August heralded the launch of the new Renault Kangoo Maxi ZE van in the UK and there is no doubt that many tradesmen will be getting commercial vehicle insurance quotes on the vehicle before very long.
This zero emission version of Renault’s long wheelbase small working van offers comfort and luxury that van drivers have longed for over the years. It may not be luxurious in the way private cars are described but while it still has a basic trim and there are issues with the positioning of several features in relation to the handbrake, this working van offers a comfortable seat to the driver who may spend long working hours in the vehicle. The standard offering comes with electric windows, remote central locking, immobiliser, door mirrors and a pre-heating facility for the cabin. Tradesman will also be interested in optional extras including rear parking sensors, cruise control and air conditioning.
Renault are confident this electric van (EV) will be popular in big cities and will interest fleet managers across the UK, but London and the South East is where the van will come into its own. The 20% discount, courtesy of the Government’s Plug-in Van Grant brings the basic two door model down to a very competitive £14,392 ex VAT. The added extras for the standard EV model come from outside the vehicle. In London there is no congestion charge to pay and on-street parking is free. No Road Tax is due on any EV and fleet managers will know there is a 100% capital allowance on tax for the first 12 months. Oh, and yes, you can forget about the prices showing on garage forecourts, re-charging the battery will cost you a couple of quid.
The electric motor does slightly reduce the payload of the van compared to the diesel model but the load space available is exactly the same. The van’s 60hp motor gives the driver 226Nm of torque and while 0-60 in 22 seconds is nothing to write home about it is nippy enough to do its job comfortably. Drivers considering a van insurance quote on the Kangoo should also bear in mind there is a battery leasing charge on top of the cost of the vehicle which varies depending on the contract.
Fleet managers throughout the United Kingdom will be planning for the future after Nissan announced they are going to produce a 100% electric van (the e-NV200) that will go into production at its Barcelona plant next year.
The new van will be based on their existing award-winning NV200 which is also produced at the same plant and the van will be an important addition to Nissan’s global range of light commercial vehicles. The e-NV200 will be Nissan’s second all electric vehicle (EV) following on from the launch of the multi-award winning Nissan LEAF two years ago.
Nissan feel that this news will show even more that they have a long-term commitment to zero emissions. The launch of the new model was made possible thanks to a £100 million investment by Nissan in Spain and will create around 700 new jobs at the plant.
The e-NV200 will provide businesses in the UK with a functional and roomy van, and Nissan are confident van insurance providers will be inundated with enquiries once the vehicle becomes available. The van will retain the innovative and practical features of the NV200 combined with the most advanced components of the Nissan LEAF. This will deliver a driving range similar to the LEAF together with best in class running and maintenance costs. The new van will also make a significant contribution to Nissan’s aim of becoming the world’s largest LCV manufacturer by 2016. Currently intensive evaluations are being carried out in Europe ahead of the start of production.
Andy Palmer, Nissan Executive Vice President, said “The e-NV200 represents a genuine breakthrough in commercial vehicles and further underlines Nissan’s leadership within the electric vehicle segment. The new model will offer all the spaciousness, versatility and practicality of a traditionally powered compact van, but with zero CO2 emission at the point of use and also provide an outstanding driving experience that is unique to EVs. Crucially, it will also offer class-leading running and maintenance costs, which makes it an exceptionally attractive proposition to both businesses and families.”
After buying a fleet of eight brand new hybrid transit vans from innovative vehicle producer, Ashwoods Automotive, North Ayrshire Council now have the largest hybrid van fleet throughout Scotland.
The vans will be covered by commercial vehicle insurance and will be replacing the previous fleet of diesel powered vehicles. Although they are standard Ford Transits which come with all the normal features, they have also been fitted with an innovative hybrid drive system. Like any other business, Councils are aware of both environmental issues and fuel costs and the hybrid vehicles will deliver fuel consumption reductions of up to 20%. This reduction will save North Ayrshire Council over £700 a year per vehicle as well as reducing their carbon emissions. If the new vehicles prove to be a success, they will be extended across the council’s entire fleet.
Councillor Tom Barr said: “The purchase of this fleet of hybrid vans once again shows the council’s commitment to energy efficiency. It is important to remember that the benefits of energy efficiency are twofold. Not only do we ensure that we are doing our best to save the environment from the effects of carbon emissions – we are saving money while doing so. This is especially important at a time when finances are tight.”
The eight vans have been partly funded by Transport Scotland’s LCVPSS (Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Support Scheme), which allows any public sector body to buy hybrid vehicles for operational trials. Ashwoods have also supplied vehicles to the Royal Mail, The Environment Agency and Transport for London who are all enjoying the benefits provided by a drive system which recovers energy lost through braking and deceleration. Because the hybrid system is entirely self-powered, the vehicles will never have to be plugged in for a battery charge. North Ayrshire Council is just the latest to realise that a low carbon vehicle does not have to cost the earth.
Firms with a fleet of vans which are protected by commercial vehicle insurance have questioned the need for new technology which is designed to make electric vehicles noisier so that pedestrians will be more aware of their presence.
Academics are testing different systems that copy the sound of a vehicle accelerating and changing through the gears for use in electric vehicles. The system will not be expensive and it may be on sale in the few months.
