Charge! Battery beauties take on their diesel rivals

By Kristian Dando, Monday 17 July 2017

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It’s safe to say that printers haven’t been taking up electric vans in their droves.

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While they are becoming a more viable option for lugging materials and products around, the prohibitive price and logistical problems they present means that, with exceptions, print companies tend to plump for traditional diesel-powered load-luggers instead, despite the potential savings to be made in running costs and environmental benefits.

Part of the issue also comes down to choice. Only smaller, compact vans like the Renault Kangoo, Citroen Berlingo and Nissan NV200 are available to buy in electric form in UK showrooms at the moment. The Ford Transit-sized 3.5 tonne market isn’t well served by electric vehicles, but some are due to arrive soon. Volkswagen will put its eCrafter van on sale this year, and Renault unveiled the electric-powered ZE version of its best-selling Master 3.5 tonne van at the Brussels motor show in January.

But with diesel in the spotlight – and not for the right reasons – since the Volkswagen emissions scandal last year, and with one manufacturer, Volvo, planning to make all its cars electric or hybrid models by 2019, it seems a good time to assess the more environmentally friendly end of the vehicle spectrum. Plus, they should be getting easier to charge – the Queen’s Speech in June included measures to require all motorway service stations and major petrol stations have charging points for electric drivers.

But do they make financial and practical sense? To find out, here’s a look at a few of the top electric powered vans on the marketplace and compare them to their diesel-powered equivalents. 


Nissan NV200 vs e-NV200

The compact NV200 is a business favourite, lauded for its deceptively large load space and tantalising price point. In 2015, Nissan added an electric model to its range. But how does it stack up against its diesel sister?

Price The base level NV200 starts at a shade over £15,000, with the range-topping Tekna spec which boasts alloy wheels, cruise control, sat-nav and air conditioning coming in at £17,180. 

Meanwhile, the electric model starts at £17,256, which includes the £8,000 saving included with the government’s plug-in grant. Customers can also take the ‘Flex’ option, in which they rent the battery from Nissan which will reduce the on-the-road price. On lease, the NV200 costs £237 per month (including VAT) from Leasevan.co.uk. The electric model will cost £296 per month.

Running costs Nissan claims a 2p a mile cost of running an e-NV200, when using one of British Gas’s overnight chargers. It doesn’t have as many moving parts, which should mean less servicing and time off the road.

Nissan claims a 57.7mpg economy for the NV200, but bear in mind the real-world figures are likely to be much lower than that. 

Since the reform to Vehicle Excise Duty came into force earlier this year, the standard model is subject to £140 annual road tax. Meanwhile, E-NV200 owners pay nothing. It’s also free to glide around central London without being subject to the Congestion Charge.

When it comes to insurance, the cheapest quote we got for an imaginary printing business based in Bristol covering 36,000 miles a year for the standard NV200 model was £1,157 with Complete Van Cover, via Moneysupermarket.com. Interestingly, the cheapest quote for the same business for an e-NV200 was £786, also with Complete Van Cover. Of course, with a specialist business like a printer, it might be worth calling on the services of a specialist insurance broker with industry-specific knowledge in order to get the best deal.

Carrying capacity The standard NV200 boasts 4.2m2 in the back, and a 739kg payload. As the battery for the e-NV200 is in the floor of the vehicle, it doesn’t eat into your carrying capcity – it offers exactly the same 4.2m2 area, as well as a slightly heftier 770kg in weight – although anecdotal evidence suggests that the battery really starts getting drained when its loaded up, so buyer beware.

Practicalities In terms of real-world performance, the e-NV200 might be quiet and clean in use and have lots of tax benefits, but the practicalities of charging it (overnight, unless you use a battery life-draining rapid charger) and ‘range anxiety’ really sway it. For a London-based printer (charging stations in the capital are readily available) then it might make sense, but for everyone else, the standard model swings it.


Citroën Berlingo vs Citroën BerlIngo Electric

The diesel Berlingo is a cheap and cheerful compact van with a big following. Citroën’s old Berlingo Electrique, a rare oddity manufactured during the noughties and used by the French postal service, was one of the first electric vans on the market. But earlier this year, Citroën introduced a new, more viable electric model designed for the mass market. But how does it stack up performance-wise against the diesel-powered best-seller?

