New electric vehicles launch

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MB
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New electric vehicles launch

Postby MB » Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:36 pm

I'm going to be at the Commercial Vehicle show tomorrow. There are around half a dozen new electric vehicles being launched by various manufacturers.

I'll be posting photographs and details here tomorrow evening. Watch this space...
Last edited by MB on Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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qdos
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Postby qdos » Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:24 pm

Excellent ! be sure to send me the originals if you can for Plugged In and write me something too :D

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Postby MB » Thu Apr 17, 2008 8:46 am

For those who have never come across the Commercial Vehicle Show, it's a huge show run at the NEC that dwarfs the Motor Show.

It's so big, you cannot hope to get around the whole thing in less than two days.

Although there isn't an official 'theme' for this sort of show, it wasn't difficult to find one: fuel efficiency and environmental awareness was the mantra that everyone was trying to get on to. As a result, there were lots of announcements of new products and technologies to help save fuel and improve efficiencies.

On almost every stand, companies were proclaiming a 10-15% efficiency saving using their products. Some of the products were genuinely interesting and practical. Some of them were completely hair-brained!

Lots of companies were showing hybrid vehicles, either as concepts, prototypes or as production ready vehicles. One company - Connaught Engineering - were showing a bolt-on hybrid system to fit to a Ford Transit or a Mercedes Sprinter to convert normal diesel vans to hybrids.

If I believe all the blurb I picked up and all the sales people I talked to, here is my potential fuel saving on a Mercedes Sprinter van:

Installing Connaught hybrid+ system 15% saving
Fitting Mercedes EcoSTART system 10% saving
Installing on-demand hydrogen converter 15% saving
Installing over-rev driver aid warning light 15% saving
Driver fuel efficiency training 15% saving
Using DieselBoost fuel booster 10% saving
Fitting Michelin low friction tyres 8% saving
Using eco7 synthetic oil 7% saving

TOTAL AVAILABLE SAVINGS ON FUEL: 95%

Sounds good to me. :lol:

Of more interest to people here though is electric vehicles. In recent years, there has always been a couple of electric vehicle suppliers at the show - Modec, who build a custom-designed 5 tonne electric delivery van and Smiths Electric Vehicles, who have been in the electric van industry since the 1920s but now specialise in converting other vehicles - mainly Fords - into electric vehicles.

This year, however, there were electric vehicles absolutely everywhere. Cars, light vans, large vans, buses - and even a tram!

Some of these were concepts and prototypes, but the majority of them were vehicles that you could buy now.

What was also interesting was the specifications for these vehicles. A couple of years ago, you'd be talking about electric vehicles with a top speed of 30-50mph and a range of 50 miles. This year, vendors were talking about vehicles with a top speed of 70mph plus and a range of 100 miles plus.

Lithium based batteries were much in evidence, plus a few companies promoting nickel-based battery technologies. The days where lead acid batteries ruled are gone.

So who was there and what did they have?

Modec
Modec (www.modec.co.uk) have a very innovative 5 tonne van. Built from the ground up as an electric vehicle, it is electronically restricted to 50mph but has hugely impressive acceleration: it comfortably out performs most diesel powered vans on the road.

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Modec had an outside demonstration area, so I took the opportunity of driving one around the NEC. I was impressed with the performance, ride and its tight turning circle: for a large van it was easy to position on the road and exceptionally easy to drive.

Piaggio
Piaggio make a microvan called the Porter. It's been around for donkeys years and consistantly wins awards for being the best microvan around.

There is a 'new' version of the Porter which Piaggio were proudly showing: the Piaggio Truk. It's a mildly facelifted version of the Porter but curiously it appears to be selling alongside the Porter rather than replacing it.

The electric version is fairly basic and also hasn't changed for years: top speed is around 30mph and the range is around 50 miles.

It's not cheap. A normal Piaggio will cost you around £5500. The electric version starts from £14,500 and a refrigerated version costs over £20,000!

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The Piaggio Porter may well be an excellent microvan, but in electric form it is simply too expensive and hasn't kept up with the opposition. An Aixam Mega van has a similar payload and costs several thousand pounds less.

Aixam
Aixam vehicles were on two stands - NICE had a van version of the Aixam City car on their stand, whilst Aixam themselves were promoting their Mega Truck.

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Aixam still use lead acid batteries in their vans (the gel variants) but they are claiming significant improvements with the latest batteries in terms of long life.

The Mega van has significantly better range and performance to the old one I drove a couple of years ago. Top speed is supposed to be 40mph and the range is up to 60 miles. Prices start from around £10500.

Smiths Electric Vehicles
The 'big boys' of the electric commercial vehicle industry, Smiths now re-engineer other peoples vans rather than build their own from scratch.

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This 13 tonne monster isn't built for the UK, its for the US. Smiths Electric Vehicles are opening a factory in the good old US of A and this is the vehicle their bringing to market:

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Of more interest to the UK market is Smith's range of Ford Transits and Transit Connects, running on electricity:

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These vans use lithium ion phosphate batteries, giving a genuine 70mph performance and a 100 mile plus range.

These vehicles have been significantly re-engineered from the vans Smiths have been showing for the past couple of years. On their older vans, the payload and load space was limited due to the size and weight of the batteries. These new vans use much smaller and lighter batteries and have completely resolved these problems.

Even more impressive is their HGV:

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Limited by law to 56mph, you can choose how many batteries you want to give a range of up to 150 miles. It's available in various lengths from 7½ tonne capacities and up.

As for price... well, they aren't cheap. The Ford Transit Connect costs around £30,000 and the bigger Transits start from arounds £32,000. As for their HGVs? Prices start from around £70,000.

Expensive? Absolutely. But they're cheaper than they were a year ago, and far better specified.

