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Azure Dynamics in Financial Trouble

The electric vehicle market was hit by some bad news this week. Azure Dynamics, the company behind the Ford Transit Connect Electric, has closed its European operation and filed for bankruptcy protection.

Tough Times

The company has simply been caught out by such turbulent financial times across Europe and has sadly had to close its European doors. It was revealed that around 500 Azure Dynamics Ford Transit Connect Electric vehicles were produced with over half of them being sold in the United States. Around 230-240 were then left to be sold here in Europe.

A Ford UK spokeswoman has been explaining that “a very small number” had thus far been sold in the UK. Furthermore, they added that the company was looking to establish a way in which they could service their small number of customers.

Is There a Future?

Vice President of Azure Dynamics, Mike Elwood, is adamant that there will be a long term future for the company. He’s been quoted saying: “There is a future for Azure, we’re not sure where but there is a future for Azure and hopefully that will be in Europe.” Mr Elwood is also very hopeful that Azure Dynamics can retain the relationship that they have established with Ford. The Transit Connect Electric recently became available for the new electric vehicle discount that has been offered by the government. Whilst the Transit will reduce emissions and save you money on a van insurance quote due to its electric nature, it will also save you money when buying it from new.

Re-Assurance

The demise of the company has now forced the Department for Transport to step in to state that the situation that Azure Dynamics finds themselves in will not, in any way, damage the Plug-in Van Grant scheme that was launched this year. A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport explained: “It doesn’t affect the scheme. There’s no set number of vans that have to be eligible. More will be added on as they come to market.”

The fantastic little Transit van is just one of the first seven vans to gain eligibility for the grant that offers buyers a 20% discount off the new price up to the value of £8000. There aren’t currently a large number of these Transit vans available to those that want one here in the UK, therefore, if you do indeed fancy one, then it will be a good idea to act quickly!

So, who wants one and who already owns one?

Mercedes-Benz Is the HSS Hire Van of Choice

HSS Hire is a company that provide a nationwide tool and equipment hiring service. In 2009 they selected Mercedes-Benz as their only commercial van supplier. As the agreement drew to a close, HSS Hire decided to renew their contract. Mercedes-Benz will continue to supply them with replacement units and a wide range of new vehicles. With these new acquisitions comes the requirement to protect their growing fleet with quality commercial van insurance.

Why Mercedes-Benz?

Mercedes’ commercial vans have proven to be extremely reliable for HSS. They found that their Mercedes vans can last twice as long as others, with very few maintenance issues. They will also include ECO-Start which has lead to a large drop in fuel consumption. This is beneficial not only for HSS as they save money on fuel costs, but it reduces their negative impact on the environment.
The vans also feature quality safety systems such as the Adaptive ESP stability programme, adaptive brake lights and seat belt tensioners which are all standard inclusions in Mercedes-Benz vans.

The Latest Additions

Among the newer vehicles Mercedes-Benz will be providing HSS Hire with, are the Sprinter 313CDi Long Chassis cabs and the Vito 113CDi Long Panel vans. HSS will be using the Sprinters for collection and deliveries and each vehicle will feature a 13ft 6inch alloy dropside Arnold Clark body, a 500kg column tail lift and towing upgrades to 6300kg. For the vans which will be used for onsite maintenance and repair, the Vitos will be the vehicle of choice. These vans will be complete with tailgate, internal racking and storage solutions.

Commenting on their new deal, Fleet Manager at HSS, Lee Jackson said “Safety is paramount so making sure that the vans we chose offered sophisticated safety features played a large part in our decision making process. In addition, the reliability of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and the service and support they offer help keep us on the road and make sure we are better equipped to serve our customers. We’ve introduced the Vitos to our range as they offer an increased payload and better mpg, which will mean our fitters can carry more parts and attend to more customers in any one trip”.

Keeping Your Van Secure

Securing your van is absolutely essential for your trade. Without effective van security your van and goods will be at risk from opportunist thieves. Van thefts have also been rife in recent months, or more specifically, catalytic converters have been vulnerable due to their high scrap value, and so it has become increasingly important to lock up your van and ensure it is secured and insured with a decent commercial vehicle insurance quote.

Security Strategies

In order to keep your van secure at night it may be an idea to park it either underneath a street lamp, or in a secure garage as many vans that have been left in darker streets and on driveways have been targeted in recent months.