However, fleets are far from convinced that there is a need to make electric vehicles noisier. In fact just one major company who ordered vehicles from Modec (Britain’s biggest commercial EV manufacturer) during the last three years asked for noise-awareness equipment to be fitted.
Because their vans are being used in massive hangers where a lot of people work, Royal Mail asked for vehicles that produced a beeping noise. The Department of Transport did not require any noise-awareness equipment saying it was all down to their driver’s diligence. Another fleet claimed that quiet vehicles were actually an advantage. Marks and Spencer use an electric vehicle for deliveries in London and they prefer the vehicle to be quiet.
The European Commission is now looking at whether there is a case for a minimum noise standard, this would protect cyclists and pedestrians, especially those whose vision is impaired.
Professor Paul Jennings, the man in charge of experiential engineering at Warwick University, stated “We have the technology that allows us to create in real time the interior sounds of a vehicle but impending legislation covering electric vehicles prompted us to study exterior sound. The result is software that we believe provides a combination of sounds that promise to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in urban and city areas. Significantly, a lot of conventional vehicles are also now very quiet in operation at low speeds, so the system could well have other applications.”
Most fleet managers say that issues over electric van residual values as well as the finance models which manufacturers intend to use to bring these models to market are their two main concerns.
A recent fleet van conference saw these concerns addressed and the fleet managers were given advice on electric vans and what the future may have in store. According to some people the picture for EVs could be even worse. If battery costs drop by a third during the next three years, which is a probability if the technology advances continue as fast as they have over the previous three years, then an EV may be obsolete in a few years. In addition, it is predicted that an electric van will fall in value at a rate that is three times quicker than a diesel-equivalent. The answer may well be that EV vans need to have a longer life (seven years), because at this point the financial case becomes somewhat more attractive.
But it is not just EV residual values that are holding consumers back, says Janet Entwistle, former managing director of BT Fleet. She stated “You need £20,000 more to run an EV than a similar diesel and if you are outside the congestion zone, it will cost you £30,000 more. It’s a problem: EVs are not yet a viable proposition.”
However, things could be changing for the better. Renault is about to launch its electric Renault Kangoo at a price of £16,990. But the battery will need to be leased separately at a price of £59 per month. In theory it may be a good option as there will be a viable small electric van option next year. But the idea of having to lease the battery separately raises other issues. Some dealers will refuse to set a residual value on an EV unless the vehicle is sold as an entire package.
Other questions are who owns what? What will happen if a fleet defaults on a payment? And what will the insurance company do when a vehicle is in a crash or is stolen, how will they value the battery and what impact will this have on their commercial vehicle insurance. The industry is poised on the cusp of a whole new era in transport.
Fleets need to take a structured approach to managing the first electric vehicles being used as company cars and vans, according to Fleet software market leader CFC Solutions.
In the future when firms start using electric cars and vans, they are worried that the businesses will treat the first electric vehicles as environmentally friendly novelties, when what they really should be doing is learning about how they operate, the limitations, and of course, the financial benefits as quickly as possible. A lot of money will have been spent on new vans along with the commercial vehicle insurance that comes with it. The technology behind the electric vehicles will be new to almost everyone in the fleet industry meaning the level of attention should actually be more then that of a normal van.
Neville Briggs, managing director at CFC, said: “Early adopters of electric cars and vans are likely to be organisations that have a strong environmental bias and are making a corporate statement by being among the first customers. However, fleet managers must ensure that these vehicles are not treated as novelties. Rather they are transport assets like any other that a company may own or lease. They should be subject to the same kind of managerial scrutiny with accurate information gathering about their performance and cost with regular reporting taking place. Fleet managers should be learning everything they can about the real world range of these vehicles, charging speeds and cost, effects of driving styles and maintenance regimes.”
Concerns about CO2 and pollution could mean that the future of the van as the business transport tool of choice will depend on the fleet changing to electric vehicles, so employers will have to learn to manage them effectively. Current battery technology of electric vehicles has a range of around 100 miles per charge. A recharge will take at least a three hours or even an overnight. This makes them suitable for some fleets but not all.
News that the North American commercial vehicle market will soon have its first fully Electric Van is bound to cause excitement and expectation amongst van drivers here in the UK.
The Ford Transit Connect electric van will go on sale next spring and the company that is to oversee final assembly in the USA is AM General, not the likeliest of partners in assembly of environmentally friendly vehicles as they are best known as the producers of the Humvees and Hummers, some of the heaviest fuel using motors in the business.
The new vans shell will be manufactured in Turkey and then sent over to the USA for Michigan based company Azure Dynamics to install the electric driving system, it will then go on to Detroit and AM General LLC for the final assembly. Apparently this is not the first time AM have been involved with alternative fuel vehicles as a spokeswoman for the company said they had produced electric Jeeps for the US Postal Service a generation ago and since then had worked on a project with vans running on compressed gas.
The new Transit’s appearance will be the same as the ordinary vehicle although it will be powered by a Lithium-ion battery pack and although pricing has not been finally agreed, Jennifer Moore speaking on behalf of Ford Motor Company said that AT&T had already purchased two of the vehicles. Azure Dynamics confirmed the van will be one of the first fully electrical vans to be offered to the commercial market. What impact this will have on commercial vehicle insurance at this moment in time is uncertain.