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Nissan e-NV200 – superb all electric workhorse may change small business transport for ever [Review]

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And boom, before you could catch your breath, the future hit us square in the face. Nissan Motors, purveyors of fine electric vehicles to the environmentally friendly has taken the bold and perhaps prescient step of launching an all-electric van and people carrier, aiming EV technology smack at the center of the white van man culture.

The new Nissan e-NV200 is no compromise golf-cart, it builds on the success (and running gear) of the Nissan Leaf – the world’s most popular electric vehicle with over 100,000 sales to date – to deliver a surprisingly capable and refined workhorse.

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It’s important to remember that while the small size delivery van is generally considered to be a boring wheelbarrow of a vehicle, it is the backbone of a huge chunk of the small business landscape in most countries in the world. It routinely delivers everything from groceries to paving slabs, garden tools to plumbers, and without it, we’d probably all be still sitting by the phone waiting for our pipes to be fixed.

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Nissan’s genius lies in realizing that these vehicles are typically only run around in very small geographies, which means that the typical all electric range of between 80 and 100 miles is not a problem, as long as you can guarantee that minimum in all weathers and with all loads. And that’s where the e-NV200 works best. Nissan research says that the majority of small commercial vehicle journeys run to around 50 miles or less, which means the e-NV200 with it’s maximum of 100+ miles is more than capable enough. See our video below for our test drives and impressions.

First impressions
We were given a hands on opportunity to test out one of the new vehicles in Spain recently, and came away very impressed with the flexibility and refinement of the new Ford Transit killer. I may be half joking here, but the fact is that this new EV certainly hits some serious plus points where it counts, so much so that it has already grabbed 100 orders from the huge British Gas corporation in the UK, for their engineers to use on local maintenance and emergency calls. This is after an extensive trial across the country, after which it was reported that most of the testers were very reluctant to give back the electric vans.

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The vehicles we drove during our short test showed why. The cargo room and payload is easily as good as any equivalent vehicle in this class, but the swift quiet ride is a whole new universe of cool. Admittedly we tested out brand new vehicles, so it’s easy to forget that creaks and rattles creep in over time with commercial vehicles, but even so, the fact that it glides through traffic effortlessly, with no crashing gear changes or smelly diesel fumes really does make a difference.

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Good commercial sense?
And then there’s the cost savings. For a small business every penny counts, and the e-NV200 strikes home here too. The company has estimated that fuel, road tax and maintenance savings alone mount up to nearly £1400 a year, and when you factor in various city charges such as the congestion charge in London, this figure can rocket to over £4000 p.a.

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The fact that the vehicle can also match and exceed current rival vans for space and load, and we can see why it’s been taken so seriously by companies like British Gas and other testers so far.

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The vehicle makes use of the basic running gear of the Nissan Leaf, with some up-rated suspension and gearing to convert it for commercial use. The result is a real world range of over 100 miles, which is around double what a typical small business user will do in a single day’s travel. The batteries can also be charged up to 80% in 30 minutes or less using a fast charger, which means that it’s also perfect for taxi cabs or other short run work where there’s a nearby base to provide permanent charging. These vehicles should never need to use any public charging points at all.

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Drivers delight
The main thing which will make or break a vehicle like this is how it drives, because let’s face it, if you’re going to be stuck in your driver’s seat all day every day as part of your job, you’ll demand something as comfortable as possible. Again we were very impressed with how easy the Nissan is to drive, especially around town in fairly heavy traffic. It accelerates briskly and with just a whisper of wind and tire noise, and is also deliciously quiet on higher speed roads such as motorways.

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We were left with the distinct impression that driver fatigue would drop significantly for users of this vehicle, and not just because of the fancy air-conditioning system and sophisticated satellite navigation. The overall experience is more like driving a limo than a commercial van. Existing EV owners will know what we mean, since the first thing anyone notices when getting behind the wheel of an all electric car is how smooth and quiet it is. It’s the same with the e-NV200.

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If we were betting people, we’d say that this is probably the start of a small revolution in the small commercial business vehicle market. Unlike with standard electric cars, these vans and taxis will have a clearly defined daily regime, which means that battery range should be no problem at all, which is one of the psychological issues which probably still plague uptake of EVs in general. Couple this with the fact that these vehicles just have so much less to go wrong, and you get the feeling that with the right price, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t be on every plumber, decorator and general delivery person’s list as a replacement vehicle for when their diesel bucket finally dies a rattly death.

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The base e-NV200 van starts at £13,393 with a battery lease deal, with the Combi 5-seater model coming in at £17,855 excluding taxes.

Top Speed – 76 mph
Battery Range – 106 miles
Battery Guarantee – 5 years/60,000 miles
Battery Charge Time – 10 hours standard home plug, 4 hours fast charge, 30 mins to 80% rapid charge

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