Farah Alkhalisi details the low-carbon vehicles available for organisations considering greening their fleets
Today’s all-electric vehicles (EVs) are capable of motorway speeds and deliver good around-town performance.
Automotive firms offer a number of cars engineered to the same standards as their conventional models, and the choice is now not only limited to tiny city cars, lightweight quadricycles, glorified golf carts or exotic sports cars such as the Tesla Roadster.
Most electric cars on sale are offered via all-in lease deals, which give extensive warranty cover, including battery guarantees. These are designed to allay fears about reliability or battery durability, and residual (resale) values are underwritten as well.
Renault is offering an alternative option, leasing batteries separately from the cars themselves, and assuming full responsibility for them. Electric vans on offer in the UK now or in the near future are mainly either aftermarket conversions of existing conventional vans or trucks, or small, low-speed vehicles from niche manufacturers such as the Italian firm Alke.
British importers are also lining up to bring in low-cost Chinese-built electric vans and utility trucks, which could come to market shortly. Renault has launched several electric versions of its Kangoo van, however, and Peugeot is training some of its own franchised dealers to service and maintain the Allied Electric-converted Peugeot vans.
Available now or later this year:
- Alke XT – Low-speed but road-legal utility vehicles, made by Italian company Alke and supplied in the UK by ePower Trucks of Oldham. Top speed 35mph; 12kW; range 60/120 miles (double battery pack option); payload 1,000kg, towing capacity 4,000kg. Price on application.
- Alke ATX – Light-duty, road-legal utility vehicles; numerous body configurations, including tipper truck and waste collection. Top speed 25mph; 6kW; range 40 miles; payload up to 1,000kg; towing up to 3,000kg; price dependent on specification.
- MegaVan – French quadricycle-maker Aixam sells through a number of approved agents in the UK; a variety of body styles available including pick-up, chassis cab, tipper, chill van and coffee van. Top speed 30mph; 8kW; range up to 100km; payload 435kg; price from around £8,500 excluding VAT.
- Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell – The production-line electric Vito is currently undergoing testing with selected fleets in the UK and Europe. Top speed 56mph, 60kW, range 81 miles, payload up to 775kg; contract hire rates to be confirmed, but will be eligible for plug-in van grant.
- Mia electric – Developed by Heuliez and built in France, the Mia electric is a microvan with the Mia K the box van variant. Top speed 62mph; 13bhp; range 80 miles; from £22,000 (with a plug-in van grant).
- Nissan New Electric Cabstar – Conversion supplied by ePower Trucks. Top speed 25mph; range 45 miles; payload 1,000kg; price on application.
- Peugeot eBipper, ePartner, eExpert and eBoxer – Conversion by Allied Electric of Glasgow, a leading Motability and Cab Direct supplier. Teepee passenger-carrying versions also available plus eBoxer Monarch minibus and eExpert Eurobus. Top speed 65mph/70mph; 30kW/60kW; range 60 miles/100 miles; payload: 375kg (eBipper), 350kg (ePartner); price on application.
- Renault Kangoo Van ZE – Purpose-built by Renault, the Kangoo Van ZE range includes the two-seater Maxi and five-seater Maxi Crew. Top speed 81mph; 44kW/60hp; range 100 miles; payload 650kg; from £13,592 (excluding VAT, with a plug-in van grant); battery hire from £62 per month (48 months/9,000 miles per year, excluding VAT).
- Smith Edison – Edison is a Ford Transit-based conversion by Smith in Washington, Tyne & Wear, and offered in medium- and high-roof, minibus and tipper forms. Smith also makes a larger truck called Newton. Top speed is limited to 50mph; 90kW; range 100 miles; payload 1,500kg; price on application, but qualifies for a plug-in van grant.
Available now or later this year:
Nissan Leaf – Top speed 90mph; 80kW/109hp; range 109 miles; from £25,990 (with a plug-in car grant); lease from £299 per month excluding VAT (35 months/10,000 miles).
Mitsubishi i-MiEV – Top speed 80mph; 49kW/67hp; range 93 miles; £23,990 (with plug-in grant); lease from £235 per month excluding VAT (over 59 months/10,000 miles a year).
- Citroën C-Zero – Top speed 80mph; 49kW/67hp; range 93 miles; available for lease at £249 per month excluding VAT over four years/40,000 miles, including battery pack, all servicing and routine maintenance.
- Peugeot iOn – Top speed 81mph; 49kW/67hp; range 93 miles; £26,216 including VAT (excluding a plug-in car grant); lease at £249 a month (35 months/10,000 miles).
- Renault Fluence – Top speed 84mph; 70kW/95hp; range 115 miles; £17,495 (including VAT and with plug-in car grant); battery hire from £72 per month (including VAT).
- Renault Zoe – Top speed 84mph; 65kW/88hp; range 130 miles; £13,650 (including VAT and with a plug-in car grant); battery hire from £70 per month (36 months/7,000 miles).
- Smart Fortwo electric-drive (on sale autumn 2012) – Top speed 75mph; range 87 miles; price to be confirmed.
Range-extended electric vehicles
If you were to visualise a continuum between all-electric vehicles and conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars, then range-extended EVs (REEVs) would be the next step along the line from the “pure” EVs.
