Nissan's e-NV200 offers the cleanliness and cost-effectiveness of pure electric power to urban van users. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Nissan e-NV200 offers city van operators a clean, cost-effective alternative to a diesel-powered vehicle. Quieter, with more torque and featuring lower day-to-day costs, here's a way to promote an ethical and responsible urban approach to business. There's also now a 7-seat version.
Some vehicle developments leave you scratching your head. Did we really need a bigger MINI? Why do coupes need four doors these days? What were the team that came up with the Renault Avantime thinking? Then there are some new vehicles that make all the sense in the world. Put Nissan's e-NV200 firmly in that category. The market for small city vans has taken off in the last few years and if you're going to be covering fairly low mileages in places where emissions are an issue, electric power makes all the right numbers. Given that Nissan's experience with the LEAF has armed it with a huge amount of experience in electric vehicle development, it's hardly surprising that the e-NV200 comes to market without the huge burden of uncertainty that surrounds so many electric vehicle launches. If you want a small van that lacks an internal combustion engine, don't worry. Nissan has got this.
The e-NV200 shares a base vehicle platform with the Nissan Micra, which should give you an idea of quite how compact this van is. The 1.5-litre diesel engine is ditched in this instance for an 80kW AC synchronous motor, which is fully integrated with the battery charger and inverter in one compact, self-contained unit. There's MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam rear, and the Lithium-ion battery has been designed to fit under the cargo floor without impinging on available space. This battery pack has the same number of cells as a LEAF (and indeed packs an identical 24kWh capacity) but is packaged more efficiently. This battery assembly also helps boost the torsional and lateral stiffness of the vehicle by 20 percent and 35 percent respectively over NV200 and helps reduce the centre of gravity. This also aids ride and handling, while the instant torque delivery is perfect for stop and start city driving. It's quicker than the diesel van to 62mph too, eventually running out of amps at 75mph.
Design and Build
One thing's for sure. You're probably not going to mistake the e-NV200 for its more conventionally-powered sibling. While the diesel model looks a pretty modern thing, the electric version has a very different front end. This adopts the styling cues of the Nissan EV "face" that will be familiar to LEAF drivers, with a central charging door and blue-tinted LED headlights. Arrow-like positioning lamps sit within the crescent-shaped headlamps and glow a distinctive ice blue light colour. LED bulbs are used in the rear lights of all versions as well as at the front on passenger models. The blue theme extends to the e-NV200's badging. Inside, there's a new instrument panel with a digital read out. Digital information includes readouts for vehicle speed, state of charge and vehicle range, while a power meter shows the state of motor output/regeneration. The instrument panel is completed by a multi-function display that provides other time, distance and speed information. The van features a cargo area of 4.2 cubic metres, can accommodate two standard Euro pallets, while sliding side doors on both sides and wide opening rear doors ease loading. Alternatively, Nissan will also sell five or seven-seat Combi models. The seven seat version is configured with two seats in the front, three in the middle and two in the rear. Both the second and third rows can be folded to allow for larger quantities of luggage to be carried, making this variant a hugely flexible vehicle for commercial or private use. The second row rolls forward and the third row folds to the sides to open up an enormous 2.94 cubic metres of cargo capacity, which is enough to transport three bicycles with the wheels in place, unique in this class. With all three rows in place, the luggage capacity is 443 litres under the tonneau cover, and up to an impressive 870 litres when measured to the roof line, allowing the possibility to carry seven people and a large volume of luggage.
Market and Model
Right, are you paying attention? The pricing of the e-NV200 requires a bit of working through. Unlike the diesel van, customers can either choose to buy e-NV200 outright or opt for the 'Flex' option, which involves leasing the battery, therefore reducing the upfront purchase price. Whichever option they choose, these e-NV200 models qualify for a Government grant - up to £8,000 as a Plug In Van Grant for the van. And up to £5,000 as a Plug In Car Grant for the five-seater combi passenger version. Prices for the seven-seat version start at around £20,000 (incorporating the Government Plug-In Car Grant) for those choosing the convenience of the Nissan Flex battery leasing option, and from £23,400 (inc PiCG) for those purchasing outright. The van in Acenta trim includes equipment like a rear view camera, electric windows and iPod/MP3 stereo compatibility. You can also go for the Acenta Rapid, which includes a rapid charge facility or the Rapid Plus which includes onboard 6.6kW on-board fast charging. Tekna trim (available in Rapid or Rapid Plus guises) includes more safety gear, cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel, a loadbay protector, four speakers rather than two, coloured bumpers and alloy wheels.
Practicalities and Costs
Nissan reckons e-NV200 drivers who use their vans for four years and cover approaching 10,000 miles per year will benefit from £2,500 of fuel savings, with the vehicle costing 2 pence per mile, while maintenance costs will be reduced by £575 based on servicing, parts and wear and tear. In addition, those that opt for the e-NV200 will pay no road tax and will be exempt from the London Congestion Charge. The e-NV200's homologated NEDC range of 105 miles is greater than the average 62-mile daily driving distance of over half the fleets who utilise this class of van, so range anxiety shouldn't be too much of an issue. The battery can be recharged overnight using a domestic supply which reduces to four hours if an uprated 6.6kW/32-amp supply is used. A dedicated CHAdeMO DC 50 kW quick charger can recharge the battery from 0-80 percent in just 30 minutes - or less if the battery is already partially charged. More than 1000 public CHAdeMO quick chargers are now installed across Europe. It's certainly worthwhile if your company has had the foresight to install their own dedicated quick charging facilities.
The Nissan e-NV200 is a vehicle that just seems to work on so many levels. Punching out a bunch of diesel particulates in congested urban areas doesn't seem the smartest thing to do and this electric van demonstrates without ambiguity that there is a better way. With no tailpipe emissions and a power delivery that's ideally suited to short-run stop and start driving, here's a van that says all the right things about ethical and responsible city commerce. The financial package that Nissan has put together doesn't look too terrifying either. We crunched the numbers and still reckon the diesel van will work out a little cheaper but there's not a lot in it and factor congestion charges into the equation and the e-NV200 is a no-brainer. Even if you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to endure the London grind, here's one van that seems perfectly attuned to city living.