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Executive Hire News › Archives › September 2019 › Executive Report : Go electric

Executive Report : Go electric

Once the stuff of science fiction, battery-powered vans and trucks are very much a reality. Dan Jenkins assesses some of the latest makes and models unveiled at the CV Show.

Commercial electric vehicles (EVs) have been around since the late 2000s, but have only recently started gaining traction with fleets. London remains the biggest market, due to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, but a case can be made for business use in any part of the UK.

This year’s CV Show, held at the NEC, was dominated by EVs. While manufacturers such as Nissan and Renault, who were quick to embrace the opportunity, produce their models in-house, others playing catch-up have taken a more pragmatic approach. Peugeot has outsourced electrification to a third party, while Volkswagen has employed - if you’ll excuse the pun - a hybrid approach whereby it electrifies some models but has outsourced others. There appears to be little difference in terms of quality, performance or price between these approaches; the most likely explanation is that partnering provided these OEMs with a quicker route to market.

Most of the large panel vans are priced around £60,000, meaning they are still by no means cheap to buy. However, finance and leasing options are increasingly available to take the sting out of making the switch to EVs. The return on investment can depend on various factors, such as how many miles the vehicle travels each year, and whether it has to operate in a charging zone. In addition, EVs can help companies win or retain business by helping customers meet their environmental objectives.

One of the biggest talking points of the exhibition was Peugeot unveiling a battery-powered version of its popular Boxer panel van. Fitted with a 44kWh battery pack, its quoted range of 99 to 140 miles per charge is sufficient for most urban hire delivery operations. Most impressive, however, is its payload of up to 1,215kg, which is one of the best in class. The electric motor conversion is carried out by a partner company, BD Auto.

Not to be outdone, Peugeot’s sister company, Citroen, showcased its new Relay Electric - another conversion by BD Auto. Citroen will offer the Relay in four sizes and with a choice of two battery packs, providing maximum ranges of 141 miles and 169 miles respectively. The cargo area is undiminished compared to the diesel version, but the Relay Electric sacrifices around 500kg in payload due to the weight of its battery pack.

Chassis cab options

LDV has reinvented itself as a major player in the electric light commercial vehicle market, with its popular EV80. This electric van is claimed to deliver a 120-mile maximum range on a single charge and its lithium battery can be fully charged in less than two hours. While almost every other OEM only showed panel van EVs, LDV already has chassis cabs for sale, with Luton, dropside and tipper bodies currently available.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles made EVs the centrepiece of its stand, with three models on display. The e-Caddy, which will be available imminently, competes with the Renault Kangoo ZE and Nissan e-NV200 in the electric small van category. It has a much fresher look and feel than its established competitors, and trumps its older peers in terms of modern safety features, such as autonomous emergency braking.

However, the e-Caddy’s quoted 160-mile range doesn’t quite equal the 170+ miles claimed by both Renault and Nissan for their electric small vans. Similarly, the e-Caddy’s payload falls a little short, being 636kg compared against 650kg for the Kangoo ZE and 750kg for the e-NV200. The e-Caddy will be followed by the e-Transporter in early 2020, which will go head-to-head with the Mercedes Benz eVito in the medium van market.

The standard version offers a 134-mile range, compared to the 93 miles claimed by the eVito. However, VW will also offer a double battery version, at 77.6kWh, providing a range of up to 250 miles. Payload capability for the single-battery model is an impressive 1,186kg, whereas the dual battery variant sacrifices just over 490kg of carrying capacity in exchange for the longer range.

VW has partnered with electrification specialist, ABT, to produce electric versions of its Caddy and Transporter vans. ABT is well-known in EV circles as it is a key player in the FIA Formula E electric racing sport. We will have to wait a little longer for an electric version of the Crafter large van, as it won’t be here until 2021. It will provide the same load area and payload as the diesel model, and its 107-mile range on a single charge makes it suitable for urban operations. Initially, VW will only supply the long wheelbase (LWB) configuration of each model for the UK market, whereas elsewhere in Europe it will offer more variants in terms of body length.

Hybrid success

The Mitsubishi Outlander SUV is described as the most successful plug-in hybrid vehicle ever sold. However, it was impacted by the UK Government recently moving the goalposts for its Plug-In Car Grant, rendering the Outlander ineligible. While the grants might have gone, Mitsubishi has extended the battery range to 28 miles on a single charge, which might sound low, but the manufacturer states it will do more than 400 miles on a full tank of fuel, thanks to the electric range, giving more competitive running costs.

While we can’t expect a pure electric version of the Ford Transit for at least a couple more years, Ford did unveil what it calls a ‘mild hybrid’ version, known as Eco Blue. Whenever the van slows down, the Eco Blue system is designed to capture the energy generated by braking and stores it in a small lithium-ion battery. This helps to power other on-board systems, and the end result is a fuel saving of 3% over the standard Transit, which increases to 8% in the stop-start conditions of more congested town and city centres.

Two truck manufacturers showed off concept vehicles with some impressive specifications. The MAN CitE e-mobility has a low-entry cab that should be appreciated by drivers constantly hopping in and out for busy urban deliveries. MAN quotes a payload of 6,300kg and a maximum range of around 100km, or 67 miles.

Its rival, DAF, displayed its CF Electric FT tractor unit, which it has developed in partnership with VDL. Interestingly, DAF claims that the battery can be fully recharged in just 30 minutes, meaning that it could be recharged while loading or unloading. •

     
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