A new electric 3.5 tonne hybrid van with a diesel range-extender promises 232mpg and 31g/km CO2, which is 80 per cent lower than the emissions of current vans.
This may be seen as a hybrid van , although it’s described as a Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV) – in other words it is designed to operate on the electric powertrain most of the time, unlike a hybrid van that would operate on its diesel engine most of the time.
The use of a variety of new technologies have helped IE-LEV and Revolve Technologies , working in partnership, to successfully complete the Lightweight Ultra Low Emissions Delivery Van project co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) as part of their Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation Platform.
The CO2 emissions of the demonstrators were 31.4g/km over the UNECE101 cycle with fuel consumption of 232mpg . With further development, figures of 25g/km and 300mpg are predicted.
IE LEV were responsible for developing the original concept for the vehicle, the specification of vehicle requirements, overall project management and the development of the plans for commercialisation of the product. Revolve were responsible for the engine calibration work, integration of the vehicle systems, thermal and electrical systems engineering and vehicle build.
This 18 month project has delivered two fully functioning prototype lightweight electric vans , with diesel range extender, which demonstrate the UK’s engineering skills and low carbon component supply base. The overall van design and driver ergonomics were specifically configured to meet the onerous duty cycle requirements of commercial vehicle fleet operators (running 3.5t gvw vans), maintain payload and have a total life running costs significantly lower than current equivalent vehicles.
Conversions of standard vehicles to electric generally suffer an increase in kerb weight when the electrical components such as batteries, inverters and traction motors are added, which can then significantly reduce payload capability. The development of a lightweight structure was therefore key to the maintenance of a competitive payload for the vehicle.
The target market is fleet operators who have a commitment to de-carbonising their transport operations.
This is achieved by the innovative use of new materials, the latest vehicle and component technologies and new approaches to integration, control and system management and vehicle systems health monitoring architectures.
The hybrid van features an aluminium chassis, space frame cab structure, lightweight composite body panels and UK-based battery and traction motor technology. The development programme has blended conventional approaches with UK automotive engineering advances of the type that are typically applied to motorsport, high end and more exotic passenger vehicles.
The result is a concept for a truly unique commercial van which could be easily developed for local soft tooled, lower volume (but scalable) production. The demonstrator vehicles were successfully built by Revolve with the aluminium understructure developed and supplied by Multimatic , lightweight composite body panels from ACG, battery packs from Axeon and traction motors and generators from EVO. The Vehicle Control Units (VCUs) were developed by Ricardo.
The target market is fleet operators who have a commitment to de-carbonising their transport operations. Fleet operators contacted so far have shown real interest in the product with Royal Mail and DHL recognising the potential after driving the vehicles. The development of interest in the US from potential customers such as AT &T, Enterprise and Federal Express USA has opened up the US possibilities and the extension of the plans to include that market.
The full exploitation of the initial project will be realised through putting the vehicle into series production. At present the project has been validated by the creation of two fully functioning, representative demonstrator lightweight electric vans and other outputs from the project. These include a de-risked process to manufacture vehicles, a fully detailed Bill of Materials (BoM), manufacturing processes and a ‘Route to Production’ roadmap for transition to the manufacturing stage. IE-LEV has established a subsidiary company, Emerald Automotive , to complete the engineering integration and manufacture vehicles.
The project partners have been able to exploit the results of the project through the demonstration of their design skills, development of IP, simulation and other skill sets and either supply similar services in the future or increase their own outputs. There will be opportunities to exploit lightweight aluminium structures and lightweight panels on vehicles other than sports oriented passenger cars and to exploit the diesel range extender and HV electrical components for other vehicle applications.
Revolve sourced a 50kW Ford diesel engine for the range extender. Revolve has a long term and close relationship with Ford (Revolve Technologies is Ford’s Technical Partner for third party Ford engine applications via the Ford Component Sales organisation), and as such has full access to the associated designs and control system. Previous work on the Ford Transit and Focus vehicles provided an underpinning knowledge of the engine and vehicle integration issues and provided for effective development for the range extender for the lightweight van – and created a capability for use in other vehicle applications. Revolve would not have attempted this development without the umbrella of the lightweight van and supporting TSB funding.
The lightweight aluminium chassis technology approach is now a well recognised platform for sports oriented passenger cars (such as the Lotus car family and was recently used for the Tesla). The technology has now been proven applicable for lightweight commercial vehicles generally – and for the lightweight electric van in particular to provide a durable and robust vehicle platform for fleet operations.
Other UK automotive technologies typically focused on lightweighting, performance and optimisation in the passenger car sector were deployed in design, development and realisation of ultra low carbon commercial vehicles, which would not readily have occurred without this project and support of TSB funding.
Funding from the TSB was to act as a mechanism to unlock value and the activities would not have been considered by the members of the project team individually. TSB funding was also to help unlock investor support and attract asset financers to support the full programme to production.