Price The diesel-powered Berlingo can be yours for £16,200, including VAT, fees and any luxury optional extras. 

Meanwhile, the electric van has a price tag of £17,257. That includes the plug-in grant of up to £8,000, but is exclusive of battery rental. When it comes to leasing, Leasevan.co.uk has the Berlingo priced at £174 per month. Meanwhile, you’ll have to pay a whopping £384 per month to lease the electric version from the same company.

Running costs The most efficient diesel in the Berlingo range is the 98bhp BlueHDi 100 version, which Citroën reckons will turn in an impressive 68mpg. Meanwhile, the Berlingo Electric has a 106-mile range, after a 12-hour charge.

Citroën reckons that maintenance costs are up to 40% cheaper than the standard model thanks to the lack of moving parts.

A standard Berlingo registered after 1 April 2017 will pay an initial £160 VED payment, and then £140 thereafter. The electric Berlingo isn’t subject to a penny.

When it comes to insurance, a Bristol-based printer doing 36,000 miles per year could expect to pay £1,007 for comprehensive insurance for the Berlingo BlueHDi 100, with Complete Van Cover via MoneySupermarket. Meanwhile, the electric-powered Berlingo returns a £782 cheapest quote for the same business in the same area.

Carrying capacity The Berlingo Electric can’t carry as much weight as its diesel-powered relative, being limited to 636kg compared with 856kg. The larger L1 version of each can both have 4.1m3 of capacity.

Practicalities Paper and materials are heavy, so the Berlingo Electric’s reduced carrying capacity is bound to be a stickler for a print business. Elsewhere, the 12-hour charge required for a maximum of 106 miles (or 35 minutes to get to 80% with a rapid system) isn’t nearly as convenient as pulling in and filling up with a tank of diesel, which will take you much further… You should also bear in mind that, as with most electric powered vehicles, range dips dramatically in cold weather.


Renault Kangoo vs Renault Kangoo ZE 33

The Kangoo ZE 33 is the best-selling electric van, with 25,000 of them on the road across Europe. It’s also just been updated, with a new electric motor that can squeeze more range out of a charge that no other van in its class can match. But how does this measure up against the conventional diesel version?

Price The new Kangoo ZE 33 comes in at £17,126 inclusive of VAT and excluding Renault’s battery hire charge, which you’ll need to speak to your dealer about. Meanwhile, a base-spec Kangoo Business is available from £14,595.

Leasevan.co.uk offers the electrically powered Kangoo at £419 per month compared with the base-spec diesel ML19 Energy version for £222 per month.

Running costs Renault claims that the Kangoo ZE 33 costs between 1p and 3p a mile to run, depending on weather conditions.

VED for the standard version rates are in keeping with other vans in the class – £160 for the first year, and £140 thereafter – while the Kangoo ZE is exempt from both this and the Congestion Charge.

The Kangoo 1.9 diesel engine turns in an impressive 65.7mpg according to Renault. On the other hand, the Kangoo ZE has a class leading 168-mile range on a full charge in decent weather conditions, trumping its rivals considerably.

To get covered, a Bristol-based print company doing 36,000 miles a year could pay £1,006 a year to insure the van, via Complete Van Cover. Unlike the other vans we’ve compared, the Kangoo ZE returns a comparable quote, with an identical cheapest insurance cost to the standard model from Complete Van Cover via MoneySupermarket.

Carrying capacity The standard diesel-powered Kangoo can carry marginally more, with a 640kg payload compared to the ZE’s 625kg, both in a 3.6m3 load space.

Practicalities While the Kangoo ZE’s increased range makes it a more viable prospect, it still suffers from the same issues over charging, and reduced mileage in cold weather – exactly when you don’t want to come to a juddering halt. Like with other electric vans, it seems that a Kangoo ZE might be a viable option for a city printer with a relatively small geographical range, but for everyone else, diesel still seems the more practical option.

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