By Simon, The Millett Road Maker
Disclaimer: I’m not an electric vehicle or sustainability expert. I’m a baker and a small business owner talking about my experiences. As such, please do your own research and independently verify any facts or figures in this post before relying on them!
Anyone who follows our social media will know that we have moved to a 100% electric delivery van — I’m sorry for the social media spam of van pictures!
As we settle into the van and the social media spam subsides, I thought I’d write a little summary on why we made the call to go electric and the realities (so far) of owning a commercial electric van (EV).
To start, what exactly did we have, and what do we have now?
Our old van was a Renault Kangoo SWB (short wheelbase) petrol van — and I should point out that it was a great van, reliable and economical, but we had also worked it very hard!
Our new van is the Renault Kangoo Maxi ZE electric van — it is an extended version of the same van, with some bells & whistles.
Along with the van, we’ve also installed a Zappi charger installed by EVolution, which will charge our van using excess solar power and an overnight boost during the off-peak hours.
The Maxi ZE has an official range of 264 km, with a claimed real-world range of 200 km in summer and 120 km in winter here in Australia — I’ll get into why the difference a little later.
Before we decided to move to a 100% electric van, the van on offer had to meet some essential requirements for us:
- Cost to Run: Is the overall cost to run equal to or less than that of a petrol van? According to our budgeting, even though we are not eligible for any state government grants, the electric van is slightly cheaper to run over five years.
- Range: Our average delivery run is around 100 km, and our maximum delivery runs are rarely more than 120 km on any day. The Kangoo ZE has a claimed “real-world” range of 200km in summer and 120km in winter, so it works, but only just.
- Charging: One of the key benefits to an electric car is the use of clean energy. Can we reliably charge the van without relying on fossil fuels? On the advice of the Australian Energy Foundation, we had the Zappi charger installed by EVolution. Our van recharges using solar power from our own panels when available. It is boosted overnight using carbon-neutral grid energy and a special EV charging rate from Powershop.
The final consideration for us was possibly the most daunting question most new EV owners face: What can’t we do anymore that we used to do with a petrol vehicle?
For us, in a commercial setting, this was a relatively easy question to answer. The Kangoo ZE is designed for defined delivery routes, not long road trips. Many EVs out there are, but when it comes to commercial vehicles, not so much. So from now on, the van is not the first choice for long road trips. That’s about it as far as what it can’t do, and it’s an easy one for us to get around.
So, we checked all the boxes. The van will work for us! Luckily, there was a shipment from Renault on its way, so we only had to wait a couple of months to make the switch.
Life with the New Van
We’ve had the van for a few weeks now, and we LOVE it! We’ve got ourselves in a nice little routine now, and it hasn’t missed a beat on deliveries. That’s not to say it was a completely flawless transition, though. We had to learn the ways of the EV and unlearn many habits from our last van.
Charging vs Re-Fueling
It’s easy to think of the battery in an EV the same way you’d think of a fuel tank in a petrol/diesel vehicle — it probably doesn’t help that it’s represented the same way on the dashboard!
Before EVolution installed the Zappi charger, we had to charge the van from a standard 10-amp wall outlet, and it took some time! From near flat to full might be as long as 20 hours, and there were days where the van would only finish charging just before we needed to head off on another delivery run!
The Zappi made a big difference. It can charge the van from nearly flat to fully charged in about 4 hours, relieving this potential issue!
The next lesson on the charging front was our solar generation. Of course, the moment we got the new van, we had some of our worst solar generation months on record! So we had to be comfortable with the fact that we would use the sun while it shined but we can’t rely on it at this stage.
Range Anxiety — It’s a Thing
Anyone who has read an article on EVs will have heard of “range anxiety.” It’s the stress caused by not being 100% sure how far you’ve got to go before running out of charge. Growing up driving petrol cars, it becomes second nature to look at the gauge and know how long you’ve got to go — factors will affect it, but after a few years behind the wheel, you get a pretty good feel. It’s the same thing in EVs, but we’re trying to teach an old dog (me) new tricks, like how do weather and wind effect range?
I had this vision once we received our new electric van — I’d be driving around with a look of smug satisfaction. The reality was that the first week I had a look of mild terror, worried I’d suddenly run out of charge at any moment!
I did not run out at any moment, and after a few delivery runs, I’ve settled into the van as I start to understand its real potential. Now I can confidently jump in and head out on deliveries without a second thought to range anxiety!
Winter vs. Summer
Beyond the limited solar generation in winter, there is another consideration for electric vehicles. In cold weather, lithium-ion batteries are less efficient, and as such, the potential range is lower.
Renault claims the “real-world range” of the Kangoo ZE and its 33 kWh battery is 200 km in summer and 120 km in winter. Summer is an average of 20°C, and winter is an average of -5°C. (French winter!)
The NEDC range is the official range (kind of like the official fuel efficiency on petrol cars), and this is 264 km. Like the fuel efficiency claims, this is a long way off of reality.
We took delivery of the van in the middle of winter (only a few days before winter solstice), and I’ve found I can reliably get 140 km of range on the coldest days, around 0°C, but considerably more on warmer days.
The End (Really, It’s Just the Beginning!)
We are delighted with our decision to transition the business over to an electric delivery van. I hope some of the insights here help you transition your business to electric vehicles when the time is right.
You might be reading this thinking, “this is all way too hard.” Please don’t abandon the idea altogether! We currently only have two commercial electric vans on the Australian market, so they might or might not fit in with your business. By 2035, all petrol engine sales in Europe will be banned, with the US not far behind, so this change is coming; if you start looking at your requirements now, you’ll be ahead of the curve when the switch to electric is no longer a choice.
I’ll continue to update you all on how we are going, along with some data on our electricity usage in the coming months. In the meantime, feel free to reach out with any questions you have about our experience.
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