POWER PACK

Renault sticks to its fuel-saving regime with the first of the electric Kangoos joining Australia Post

It’s easy to dismiss the option of running electric delivery vans around the inner city as being a five-minute fad, largely because we’ve heard the rhetoric from various manufacturers on zero emissions transport, but we haven’t seen any firm commitment. Mercedes-Benz toyed with an electric-drive Vito, but as Delivery found during the launch of the new Vito in Spain, the German manufacturer has lost interest in the project following the lack of interest of its customers.

Renault appears to be made of stronger stuff, with its electrically motivated Kangoo now having sold 14,000 units globally and the company keen to expand the concept to new markets, including Australia.Renault-Kangoo_4

Australia Post has now taken the first two electric Kangoos into its national fleet, and over the next few months will be evaluating the concept and listening to feedback from its drivers. As Delivery magazine likes to remain one jump ahead of our readers, we took the opportunity during a recent visit to Melbourne to toddle about the inner city and see for ourselves whether the Kangoo EV is a viable alternative to petrol or diesel power.

Renault has sensibly not followed the path of Nissan with its electric Leaf passenger car by suggesting the driver might like to indulge in feel-good games while at the wheel by watching outlines of trees growing on the dashboard display. The Nissan driver can practice light-footed tendencies to show they are at one with their environmental responsibilities as their dashboard tree sprouts leaves. Not so for Renault. The Kangoo EV is just a van, plain and simple.

Kangoo EV is the same size as the petrol or diesel version, has a flat floor in the cargo area, barn doors at the rear and sliding doors at the side. The doors open with a key and you stick the key in the ignition slot to release the steering lock and activate the “engine”.

Renault-Kangoo_9This where it starts to become different. The dashboard lights up but there’s no noise. Push forward the gear selector, release the park brake, and press the accelerator pedal and the van moves forward. Still no noise. Brake to a stop, select reverse, park or whatever and it steers just like a conventional van. Still no noise.

Without the noise of an engine or gearbox there’s an air of peace and tranquillity about driving the Kangoo EV. If you manage to convince yourself that the sound insulation is the best you’ve ever encountered in a vehicle, then you will just point the van where you want to go and accelerate when you want to go faster.

In traffic streams of all types the Kangoo EV is well able to keep up with the peak-hour struggle. Lift off the accelerator and the regenerative braking comes into effect, slowing down the van in much the same way as an exhaust brake or engine brake, but still no noise. As the van slows under regenerative braking the electric current produced flows back into the battery. This happens without driver intervention.

Within five minutes it’s our opinion that no driver will object to piloting an electric van around town. Rather, they will consider it a benefit, as it’s no longer a buzz box of transmitted noise.

Power happens courtesy of a 44 kW (60 hp) electric motor that produces 226 Nm of torque. There are no gears to select other than forwards and reverse and speed varies just by the amount the driver presses the accelerator pedal.Renault-Kangoo_11

Zero to 50 km/h happens in 5.5 seconds and the Kangoo EV can top 100 km/h within 22.4 seconds. Under the European test criteria the range is listed as being 179 km, but realistically for around town operations you are looking at a range of 80-125 km.

The van spins in a circle within 11.9 metres diameter, weighs 1505 kg and can carry a payload of 640 kg with a cargo volume of 4.0 cubic metres. ABS, emergency brake assist and emergency brakeforce distribution is included as standard.

In purely practical terms we can’t see any disadvantages in running a Kangoo EV, only benefits. At the end of your typical day’s travel you plug the van into the mains and it’s all ready to go again tomorrow when you return to work. There’s no fuel cost as in petrol of diesel, virtually no servicing charges and it’s a peaceful place in which to spend your day.

Nobody has yet mentioned cost, but, with all the aforementioned benefits, Delivery sees Kangoo EV as being the first practical application of usable electric drive so far introduced into Australia. If you want to make your mark on being progressive, give Renault a call at its head office in Mulgrave and start talking.

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