Zero'd
Zero'd was a brand new supplier, who were launching a range of trucks based on the Isuzu platform.

They're the new kids on the block and the vehicles aren't quite ready yet. The background for the company is specialist van bodies and electric vehicles is something completely new for them.

In terms of packaging and design, they reminded me of the vans that Smiths were showing three years ago.

Performance was quoted as around 50-60mph and the range was quoted as around 100 miles.

Nobody could quote accurate prices to me, but this is a company that could well be worth watching.

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One thing which was interesting to see on the Zero'd stand was a 'road tram'. It's a narrow electric bus which you can drive from either end. It looks neat and apparently has been driving around Stratford-upon-Avon for the past few months.

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Stevens Electric Vehicles
Going into production in Wales in the next few weeks is the ZeVan and ZeCar from Stevens Electric Vehicles.

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Unfortunately, the company was only able to show a tatty, poorly finished prototype van rather than the finished product and the stand was devoid of any posters and only crudely finished literature.

In terms of a product launch, it was less of a bang and more of a whimper, but if you could see past the tatty vehicle on display, it was evident that the design is pretty good.

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Shorter than a Ford Ka, the car has huge amounts of space on the inside. You sit fairly upright inside the car - a bit like a Mini - but either as a small van or as a car, it is evident that there is plenty of space around you.

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The ZeVan still has lead acid batteries, but performance and range is reasonable: top speed is around 56mph on the van version (the car is likely to be around 60-65mph) and the range is around 60 miles.

John Deere
John Deere were showing their 'Gator' range of small trucks. These are popular on farms and the alike. They can go on the road, but they're not really ideal for pounding the roads of this green and pleasant land. They now have an electric version of their Gator now, available with or without a roof:

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It costs around £1000 more than the diesel equivalent and has similar performance.

Fiat
Curiously, this concept electric Doblo wasn't on the Fiat stand, it was on the Lloyds Leasing stand next to it.

Converted by an Italian company, very little information was available on it at the show, but Fiat were using it to gauge interest.

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ZEV
Another new entrant into the UK market, ZEV have been busy converting Peugeot vans and MPVs.

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Performance is claimed to be 70mph and range is around 100 miles. They also showed an MPV which looked really quite good:

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They're not cheap - around £33000 from memory, but at least its available. If you want an eight seat electric MPV and use it at motorway speeds, you can.

Fancy something bigger? They also had a bus on the stand:

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NICE
NICE were showing the Aixam City electric car with the rear windows blacked out and the word VAN written across the sides, just to make sure everyone knew what it was.

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I didn't bother to take a photograph of the outside because we all know what they look like, but I did take a photo of the interior, which looked quite smart, even if it is a bit dark and grey compared to the G-Wiz.

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NICE also had the new Microvett electric vans (electric Citroens) on display. Prices have yet to be finalised, but expect them to start from around £20,000:

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Nobody was too certain about performance and range. I got the impression that it was the first time anyone on the stand had actually seen one!

LDV
I like LDVs. Their Maxus is a good, solid medium sized van which is well liked by drivers and operators alike.

LDV announced a new electric version of the Maxus at the show with availability starting from Autumn. They're targetting the Modec vehicles but they've got a good basis to start from.

Nobody knows pricing or exact performance and range details yet, but no doubt we'll find out more in due course.

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Postby ChrisB » Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:16 am

Wow thats one heck of a report Mike , its going to take a while for me to digest it and comment.

Thanks very very informative

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Postby MB » Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:51 am

It was one hell of a show, Chris. It's still running today, so its not too late for people in the Midlands to go and have a look for themselves.

What has been really interesting to me is to see how quickly momentum has been built up: from next to nothing two years ago to a stream of product today. How long before that stream becomes a flood? Not long now, I think.

What also impresses me is how much the performance has improved. Suddenly we're talking about electric vehicles that can drive along at motorway speeds and with three figure ranges. Of course, they're not for everybody, but the day when electric vehicles are the norm rather than the exception has taken a step nearer.

The electric Peugeot MPV on the ZEV stand is a good case in point. If you were a London cabbie and you were looking to buy a new taxi cab, what are you going to buy? An LTI TX4 'black cab' - a car that has a reputation for unreliability, or an electric MPV which can comfortably take eight passengers with zero emissions and ultra-low running costs costing the same amount?

Add in the free charging points across London for quick top-up charges and the electric MPV makes a very strong case for itself.

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Postby qdos » Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:56 am

Yes Ken's pretty much driven the whole revoloution due to the congestion charge and the new emissions zone.

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Postby geekygrilli » Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:23 pm

Wow Mike - great report...

I have heard a rumour that Nissan are soon to be world leaders in electric vehicles, which is interesting. It'll be a good few years before they bring anything out, though.

On another note - I get to vote in the mayoral elections, but I dunno if Boris is going to keep the free congestions zone for EV's. Does anyone have info on this?

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Postby MB » Thu Apr 17, 2008 12:48 pm

geekygrilli wrote:I have heard a rumour that Nissan are soon to be world leaders in electric vehicles, which is interesting. It'll be a good few years before they bring anything out, though.



Well, whilst they don't have any electric vehicles on the market, they're going to struggle to become world leaders.

They'd even struggle to become world leaders in the talk about hot air about electric vehicles, seeing how much is being spouted by almost every manufacturer these days.

My gut feel is that these specialist suppliers are going to get squeezed out of the market unless they carve a unique niche for themselves though. I give them four years at best.

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Postby qdos » Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:37 pm

Nissan/Renault are allegedly poised to go into Israel in a big way with electric vehicles. The world is waking up to EVs :shock:

There's a few items in Plugged In which should be landing on doormats over the next week Unfortunately I had to cut back quite a few articles as it was decided to limit the number of pages. However if anyone has some items for the next issues please send them to me :D


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