Company Van Today - Issue 6 - Summer 2018

TESTING TIMES Electric vehicles are nothing new – records of battery-powered vehicles go back to the early 19th century – and with around 150,000 electric vehicles registered in the UK since the launch of the Government’s Plug-In Car Grant in 2011 it would be fair to assume that the testing stage is over. But the commercial vehicle sector is lagging behind somewhat, and plug-in models are only now starting to filter through to market, with manufacturers such as Ford, Mercedes, Nissan, Renault and Volkswagen some of those planning to bring out electrified vehicles in various forms in the coming years. Despite the vast amount of experience in the plug-in market garnered by these brands – all of these have had a battery-powered model of some form in their ranges in recent years – many have embarked upon trials before releasing an EV van. Volkswagen has sent four electric Crafters out to fleets in the UK, and James Douglas, VW’s head of sales operations explains that there is still plenty to learn from these trials. “In a nutshell, vans are different from cars in terms of the way they’re used, where they’re used, the requirements of operators, mileage patterns, loading and reloading,” says Douglas. ‘Practical trials of electric vans are the only real way that we can ensure the final production model is absolutely fit for purpose.” THINKING BIG One of these four vehicles is at Gatwick Airport, where it has been put to task on the 250-strong fleet. Gatwick fleet manager John Hole explains that there are already two electric vans in use at the airport, and the plan is to have 50% of the fleet as plug-in vehicles in the next five years. With electric already in the mix, Pract ical trials are the only way to ensure that the f inal product ion van is absolutely f it for purpose Electric cars have already begun to take off, and if trials taking place around London are an indicator, electric vans could soon do the same what can the airport hope to learn from taking part in the experiment with VW? “There have been smaller manufacturers in that market but with VW and one or two others moving into that as mainstream suppliers, we want to see they have the load-carrying capacity and the durability for engineering tasks, which is slightly different from your last-mile delivery,” explains Hole. As part of this, the e-Crafter at Gatwick is being thoroughly challenged, with work both on and off the airport site. Currently it is land-side, says Hole, with the aim being to give it more extended journeys. Ford is also looking to challenge the Transit Custom plug-in hybrids that it is sending out on trial. There are 17 out with fleets around the country, largely based around urban areas. “The Metropolitan Police are going to be an extreme use case for us,” explains Ford’s director of commercial vehicle mobility solutions, Mark Harvey. “They have got two vehicles, one will be used in a fairly conventional way replacing a Transit Harvey: police use will be a tough test Battery vans will help to lower pollution COMPANY VAN TODAY.CO.UK 14