REEVs feature a battery pack and electrically driven motors, but add a small and relatively simple “range-extender” engine, which kicks in to act as a generator when extra power or range is needed.
The Chevrolet Volt and closely related Vauxhall Ampera have a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an all-electric range of up to 50 miles. Drivers doing a low daily mileage around town and regularly plugging in to recharge the batteries might use the engine only rarely – but it’s there to give the flexibility for longer trips and higher speeds, giving a total range of more than 300 miles.
At the moment, the choice of REEVs in the UK is restricted to the Volt and Ampera (and the £87,000 Fisker Karma), but trials are starting of prototypes from other manufacturers.
- Chevrolet Volt – Top speed 99mph; 63kW/86hp; all-electric range 50 miles, total range 300 miles; 235.4mpg; 27g/km CO2; £29,995 (including VAT and with a plug-in car grant).
- Vauxhall Ampera – Top speed 100mph; 63kW/86hp; all-electric range 50 miles, total range 360 miles; 235.4mpg; 27g/km CO2; from £32,250 (including VAT and with a plug-in car grant).
Hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, feel more like conventional ICE vehicles, and their engines are fuelled in the usual way – but they add a little electrical assistance.
They have smaller batteries than REEVs, and a much shorter range running on electric power alone, but do not need to be plugged in – energy otherwise lost from braking is captured through an energy recuperation system for reuse driving the motors.
The petrol engine of the Prius can disconnect completely, and the Prius can move off under electric power alone. It is described as having a “power-split” or “series-parallel” hybrid system.
The Insight has a simpler, “mild” parallel hybrid system and can cruise all-electrically for a short distance. Consider these hybrids as a stage further along the electrification line from ICE vehicles with stop-start and energy recovery systems.
Some hybrids, such as the Peugeot 3008 hybrid4 and 508 RXH hybrid4, use their different power sources for four-wheel drive effect – in these cases, their diesel engines drive the front axle and their electric motors the rear.
And, while high-performance and luxury vehicles, such as the Infiniti M35h saloon, the Porsche Panamera and Cayenne hybrids and the limo-like Lexus LS 600h are hardly the most fuel-frugal or lowest- CO2 options, they do offer significant improvements over their conventional counterparts.
Plug-in hybrids give the opportunity to further extend their all-electric mode by topping up their batteries from an external power source.
Available now or later this year:
- BMW 5-Series activehybrid 5 – Top speed 155mph; 305bhp; 44.1mpg; 149g/km CO2; £46,860.
- Honda Jazz 1.3 IMA – Top speed 109mph; 88hp; 62.8mpg; 104g/km CO2; from £15,995.
- Honda CR-Z – Top speed 124mph; 124hp; 56.5mpg; 117g/km CO2; from £17,695.
- Honda Insight – Top speed 113mph; 88hp; 64.2 or 61.4mpg; 101g or 105g/km CO2; from £16,995.
- Infiniti M35h – Top speed 155mph; 306hp; 40.9mpg; 159g/km CO2; £46,840.
- Lexus CT 200h – Top speed 113mph; 98bhp; 68.9mpg; 94g/km CO2; from £23,750.
- Lexus GS 450h – Top speed 155mph; 341bhp; 36.7mpg; 179g or 180g/km CO2; from £44,615.
- Lexus RX 450h – Top speed 124mph; 295bhp; 44.8mpg; 145g/km CO2; from £44,530.
- Lexus LS 600h –Top speed 155mph; 439bhp; 30.4mpg; 218g or 219g/km CO2; from £90,580.
- Peugeot 3008 hybrid4 – Top speed 118mph; 163bhp; 74.3 or 70.6mpg; 99g or 104g/km CO2; from £26,995.
- Peugeot 508 RXH hybrid4 – Top speed 132mph; 163bhp; 68.9mpg; 107g/km CO2; £33,695.
- Porsche Cayenne S hybrid – Top speed 150mph; 328bhp; 34.4mpg; 193g/km CO2; £59,058.
- Porsche Panamera S hybrid – Top speed 168mph; 328bhp; 415mpg; 159g/km CO2; £86,396.
- Toyota Yaris Hybrid – Top speed to be confirmed; 98bhp; 76 or 80.7mpg; 79g or 85g/km CO2; from £14,995.
- Toyota Auris Hybrid – Top speed 112mph; 98bhp; 74.3 or 70.6mpg; 89g or 93g/km CO2; from £20,295.
- Toyota Prius – Top speed 110mph; 98bhp; 72.4 or 70.6mpg; 89g or 92g/km CO2; from £21,560.
- Toyota Prius+ (seven-seater) – Top speed 105mph; 134bhp; 64.2 or 68.9mpg; 101g or 96g/km CO2; from £26,195.
- Toyota Prius PHV (plug-in hybrid) – Top speed 110mph; 98bhp; 135mpg average; 49g/km CO2; from £27,895 (with a plug-in car grant).
- Volkswagen Touareg 3.0 V6 TSI hybrid – Top speed 149mph; 333hp; 34.4mpg; 193g/km CO2; £57,985.
- Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid (deliveries from November 2012) – Top speed 142mph; 180bhp; 148.7mpg average; 49g/km; from around £45,000 (excluding a plug-in car grant).