People are at last waking up to the link between air quality issues and diesel vans, taxis, buses and trucks; Nissan believes it can help with a solution, in the form of the all-electric e-NV200 Combi van.
We had many years of petrol-powered vehicles, then diesel engines were promoted as the way to reduce CO2 emissions. However diesel engines have other, non-CO2 emissions, that have an adverse impact on local air quality. Despite industry experts knowing about this for a long time, it’s only been in the last couple of years when the media, politicians and legislators seem to have woken up to the issue. In contrast, electric vehicles have no harmful tailpipe emissions, and so they are an ideal transport solution in urban areas such as London which have poor levels of local air quality. There is an opportunity for Nissan to capitalise on this with the all-electric e-NV200.
Underneath the e-NV200 is a powertrain – comprised primarily of an electric motor and lithium ion battery – based on that found in the Nissan LEAF. Like the LEAF, the e-NV200 is front-wheel drive. The e-NV200 is a van with an extra row of three seats fitted, resulting in a five-seater with half of a van still left behind the seats, complete with what must surely be the world’s largest parcel shelf. The rear seats can be folded forward, as well as being removed altogether, so reverting the Combi back to a van.
The view from the rear seats isn’t great as the side windows are very small, even though they appear to be normal size from the outside.
We’re not aware that Nissan is offering or planning to offer a seven or eight seat option, but that would seem to be an obvious route to go down, so resulting in the only all-electric people carrier from a mainstream manufacturer on the market.
If you’re hoping that the transition from diesel van to planet-friendlier electric van comes with a corresponding transition from van-like driving position to car-like driving position, then you’re going to be disappointed. At the wheel, you’re reminded that you’re in a van due to the upright posture you have to adopt to reach the steering wheel – which has height but no reach adjustment. There’s also no height adjustment for the driver’s seat.
What may surprise you is the lively – and of course almost silent – acceleration, thanks to the instant torque at virtually all times. It’s slightly weird saying this about an electric van, but it can actually be reasonable fun to drive on interesting roads. Of course compared to a noisy diesel van with gearbox and clutch, a very refined automatic electric van is ideal to drive in urban areas. Because the battery is located under the floor, there’s a low centre of gravity, which makes this one of the best handling vans.
It may come as no surprise that the main issue with the e-NV200 is its driving range. It has an official NEDC range of 106 miles, but in the bleak mid-winter – when the outside temperature was hovering around freezing every day – the average range in real life turned out to be 68 miles. This was during a week of driving, on average, 66 miles per day, much of it on motorways. At no stage was 60mph ever exceeded, and at some times heating was used very cautiously, but the facts are that we were right on the edge of the van’s range for three days.
In each case, very helpful colleagues at meeting locations provided a loan of electricity to ensure we had enough range to get home. On the other days, driving was much more like typical urban cycles rather than predominantly on motorways, and the range improved.
With ice covering the e-NV200 every morning, we certainly learnt the benefit of pre-heating the vehicle while it was still plugged in. By having the heating and the heated seat (the switch is tucked away under the gear selector) turned on before getting in, it meant that the vehicle was a very comfortable temperature, with no loss of driving range. There’s even a heated steering wheel.
The gear selector allows you to choose between D or B, and there’s also an Eco button. B mode increases the strength of the regenerative braking system, and Eco mode reduces power consumption of the air conditioning and changes the response of the accelerator pedal.
Here’s the whole point of the e-NV200 – it has zero tailpipe emissions, and it’s very cheap to run. A full charge of the e-NV200 – which should give an official driving range of 106 miles – should cost no more than £2, although this depends upon the electricity tariff. There’s zero benefit in kind company car tax to pay and if you drive in London, it’s exempt from the Congestion Charge.
With the 6kW charger option the e-NV200 can be charged in four hours using a 32A Home Charging Unit, or in about 10 hours from a standard household outlet. It’s also possible to quick charge the Nissan e-NV200 up to 80% in around 30 minutes at an appropriate public charger.
Ideally the e-NV200 should be used for urban driving rather than motorways, to maximise its range by driving at slower speeds and by using regenerative braking.
The Nissan e-NV200 Combi costs £26,309 after the Government Plug-in Van Grant Incentive (25% up to a maximum of £5,000). The e-NV200 is available as the Combi or as a van.
Many people still haven’t driven an electric vehicle, and therefore are quite rightly unsure of whether they will like the experience. In one community in the North East there are 23 neighbours driving Nissan LEAFs – read the story and watch the video to see what they think of the electric car experience.
The Nissan e-NV200 Combi offers a solution for people who want a van with five seats and zero tailpipe emissions. It obviously makes a great taxi for short urban journeys (this is happening in the UK, America and elsewhere), and it would be ideal for some businesses. However, ultimately the Combi is targeting a niche of a niche; the all-electric e-NV200 Van probably has wider potential amongst businesses, ideally those that have a fixed daily urban delivery route of no more than 60 miles. However if the e-NV200 Combi is the solution that you’re looking for, it will offer you lots of space, lively performance and low running costs, and we’re assuming that your driving patterns will be within its range. The Nissan e-NV200 Combi is awarded a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.