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British Gas places UK’s largest electric van order with Vauxhall

British Gas Centrica Vauxhall EV

British Gas has ordered 1,000 all-electric Vivaro-e vans from Vauxhall. It’s the largest electric vehicle order for a commercial fleet in the UK.

The electric vans will be used across the country by British Gas engineers. Centrica, owner of British Gas, said it’s committed to electrifying its entire fleet of 12,000 vehicles by 2030. 

The Vauxhall Vivaro-e is the sister van to the all-electric Citroen e-Dispatch and Peugeot e-Expert. It was due to be unveiled at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, but with the event cancelled due to the coronavirus, the electric van was, fittingly, given a digital launch.

British Gas says it could order a fleet of the smaller Vauxhall Combo-e when it arrives in the summer of 2021.

For now, the Vivaro-e offers the equivalent of 136hp, a payload of up to 1,226kg, and a top speed of 81mph. It’s also the first electric van with the ability to tow a trailer.

The electric range varies depending on the battery size. The 50kWh version should be good for 143 miles, while the 75kWh provides an impressive 205 miles.

Recharging to 80 percent capacity takes 30 minutes in the 50kWh version and 45 minutes in the 75kWh van, both using a 100kW public charger.

Although prices haven’t been announced, a Vivaro-e with a 50kWh battery is expected to cost around £30,000.

‘Build back greener’

Grant Shapps

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Today’s announcement marks another milestone as we continue on the road to a green transport recovery.

“This is a huge step for such an iconic British company, who are showing leadership in making the switch to zero emission vehicles as we to strive to meet net zero emissions by 2050.

“We’re determined to build back greener – to deliver better air quality and lower our carbon footprint, which is why we’re investing more than ever in zero emission grants and infrastructure.”

Stephen Norman, managing director of Vauxhall, added: “I am delighted that British Gas has confirmed the UK’s largest order of battery electric vehicles with the Vauxhall Vivaro-e. 

“As with all businesses up and down the country, tradespeople rely on their van as an essential tool of their work and our 300-strong retailer network is crucial in continuing to provide support to carry British business.

“The strength of the quantity of orders for our all-electric van demonstrates that the Vauxhall Vivaro-e, the first step in the electrification of our entire van range, can contribute towards the transition towards low emissions vehicles whilst improving air quality.”

For more electric vehicle news, visit our sister site Motoring Electric.

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How to self-isolate your electric or plug-in hybrid car

Buy a car battery in lockdown

Road traffic levels are now ‘akin to those in the early 1970s’, as millions of motorists stay at home during the lockdown. As a result, many cars will be left unused for weeks on end.

Leaving a car untouched can lead to problems with the battery, tyres, brakes and bodywork, but there is specific advice for electric and plug-in hybrid cars. Here, we reveal the tips for electrified vehicles when not in regular use.

The advice comes from Bob Taenaka, senior technical leader for battery and cell system development at Ford. He says the most important thing is to make sure your car’s 12-volt battery remains charged and the high-voltage battery has adequate charge. At least 10 percent is required to prevent it draining to zero.

If you have driven or had your electric/plug-in hybrid vehicle on charge for at least eight hours within the past month, the 12-volt battery should be adequately charged.

When storing a battery electric car for longer periods, a charge of between 10 percent and 80 percent is recommended. A high-voltage battery above 10 percent state of charge can go for more than six months without charging, but the 12-volt battery will drain much faster.

Ford Kuga plug-in hybrid

Taenaka recommends disconnecting the negative terminal of the 12-volt battery. Alternatively, leave the electrified vehicle plugged in and connect the 12-volt battery to a trickle charger.

 “If you are storing your vehicle for longer than 30 days without use, we recommend disconnecting the negative terminal of your 12-volt battery,” says Taenaka. “This avoids depletion and potential damage to the battery, which runs the internal systems such as heating – without the need for monthly maintenance.”

Disconnecting the 12-volt battery

Car battery

Remember the following points when disconnecting a 12-volt car battery:

  • Make sure you have the key fob outside of the car, because you may need to use the physical key to lock and unlock the vehicle.
  • If the vehicle is in a locked garage and the 12-volt battery is in the boot, leave the boot lid open.
  • Once the 12-volt battery is disconnected, use the key to unlock and lock the doors.
  • If the battery is in the boot and you’re not storing the car in a garage, you will require another 12-volt source. Follow the ‘jump start’ instructions in the owner’s manual to restore 12-volt power to the vehicle in order to open the boot.

