I've had a funny week. On Saturday I bought the first Saturday Telegraph newspaper for months because of the Lockdown. I've been buying it for the last thirty years every Saturday without fail; but because of the Lockdown I haven't been buying the real paper, I've just been reading them on my iPad app. I buy the Saturday Telegraph mostly for Honest John's motoring column and the car section. Somethings I have had to go back to the shop as the section has been missing. Driving miles to get just that section. But this week's was all there. And I bought some other real papers to make it a reading fest.
So when I was reading the papers, I noticed lots of articles about electric cars. New ones seem to be coming out all of the time. And when reading them I happened to see an advert for an unusual electric car. It was odd in that the car looked like a concept car. I didn't think anymore of it.
But after breakfast my son wanted me to go out with him on our bikes. So off we went. We live near Portbury in North Somerset where a lot of Japanese cars are imported into the UK. And as we were riding along the cycle path that runs past the compounds where all the imported cars are stored we saw something familiar. It was the car I had seen in the advert. Not a concept car at all but a real car. The Honda-E.
So over the weekend I started looking at electric car YouTube videos. I particularly like Robert Llewellyn on Fully Charged. I watched the videos on that channel about the Chinese car that looks just like the Honda-E, the Ora R1, and thought wow a lot of car for £8,000 compared to the Honda E's £28,000! I also watched how to choose an electric car for the first time with Melissa. It all seem pretty straight forward.
So I suppose the first question is: Why have an electric van for your business? Well it's clear that we can't go on with the level of pollution in our cities as it currently is. With Lockdown there was a huge decrease in pollution and as we come out of Lockdown figures are still down as the level of traffic is still down. So a lot of cities are considering clean air initiatives. In the UK we already have London and, local to us, Bristol is going to ban diesel cars from the centre, and charge for commercial diesels to use the centre, beginning in 2021 to decrease the levels of Nitrogen Dioxide.
So for me the main answer is that I can have my own environmental impact in my own small way. Cleaner Air For everyone! And of course it makes a real statement about my business.
So having an electric van will help you to get into these sort of areas for free and you'll be doing your bit to reduce pollution. I know there is a counter argument to this that says that to produce electricity for these electric vehicles you need to burn fossil fuel to create it. But in the UK our electricity is mostly created by Nuclear and gas petrol stations.
In only ten years our dependency on coal fired power stations has gone down from 60% to 2%. And in the third quarter of 2019 "the UK’s wind farms, solar panels, biomass and hydro plants generated more electricity than the combined output from power stations fired by coal, oil and gas, Carbon Brief analysis reveals". Click here to read it.
Also it can work out cheaper to run an electric vehicle compared with a diesel vehicle. You save on fuel costs, no Road Tax is required, low servicing costs (very little needs to be done other than an inspection and pollen filter change), no brake pad replacement, long guarantees on the vehicles and batteries (at least on the NV200). There are less moving parts so this means that the vans life will be longer. We tend to replace vans when they get older because out of warranty the cost of replacement of the main parts can be huge.
Some free parking bays for Electric Vehicles in some places and free charging. No congestion charge in London. If you buy a secondhand van registered before 2015 the van is MOT exempt (though check for battery leasing costs)
And a last one a quiet, relaxed drive.
First steps to looking at vans that would be suitable for us. As we carry a large dip tank in the back of our van, so in all about 200Kg in weight a need a van where I can fit that arrangement into it. We also like a compact van for ease of parking. Really the van we would like would be the Mercedes Citan electric van. To match our other vans which are all Citans. So the brand and model is important to us. But the electric van isn't coming out in the current shape. It's going to be released along with the new shape Citan, I think next year, in 2021.
Of course there already is the Renault Kangoo ZE33 (see video below) which is the same van as the Citan. But I think we are going to wait as we like the little touches that the Mercedes version has. We are hoping also that they will upgrade it to a eCitan 40KW for the extra range. We are not sure why the Renault Kangoo isn't a 40KW like the Renault Zoe from which the engine has come from.
I found out that the Renault Kangoo, Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo (same van) are all vans in this category (light vans). The Electric Kangoo has been in production since 2012. The early ones have limited range as they all have the 24Kw battery set up. The way to work out the range is to multiply the KW of the battery by 4 which is the average range of an electric vehicle per kw, so you can see with a 24 KW the range is only about 72 miles. All new vans though have at least a 33Kw battery pack. So the range is better. 33Kw x approx 4 miles a Kw gives you a range of 132 miles approx.
I don't think I'd consider a larger electric van such as the Peugeot Expert, or Maxus E Deliver 3 (not out until late 2020) because of size and price. Also some of the larger vans have small battery packs so are very limited in range. For example the Renault Master has only a 33KW battery.
But if I was choosing a van that wasn't a Citan for our business, I'd choose the Nissan NV200 E. For our business as we carry an oven cleaning dip tank in the back I think it would be ideal. The Nissan NV200 is a van that we have used in the past for oven cleaning. It is a very practical van is nearly our ideal van except it doesn't come with a tailgate in the van variant. It is great to drive and has two side doors as standard.
