ELECTRIFYING | Van Review – Renault ZE

Delivery gets to grips with EVs from the Kangoo to the Canter

It seems that electric vehicles have been talked about for years, but it’s only recently that the industry has suddenly sat up and realised this form of propulsion may well be the way of the future, and that future is arriving rapidly.

Delivery Magazine has started its long-term evaluation of living with an EV (Electric Vehicle), in this case the Renault Kangoo Maxi EV, easily the front runner in terms of representing the availability of EV options for LCVs in the Australian market.

Best known for its early adoption by Australia Post, the Renault Kangoo EV has been undergoing an extended trial with the Postie People from as far back as mid-2015, monitoring two of the French vans in each of Sydney and Melbourne. This was four years after its initial release in Europe, which, within its first six years it had notched up sales of over 25,000 units.

Early results by Australia Post showed the overall range to be slightly problematic, especially in extreme heat with air conditioning running constantly, or in extreme cold where batteries can present difficulties in accepting a full charge.

Having taken that information on board, Renault brought in a series of upgrades and improvements in January 2017 that increased driving range by 50 percent, reaching 270 km on the New European Driving Cycle  (NEDC – the equivalent to 200 km real time use in summer), compared to the previous figure of 170 km.

Changes to the charging system with a new, twice as powerful charger, improved the charge time to as little as six hours, whilst a one-hour lunch break allows enough time to add a 35 km top-up. Meanwhile, a new battery mated to a new motor, and the incorporation of a heat pump, combine to produce the best driving range in the EV segment of the light commercial vehicle market.

By the end of 2019, Australia Post was moving away from EVs to electrically powered three-wheelers, capable of carrying more volume than the traditional postie bike but with higher standards of safety and comfort.

Manufactured by Swiss company Kyburz, Australia Post now operates a fleet of 1000 of these electric three-wheelers and is currently exploring other manufacturing alternatives with a similar concept to be built by a local supplier in Melbourne.

Delivery Magazine has commenced its own long-term evaluation of the latest Kango EV, subjecting it to a weekly regime of running errands and commuting within the Airlie Beach region, basically as a general ‘Gopher”. Early impressions are extremely favourable although the driving style required is somewhat different from that of a normal fossil fuelled driveline.

After decades of discussing reduced noise levels within a vehicle environment, the near silence of the Kangoo requires an audible noise generator that produces a hum to alert pedestrians that might wander out in front of the van in the main street. Overtaking techniques of using a kick-down function of the accelerator are also redundant, as what you have for accelerating is all that you are going to get for the exercise. There’s nothing more in reserve and available on tap.

We’re mindful of from where the electricity is sourced and in our case it’s through solar panels on the roof, which, with the weather conditions of Airlie Beach, pretty much guarantees clean energy as a fuel source.

Early impressions are that it’s extremely functional, comfortable and slightly quirky. So far it’s managed to cover its weekly distance requirements on a six hour, once a week charge regime. Over time, Delivery Magazine will be reporting in depth of its functionality and whether an EV is a genuine alternative to the office runabout.  It’s certainly not the vehicle to jump in for a drive to Brisbane, a distance of 1100 kms, but with 4 cu.m of load space, a payload of 650 kg, zero emissions and progress through traffic that keeps up easily with everything else of the road, it’s a surprising foretaste of things to come.

A range of 200km, assuming air conditioning, head lights and other required accessories, has so far been more than adequate and plugging in for a recharge is no more taxing that recharging your mobile phone. Incidentally, there are failsafe devices to prevent unintentionally driving off while plugged in.   There are no gears to change, it takes 22.4 seconds for the 0-100 km/h dash and it apparently has a top speed of 130 km/h, a figure that remains unsubstantiated. We’ll keep you posted as to progress.

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