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Manchester United Goes Electric

You may not think of Manchester United as an environmental leader, but quietly, behind the scenes, the club is moving forward with a range of green initiatives.

Vehicles are one of the items on their eco to-do list, and they’ve bought a Mega Utility Vehicle electric van – in Manchester United red, obviously.

The vehicle is used almost exclusively on Man Utd’s site, for moving stores around. Despite its diminutive size, the Mega can carry a pallet on its load area.

The club is very enthusiastic about the vehicle; “As well as being zero-emission and quiet, it’s extremely cost effective to run” says the club’s Purchasing Manager, John Conroy. “It’s been 100% reliable and it recharges overnight – you just plug it in like a kettle!”

The club does already have two other electric buggies on site, and an electric fork lift truck, and they are actively looking at purchasing another Mega van. The club is also working in partnership with the local council and other organisations in the Trafford Park area to implement environmental initiatives and sustainable transport ideas.

The Mega van produces zero tailpipe emissions, and the club is currently in the process of researching renewable electricity supply options, and even on-site energy generation, so even the power to recharge the Mega will hopefully be zero-emission soon.

As well as getting John Conroy excited, it also appeals to Manchester United’s accountants as well. It’s got low running costs and is road tax exempt. Of course if you’re in London, it’s also exempt from the capital’s Congestion Zone – and congestion charging could be coming to other cities such as Manchester soon. You can also get free parking in certain parts of London – a significant benefit, as anyone who has recently paid for parking in London will testify to.

So what it’s like to drive and live with? One of the Mega’s benefits is that it’s small and lightweight. However this translates into a feeling of flimsiness when you open the doors and get in the small cab. Although Mega claim it’s highly safe, the thin doors, the minimal dashboard and negligible area between you and whatever is in front doesn’t instil a great feeling of confidence.

Driving it is as straightforward as you would expect. Simply put it in the one forward gear, take off the handbrake, then accelerate, steer and brake. That’s it. And yes it does drive like you would imagine a milk float to drive – but perhaps with a bit more fun, acceleration and nippiness.

The electric engine is almost silent – certainly far quieter than any petrol or diesel equivalent, and there’s no noisy exhaust – great for sneaking up behind unwary pedestrians and scaring them.

Its ‘compact’ width means it can squeeze through pedestrian-friendly bollards that are so narrow they keep all other vehicles out – and this feature is also likely to help the Mega with negotiating city traffic in the same way that bike couriers weave through London’s crowded streets.

The van should be able to manage 60-70 miles per charge, and each charge – which takes 6-8 hours – should cost just 30p.

Top speed is only around 25-30mph, but this should be sufficient for trundling around United’s ground.

The electric motors, designed by General Electric and fitted with Exide Champion batteries, guarantee a range of between 55 and 100 km depending on the charge. The van has a centrifugal clutch but no gearbox, and its engine is protected against over-revving.

The whole vehicle has also been designed and built to be recyclable. 95% of the components can be re-used on other vehicles or for other applications; Mega claims this means their van is one of the most recyclable vehicles on the road, and the vehicles are safety tested to the same level as small cars.

The Mega is available in five versions: van, chassis cab, dropside, pick up and tipper. It comes with a 12 month warranty on batteries, there’s no road tax to pay, and the van is available from £5,600 plus VAT.

If you feel you need a longer range than the electric Mega will offer, then it’s also available with a 479cc – yes a 479cc! – diesel engine. This will manage 80-90mpg, has a top speed of 55mph and comes with a 12 month warranty.

The electric Mega van makes complete sense for an organisation such as Manchester United that is keen to reduce its carbon footprint and that needs a small and easy to operate runaround on site. It’s likely that other companies will follow their lead, and Mega’s Manchester dealer will be more than happy to help;