Furthermore there are a number of very secure items you can buy in order to protect your van at all times of the day. For example, a simple yet well fitted alarm system will be effective, naturally, while an immobiliser will make the van nigh-on impossible to steal. However, neither of these may actually protect the contents of your van.

Protecting the Contents

Now in terms of protecting the contents of your van many cynics may say that you should simply remove the contents when leaving your van parked somewhere, however, that is a rather impractical suggestion if you’re driving from job to job carrying several heavy duty items. So, during times when you are unable to simply remove all the items from the back of your van, what is the best way to protect them?

Well, for a start, it’s a good idea to fit deadbolts. There are a couple of different types available, such as a mechanical key operated deadbolt or alternatively a remote controlled deadbolt. Both these can be fitted to the rear or side doors of your van and they are also tamper proof. They therefore offer great security.

In addition, you can also add a slam lock. Slam locks automatically lock and secure the door when closed and thus offer much improved security for van drivers that are constantly on the move from job to job.

There are so many different ways to protect your van, make sure you choose the one that suits you best!

Restoration Challenge for Canadian Van Fanatic

Charlie Grahn is a Canadian van fanatic who has taken on the challenge of restoring his classic 1950 Morris J-type van. The van had been stationary in the previous owner’s backyard for over 30 years. By the time Charlie purchased it in 2008, pieces of the vehicle were literally falling off it. Once he begins to restore the van to its former glory, it will be important for him to protect his investment with a good van insurance quote.

The Morris J-Type

Surely no one would be willing to take on such a difficult challenge. But for Charlie, the appeal of the van’s curved and unique features were too good to pass up. The Morris J-type van was launched in 1949 and 48,000 were produced until 1961. Many businesses adopted this vehicle into their fleet such as the British Royal Mail, Ice Cream sellers, milk deliverers and perhaps most famously Reactine allergy medication.

Morris and Austin, the companies responsible for the van’s creation, had hoped it would be a successful export but it wasn’t the case. They created left and right hand drives and both types had forward controls and sliding doors.

The Restoration Challenge

Commenting on his latest project, Charlie explained “I had ‘restore vehicle’ on my bucket list for 30 years before I started this project. I liked this vehicle because it was so idiosyncratic. They built a vehicle for export designed for hauling parcels around London. It lacked customer focus. It foreshadowed the end of the empire”.

He should be very pleased with his investment as his van is one of four left-hand drive J-types that were exported to Canada and remain somewhat in tact.
When Mr Grahn was asked about the costs of restoration, he preferred to keep quiet, simply saying “I have way overextended myself, but I haven’t had to lie to my wife…yet”.

Ford Transit – Van of the Year

On Monday we blogged about the Renault Kangoo Z.E being named as the ecoVan of the Year by VansA2Z.com, however, that wasn’t the only award handed out by the website. They also named their 2012 Van of the Year. Such acclaim went to the Ford Transit while Ford also scooped a number of other awards.

Other Notable Awards

The Ford Ranger won the Best Pick-up while the brilliant Transit van, in addition to the Van of the Year award, won the Small Panel Van award and the Best Minibus award. Steve Clary, Ford of Britain’s Commercial Vehicles Director, has been explaining that consumers take to the Transit thanks to its fantastic reliability and efficient cost of ownership, which includes the low cost of commercial vehicle insurance.

He has been quoted saying the following: “The latest models are saving operators hundreds of pounds in fuel, making them the most efficient, durable and technologically-advanced version of this iconic commercial vehicle so far.”

Mr Clary went on to add: “Vans A2Z have presented us with the first UK award for the all-new Ford Ranger. We know from media reports that it is making a great impression with its on and off-road capabilities. This award from an independent website is another great endorsement.”

Additional Vans

Steve Clary continued: “In true Transit tradition, we offer a wide range for our minibus customers – luxury or practicality from nine to 17 seats. All Ford Transit minibuses are equipped with seats and seat mountings that are tested to car levels. This is around twice the severity of legal testing requirements for commercial vehicles.”

The Transit seems to prove time and again that it is a favourite in the UK and around Europe, however there was a great spread of manufacturers taking awards, such as the Mercedes Benz Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter coming in as joint victors of the Large Panel Van of the Year, the Vauxhall Corsavan won the Small Van of the Year award and as previously mentioned, the Renault Kangoo won the ecoVan of the Year award amongst other winners and awards.

