. The German postal group liked it so much, it bought the company in 2014.

StreetScooter Work electric van

The StreetScooter Work electric van in Deutsche Post DHL colours — the post and parcel firm owns StreetScooter.

After a successful trial of 50 vans, the German postal group is now planning to deploy 2,000 StreetScooter electric vans into its urban delivery fleet by the end of 2017. These will be in Germany, but as StreetScooter ramps up its production capacity, surplus vehicles are expected to be available to third-party buyers.

I’d also guess that if the StreetScooter proves successful in Germany, Deutsche Post DHL may start to experiment with using the vans for DHL parcel deliveries in other major European cities.

According to the StreetScooter website, the Work van has a range of 50-80km and takes 4.5 hours to charge up to 80% capacity. A full charge takes 7 hours, but most urban delivery vans don’t operate for more than 14 hours a day, making a 7-hour charging period perfectly acceptable.

The model described on StreetScooter’s website has a payload of 650kg, and a maximum laden weight of 2,130kg, putting it on a par with popular small vans such as the Citroen Berlingo and Ford Transit Connect. Indeed, the electric version of the Citroen Berlingo uses the same GKN e-Drive electric drivetrain as the StreetScooter.

Deutsche Post DHL is ultimately targeting a 100% electric delivery fleet. This year’s plan to put 2,000 new StreetScooter vans into service is an important step in the right direction.

Renault Master Z.E. electric van

Renault charged up with new electric Kangoo and Master vans

Renault has launched a new longer-range version of its Kangoo Van Z.E. and an all-new electric Master Z.E. at the Brussels Motor Show.

Renault Zero Emission LCV fleet

By the end of 2017, Renault will offer four electric vans in its Z.E. range

The new Kangoo Van Z.E. boasts a theoretical range of 168 miles, which is 50% more than the outgoing model and — says the firm — the longest of any electric van.

Meanwhile the Master Z.E. (Z.E. stands for Zero Emissions) has been introduced to target urban distribution operations and low-mileage municipal work.

Both vans are available with new, faster charging technology which promises to improve the usability and appeal of electric vehicles.

Kangoo Van Z.E. update

The Kangoo Van Z.E. was one of the first real-world usable LCVs to go on sale anywhere, and has been Europe’s bestselling electric van for the last six years.

Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van

The Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van

The latest update features a new Z.E.33 33kWh battery pack and a new R60 44kW motor. Combined, these help to increase the range of the electric Kangoo to a specified maximum of 168 miles. Faster charging will also be possible. A new 7kW 32A charger will be available that can fully charge the Kangoo in just six hours.

The new Kangoo Van Z.E. will go on sale in Europe from the middle of 2017.

New Master Z.E.

Large electric vans are thin on the ground at the moment. So urban operators interested in reducing their carbon footprints and avoiding the cost and hassle of running diesel vans that are essentially unsuited to such operations may be interested in the new all-electric Master.

Renault Master Z.E. electric van

The Renault Master Z.E. electric van

It uses a larger R75 57kW motor but will be powered by the same Z.E.33 33kWH battery pack as the Kangoo. This inevitably reduces range somewhat, but Renault says the new Master Z.E. will be capable of up to 124 miles between charges. That’s pretty respectable.

As with the Kangoo, a full charge from Renault’s 7kW Wall Box charger will take six hours. I guess 13A charging will also be possible, albeit at a much slower pace.

The Master Z.E. will go on sale in the European market at the end of 2017.

What’s next for electric vans

It’s interesting to see how rapidly electric vehicle ranges are starting to increase. The Renault ZOE is now available with a Z.E.40 battery that gives this small car a range in the region of 200 miles.

Longer ranges were always inevitable as the technology matured — I suspect faster charging is the next logical step. I’m sure we’ll start to see this over the next couple of years.

Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van

New Renault Kangoo Z.E. gets 50% longer range

It was inevitable: mainstream electric vehicles are starting to get longer battery ranges between recharging.

The latest version of the all-electric Renault Kangoo Z.E. will boast a new motor and battery package which Renault says will increase its range to 168 miles. That’s 50% more than the current model’s 106-mile range.

Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van

Renault Kangoo Z.E. electric van

This announcement to increase the range on Kangoo Z.E. follows on from Renault recently launching at the 2016 Paris Motor Show the New Renault ZOE available with a new Z.E.40 battery that increases its NEDC driving range to 250 miles (186 miles in real world driving conditions) – the longest of any mainstream electric car.

I suspect there are further increases to come. A lot of firepower is now being put into electric drivetrains — in my view, it’s inevitable that such young technology will improved steadily for some time yet.

Jersey Post Nissan e-NV200 van

Jersey Post’s e-NV200 vans should deliver electric conversion for islanders

Given that the island of Jersey is only about 12 miles long, you’d have to wonder why local businesses are not all using electric vehicles already. Range anxiety is unlikely to be a problem and the winters are mild, reducing the chances of cold weather performance problems.

It seems that Jersey Post — at least — is getting the message. The Channel Island’s postal service recently bought 15 Nissan e-NV200 electric vans to use for mail delivery across Jersey.

Jersey Post Nissan e-NV200 van

Jersey Post Nissan e-NV200 van

The electric vans are the first electric vehicles to be added to the company’s fleet of more than 100 vehicles and their purchase follows an 18-month trial.

Andy Jehan, Director of Operations at Jersey Post, now seems to have the bit between his teeth. Mr Jehan sounds like an enthusiastic convert to electric vehicles:

“The Nissan e-NV200 was the right vehicle for us on every level. The vans are going to make a very significant contribution in our ambition to lower the environmental impact of our fleet and help preserve the beauty of our island – both in terms of carbon emissions and noise – and they’re also ideal for the short distance, stop/start driving that the job involves.

“The value is exceptional too, our decision to switch being ultimately based on the financial projections we have made on whole life costs. If our projections prove accurate, then there’s no reason why many more of our vehicles shouldn’t be electric.”

The addition of the advanced all-electric vans will reduce Jersey Post’s carbon footprint by 35 tonnes a year. Nissan’s 100,000 miles, five-year warranty means that Jersey Post shouldn’t have any worrise about reliability issues — the vans were supplied and will be maintained by the island’s own Nissan dealer.

Nissan claims that low running costs mean that the e-NV200 will cost £1,200 less to run than a conventional diesel van over four years. Given the low mileage, stop-start conditions for driving on the Channel Islands, you’d have to imagine that if the e-NV200 vans are trouble free, local sales of electric cars and vans could rocket.

Tevva Motors 7.5t truck

UK-built Tevva electric trucks clock up 30,000 miles in six months

I first wrote about UK firm Tevva Motors back in January. Since then, the firm’s three test trucks have been in daily use and have now clocked up almost 30,000 miles between them.

Tevva Motors 7.5t truck

One of Tevva Motors’ 7.5t test trucks, featuring the firm’s range extender electric powertrain.

Tevva’s powertrain is fitted to two converted JAC N-series trucks (JAC is a large Chinese manufacturer) and has also been retrofitted to a Mercedes-Benz Vario. All three vehicles are in daily use with parcel giant UPS, which is using and managing the trucks in the same way as the rest of its fleet.

Each vehicle has Tevva’s next-generation electric range extender powertrain, which Tevva says is capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%, compared to an average 7.5 tonne diesel engine truck.

Range extenders work but combining an electric powertrain with a petrol or diesel-powered generator, which can be run to provide electrical power to keep the battery topped up on longer journeys. One of the key advantages is that the engine required is much smaller than it would be if it was used to power the vehicle directly. Tevva’s 7.5 tonne trucks have a 1.6-litre diesel engine fitted in place of the standard model’s 3.8-litre diesel engine.

Tevva’s powertrain uses the firm’s patented Predictive Range Extender Management System (PREMS) to work out the optimum time to run the batteries during a pre-planned route. For example, PREMS would ensure the batteries were charged to allow electric operation in urban areas before running the engine to top up the batteries during out-of-town driving. This offers significant benefits in terms of emissions and fuel consumption.

According to a recent review, the PREMS system has three modes, which provide varying levels of charge, depending on the state of the batteries and expected power requirements.

Tevva’s does not expect to start producing its own new trucks for another couple of years. However, the firm’s powertrain is now available as a retrofit package for customers who would like to fit it to existing trucks.