Checking up the Nissan NV200 E they have been making it for a while. It used to be a 24KW but now is 40KW. This means the range is now further. To get the fast charge version (it can charge up to 80% in 40 minutes) you need to get the model the Teckna or Accenta model, so not the basic model.
The van comes with the battery included in the price whereas you used to lease the battery. It looks like this is now the case for all electric vans as the batteries have proven to be durable and keep their charge. You used to lease them as there was a fear that they'd degenerate before the end life of the vehicle. Also it looks like there is an extended guarantee these days on the battery. So five years (or 60,000) on the van and 8 years (or 100,000 miles) on the battery. Range is about 150 miles.
Watching the videos they are great to drive. It's a case of pushing the gear lever into the correct notch and then pressing accelerate. You can set the braking so that when you ease off the accelerator the vehicle brakes automatically. It uses the electric motor to slow the vehicle down, so engine braking - it's called regenerative braking. This means your brake pads won't wear out. It's like driving a car at Lego land. It only goes forward when you press the accelerator and stops if you don't. Apparently the stopping from speed is swift to allow for bigger loads. When the car decelerates it also charges the batteries.
I watched the above video on the Kangoo ZE which compares the cost to run an electric van with a diesel van. And in that video they say it costs approx £5 a day to run an electric vehicle compared with £15 pounds a day for the same vehicle with a diesel engine. And if you travel 80 miles a day that means that the savings you save will pay for a new van in 5 years - if you keep the savings back in a bank account.
Some tips I've picked up from watching the electric car videos. It isn't advisable to top up the van when it isn't that flat. It's best to charge it up and then let it uncharge quite a bit. This keeps the battery in peak performance. Whereas if you do the top up all the time the battery degrades.
For about £8000 + VAT you can upgrade your Nissan NV200 to a heftier battery pack which increases the range dramatically. So for example you could upgrade your 40Kw to 59Kw and get your range up to 200 plus miles. They add the extra battery power in the area that is used for the spare wheel. Currently there is a company in the Netherlands doing this conversion but they hope to have a franchise in the UK soon. They are called: Muxsan - they currently only do the upgrade for Nissan Nv200 and Nissan Leaf cars but will be doing other electric vehicles soon.
There are grants available for installation of the charging point for your van and it works out at £500 a connector. If you get a post with two connectors in your get £500 per connector and the post is £800 plus VAT, so the grant will pay for the charging post, you'll just need to pay to get the post installed which looks like it needs it's own consumer unit in your building and you may need to lay a cable under the ground.
If you get solar panels and batteries you can store the energy when you are out doing your business, in our case, oven cleaning, and then use that to charge your vehicle up. One solar panel equates to 10 miles of driving. So if you have enough panels it will pay to run your van.
Older vans only have AC charging. Which means you can plug into a normal 13 amp plug or a charging point, but it takes 6 to 8 hours to charge to 100%.
I've been reading today that lots of the charging points on Motorway stations are in poor condition. They belong to one company that carry out the servicing and maintenance and they aren't being maintained which means unserviceable charging units. So for long range route planning maps of charging points may not be reliable you will need to work out Plan A, Plan B and Plan C charging points. Of course you are going to need rapid recharging to do this. The lower spec NV200 and Kangoos don't have rapid charging.
As there is no engine to give heat the van has to produce heat which means your charge is used up in the heating of the van. You can get around this by heating up the van as you charge the vehicle - you can set the heat with a timer - it's called pre-conditioning. So when you come to the vehicle in the morning the ice will be melted and be cosy. You just need to drive off. It will stay hot and may just need a gentle use of the heater to top up. On the NV200 heated seats and steering wheel will help you stay warm without using the heater. But expect the range to less in the winter months.
Some of the newer vans have additions to get around this problem. For example on the Kangoo ZE you can get Heat Pump Heating System that heat air using Diesel (small 13 litre tank) which means you don' t use battery power to heat your van but of course your van is no longer 100% Clean.
But have watched videos on this and this doesn't appear to be the case. So maybe a myth.
Oh okay. I know. But you may have started off today thinking about the ownership of an electric van but have not really thought about what to do with it when you get it! Maybe you were thinking through business ideas and thought an electric van was a good place to start. But now what do you do with it?
Well as I have said we have an oven cleaning franchise. We help people like you with no experience to launch their own premium local business with our proven business model and brand. It's a simple model to learn. You become part of our OvenGleamers network. And as an example of income, our top franchisees are currently bringing in about £2000 a week at the moment and my own business sales have been 38% higher than this time last year (I'm writing this in late July 2020 when the world has gone mad after Lockdown for oven cleaning services).
I know I said we were waiting for the eCitan to be launched in 2021, but if you are super keen to get going in 2020 and want to be our first franchisee with an electric van I'm sure we can come to some arrangement with the NV200! As the publicity will be great for our businesses.
If you are interested click on this link and then find the button that says - Request Information Pack. Click that and put in your details.
Graham Rogers Started OvenGleamers as one man in a van in Taunton in 2004. The business grew to a five van operation by 2007. OvenGleamers first franchisee started in October 2010. OvenGleamers Became An Associate Member of British Franchise Association in 2012. Now growing National OvenGleamers Network. OvenGleamers are AGA and Big Cooker Cleaning Specialists. Graham writes on this blog and films videos and has a podcast.