Renault Kangoo Z.E. Voted ecoVan 2012

At the VansA2Z.com awards, Renault’s Kangoo Z.E. van was voted ecoVan of the year 2012. It faced some stiff competition beating Azure Dynamics Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes-Benz Vito E-CELL and the Nicholson McLaren Citroen Nemo. It was also recognised as International Van of the Year, making it the first electric vehicle to hold the prestigious title. This van has continued to impress, as I have mentioned in a previous blog that it won Van of the Year 2012.

One of the main differences between the Renault’s Kangoo Z.E. and its competitors is the unique option to hire the battery pack, making it the more affordable option. The batteries lease for £75 per month which make for a cost effective, environmentally friendly vehicle. At present, these are quite hard to come by and many people hoping to save money on their expenses, look to cheap van insurance as a means to reduce their costs.

Recognition

Renault has already received 4 awards in 2011 from the What Van? Awards, including Van of the Year for this vehicle. Commenting on their success last year, Renault’s UK Director of Fleet and Commercial Vehicle Operations, Darren Payne said “We’re delighted that our LCV product and service quality efforts have been acknowledged so wholeheartedly, particularly for New Master, which is arguably one of the best vans in the market. With a fully revised LCV range this year, we’ve already made impressive gains in the UK, with market share above 7%, so with the Kangoo Van Z.E. and short wheelbase and minibus versions of New Master, set to bolster our offering still further in early 2011, we can only go from strength to strength”.

Popularity

The Kangoo Z.E. is one of the first mass market manufactured, 100% electric, light commercial vehicles. It has a great reputation for smooth driving and a perfect example of the benefits associated with electric motoring. One supporter 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”. As it is now eligible for the Government’s Plug-in Van grant, demand for this award winning van is sure to sky rocket.

Incentives Needed to Sustain Low Emission Van Market

A report published by Element Energy and commissioned by the Department for Transport assessed the market potential of ultra-low emission technology for vans. They concluded that:

• the cost of ownership is 50% higher than a diesel engine equivalent,
• of those willing to pay a premium for a low emission van 10% is the maximum,
• using government oil price projections, by the year 2030 the cost of ownership will still be 10% higher than diesel

This report was put together before the Plug-In Grant was introduced and exemptions like the London Congestion Charge have not been included. However, even without this data it appears that environmentally friendly vehicle owners will not benefit dramatically from government incentives and may continue to have a higher cost of ownership for the foreseeable future.

How Can Things Be Improved?

Based on this report, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) warn the government that they need to introduce non-financial incentives in order to compensate the extra costs. It was also suggested that van manufacturers provide guaranteed buy-backs and fixed-price servicing to help reduce the risk of investment made when purchasing a low emission vehicle.

John Lewis, Chief Executive of the BVRLA, says “The government has to 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 and van makers must join the party. Rather than relying on government grants to discount their vehicles, they need to produce some serious price cuts. Their current business model doesn’t work”.

Another way to limit the cost of these premiums is to find competitive van insurance quotes, to protect your green investment.

Is Low Emission Worth the Hassle?

With the development of these low emission vans, it is evident that the industry is keen to reduce its negative impact on the environment. Carbon Dioxide emissions have dramatically increased over the last 20 years and the Greenhouse Effect is gradually heating up Earth’s atmosphere. Emissions from vehicles are a great contributor with diesel being the prime culprit. In order for consumers to consider the switch worthwhile considering the current state of the economic climate, if they have to pay a premium price they need premium incentives.

Hybrid Chevrolet 2500 Cargo Van to be displayed

XL Hybrids is a company that have developed a hybrid vehicle technology which has been fitted into Chevrolet’s Express 2500 cargo van. The van will be displayed at the 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Conference Energy Showcase. The company has been conducting pilot trials of this van in preparation of launching the van for commercial sales.

Hybrid Technology

Hybrid vehicles have been available over the past ten years, providing an alternative environmentally friendly vehicle. Hybrid technology is unique as it improves fuel economy and reduces tailpipe emissions. XL Hybrids have aspired to create a hybrid technology that is more suitable for commercial fleets as they believe consumers of this type of vehicle will gain the most benefits. Their ‘hybrid powertrain’ will have the convenience of being easily installed into an existing vehicle as well being initially fitted into a vehicle before it’s completely finished.