Range extender systems have always seemed to me a good medium-term solution to address range limitations of all-electric vehicles. As I’ve mentioned many times before, delivery vans and trucks are ideal candidates for electrification because they tend to do limited mileages on set routes each day, before returning to base each night where they can be charged.

Back to base trucks doing urban deliveries are Tevva’s target market. The potential benefits seem clear, so it will be interesting to see whether any of the big fleet operators — most notably trial partner UPS — can be persuaded to take up this system.

Tevva 7.5t electric range extender truck

Don’t Tevva give up on electric power: UK firm develops new low emission system

Only a few days ago, I questioned why mainstream van manufacturers were not producing hybrids, given the proven fuel savings and emission reductions of such systems. I cited the 7.5t Fuso Canter Eco Hybrid as an example of what’s possible.

Just a few days later, news has reached me of a British company that’s taken a different approach to hybrid technology. Tevva Motors is developing an electric range extender powertrain that can be fitted to new or existing 7.5t trucks.

Tevva 7.5t electric range extender truck

One of Tevva’s prototype 7.5t trucks with electric range-extending powertrain

What’s a range extender? The idea behind a range extender is that the vehicle is driven by its electric powertrain at all times. However, range extender vehicles also have a small petrol or diesel engine which is used as a generator to provide electric power when the batteries are unable to cope or need charging. This effectively means that the range of the vehicle is unlimited, subject to refuelling stops. It doesn’t need recharging during longer journeys.

The best-known example of this approach is probably the Vauxhall Ampera car (also sold as the Chevrolet Volt). This has been in production for a few years now, but failed to sell well in Europe and was withdrawn from General Motor’s European ranges last year (it’s still available in the USA).

How’s it different to a hybrid? In a hybrid, the vehicle is directly powered by both its internal combustion engine and its electric motor. At times it may run on electric power alone, or on the internal combustion engine alone, but both have direct drive to the wheels and operate semi-independently.

What’s Tevva doing? Tevva has developed an electric range extended truck and currently has three vehicles in operation, including one with logistics giant UPS. The firm is developing models for full-scale production in the next three years, and is also developing its range-extending electric powertrain as an aftermarket solution which can be retrofitted into older trucks.

A feature of the Tevva solution is the firm’s predictive software, which maximises use of electric-only power in urban environments and other situations where air and noise pollution is a particular issue. The system has real-time access to NOx and air quality data and combines this with GPS navigation to optimise use of the range extender.

For example, on a journey incorporating urban roads and motorway, the Tevva system might decide to use the diesel engine on the motorway in order to ensure that there is enough battery power left to complete the urban sections of the journey under electric power.

Asher Bennett, Tevva Motors CEO, commented: “Our technology and design offers all of the benefits of an electric vehicle, meeting the environmental needs of modern legislation and social acceptance, without the drawbacks of limited range.

As Mr Bennett comments, the key benefit of range extenders is that they make electric vehicles much more widely usable.

Technical details: The Tevva truck can manage 100 miles on electric power, although this will vary with driving conditions, load and driving style. The range extender extends this range to 250 miles with a 40l fuel tank or 370 miles with a larger 75l fuel tank — although of course you can refuel can carry on driving as long as you need, using the range extender engine.

The powertrain is made up of a 120kW (161hp) electric motor with a 350V/66kWh battery pack that’s expected to last 7-10 years, or 2,000 charging cycles. A 1.6-litre diesel range extender engine is recommended and a regenerative braking system is also fitted to maximise battery life. Charging requires a 3-phase, 32A supply and takes up to three hours.

Tevva says that greenhouse gas emissions from the range extender with predictive technology are typically 80% lower than from an average diesel-engined 7.5t truck.

Pollution from NOx emissions, a common cause of respiratory problems, is 50% lower than with a Euro 6 approved 7.5t truck, according to Tevva.

Our view: Tevva’s goal is to gain a foothold in the low emission truck market by supplying their own trucks, which are based on an existing model from Chinese firm JAC. Tevva also plans to make the range extender system available as a kit which can be retrofitted to existing trucks.

UPS’s willingness to put the Tevva system into daily use suggests the product is credible and usable, so it will be interesting to see where this leads. I can’t believe it will be too much longer before more major van and truck manufacturers start producing hybrid models. When so many CVs are used for limited mileage and in urban environments, it is surely hard to ignore the environmental benefits of such technology.