Co-founder and president of XL Hybrids, Tod Haynes commented “Commercial fleet owners are looking for cost-effective solutions to reduce their fuel bills. XL Hybrids provides a solution needed by a large market segment without relying on subsidies. The MIT Energy Conference offers the opportunity to showcase our hybrid platform in front of a mix of thought leaders in the energy industry, government and academia”.

Future of Hybrid Vans

There is hope that if businesses can use hybrid commercial vans, then they will save more money through lower fuel costs which in turn can be usefully spent elsewhere, like towards good quality commercial van insurance.

This is surely a great development for the vehicle industry and the environment as a wider variety of new vehicles are now becoming hybrid models. At present this display is only open to the public in Boston, Massachusetts but if it continues to be a success we should hopefully expect an official range of hybrid vans available in the coming years.

Low-Carbon Trial Programme

It has been announced that the government is set to run a £9.5 million demonstration programme in order to further encourage road haulage operators in the UK to extend, or even begin, their use of low carbon commercial vehicles.

Emissions and Costs

This is, on the face of it, a fairly expensive scheme, however it is hopefully one that will massively reduce our carbon footprint in the UK. It may also reduce commercial vehicle insurance quotes for a number of enterprises. Heavy goods vehicles currently contribute to around 20% of the UK’s domestic transport CO2 emissions, which is a startling amount.

The trial is to be managed by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Department for Transport. The programme will enable operators to establish a fleet of alternative and dual fuel heavy goods vehicles along with electric and hybrid commercial vehicles too. The government are offering to part fund the difference in capital cost between the traditional HGV’s and their low carbon counterparts.

Furthermore, the government has stated that the trial programme will also part fund the refuelling or charging point for use by the trial fleet.

Data Gathering

Mike Penning, the Transport Minister, has been quoted saying: “Cutting carbon emissions and supporting the low carbon vehicles market is a key priority for this government. The trial will be crucial to enabling heavy goods vehicle operators to access the necessary refuelling infrastructure to support low carbon vehicles. This will improve confidence in low carbon technologies, encouraging more companies to get involved.”

The trial fleets will run for two years which will enable the relevant people to gather enough data in order to analyse whether the programme was worthwhile or not. Any business from small to medium, as well as large operators, are eligible to get involved with the trial programme and every application must be a collaboration and be led by a vehicle operator.

Whether this trial programme works out to be a success or not remains to be seen, however what is for sure is that the carbon footprint in the UK, for at the very least the two year scheme, will undoubtedly be reduced.

Are you in favour of this scheme?

The Mini Clubvan

You most probably won’t have failed to notice that Mini has produced a new van concept. It’s called the Clubvan and it is thought to be hitting our showrooms before the end of the year. Unsurprisingly, due to the name of it, it is based on the Clubman.

Geneva Motor Show

We’ve already blogged about this new, potential van, when it was known as the Cargo, but since it’s so important that Mini could re-launch their version of the light commercial vehicle, we thought it was worth blogging about again. It has also, seemingly, had a name change. Furthermore, the new van is on show at the Geneva Motor Show this week, which is currently the buzzword (or words) in motoring circles. Also, this is sure to be one extremely popular van, should it actually become mass produced.

Since BMW took over the design and build of the Mini they’ve completely reignited the range. The BMW version of the Mini is fun, fast and small and they even made an entire film off the back of the new Mini, which was incidentally another remake; The Italian Job.

The Clubvan

The new Clubvan looks fantastic as it keeps all the same charm as the normal Mini whilst also now becoming rough and ready for its duties as a commercial vehicle. It is also, like the normal road car Mini’s, sure to be very economical and cheap to run.

The chances of being able to get a cheap van insurance quote are high indeed, as are the chances of being able to run the thing at a very reasonable cost. Since it is also now, in a way, German, due to its BMW DNA, the Mini van will also be very reliable whilst also, in the event of anything actually going wrong, remain fairly inexpensive to repair.

The new Mini Clubvan is sure to sell like hot cakes should it reach our showrooms this year.

Will you be investing in one?

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W E Bedford Insurance Services Ltd, Argent House, Argent Court, Hook Rise South,
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