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The average electric car is driven 9,500 miles a year

Tesla Model S range

Pure electric cars are driven an average of 9,435 miles a year, new research has revealed. This is more than many popular petrol cars.

Figures from the RAC Foundation show the newest cars in Great Britain travel an average of 10,377 miles in each of their first three years. That’s the equivalent of 28 miles a day.

The high-mileage hero is the Tesla Model S, with the electric car covering an average of 12,392 miles a year. Overall, Tesla cars travel 12,459 miles, with these figures based on a sample of 887 vehicles.

Other significant electric cars include the Nissan Leaf (8,241 miles) and Renault Zoe (5,736 miles).

For context, the Skoda Octavia covers 9,230 miles in petrol form and 14,986 as a diesel. Meanwhile, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV averages 12,500 miles a year.

Predictably, diesel cars cover the most miles, averaging 12,496 a year – 67 percent more than new petrol cars.

These figures were collated before the lockdown. Since stay at home measures were introduced, road travel has dropped by 73 percent.

Top 10 average annual car mileage

  1. Tesla: 12,459
  2. Mercedes-Benz: 12,100
  3. Volvo: 11,578
  4. Ford: 11,488
  5. Mitsubishi: 11,456
  6. Volkswagen: 11,282
  7. Citroen: 11,272
  8. Renault: 10,924
  9. BMW: 10,859
  10. Land Rover: 10,716

Tesla Model 3

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Unsurprisingly people with diesels have been doing most mileage, probably seeking better long-distance fuel economy, but this study is also evidence that battery-electric powered cars are not just trophy vehicles signalling their owners’ green credentials but prior to the lockdown were racking up the miles as everyday transport.

“Tens of millions of people still drive petrol and diesel-powered cars, but this data suggests that owners of electric cars have found them to be a practical proposition, running up the sort of big annual mileages that many of us need to do, challenging preconceptions about their range and the ease of re-charging.

“The next big question is what will happen when the COVID-19 lockdown ends? Some say our travel behaviour might change quite dramatically as we’ve mastered on-line meetings in place of the office routine, but any ongoing desire for social-distancing might yet draw us back to our own cars for the trips we make once the travel restrictions are lifted.”

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Electric car owner unplugging their vehicle

Electric car owners advised to unplug during lockdown

Electric car owner unplugging their vehicle

Electric car owners should unplug their cars when not is use during lockdown to avoid the risk of battery damage, say experts.

Keeping an EV permanently on charge could cause issues, leasing company Arval warns.

A consultant to the firm, David Watts, said it’s good practice to only charge to 80 percent battery capacity, if 100 percent isn’t required for your journey.

This will “reduce battery degradation and maintain its efficiency over time”.

Leaving an EV plugged in and keeping it continuously charged to 100 percent “has the potential to damage the battery.

“Experienced EV users may know this already, but in recent months, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of electric car drivers.

“Many people may not be aware of the risk.”

The influx of new electric car owners is partly because of new company car tax rules, giving a zero percent benefit-in-kind (BiK) tax rate for the first year.

New car registration figures for March 2020 show electric cars took almost a five percent share of the market.

Watch the range

Mr Watts advised charging should generally only occur once the range drops below 50 percent.

Electric car drivers should try and avoid letting it drop below 20 percent, he added.

This is again something to keep an eye on during lockdown.

“All EVs will experience a degree of battery charge loss or self-discharge over time, due to power drain from electronics within the vehicle.”

This is generally around two percent per month.

“However, the level depends on the car or van, and the mode in which it has been left – such as standby or shutdown.”

Coronavirus: MG donates 100 ZS EVs to the NHS

MG donates 100 ZS EVs to NHS

MG is donating 100 MG ZS EVs to the NHS, as it joins the fight against the coronavirus. It will be distributing the fully-electric models to NHS agencies across the UK.

The cars will be supplied by MG’s nationwide dealer network and will be in use for six months, for free.

This fleet of ZS EVs will be put to work, helping key workers in their travels. The first six cars have already been delivered to the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust, as supplied by MG Dealer Chorley Group.

2019 MG ZS EV

“As a proud British brand, MG is more than just a car manufacturer,” said Daniel Gregorious, head of sales and marketing at MG Motor UK.

“Together with our dealer network, we want to do our bit to help the country to come through this uncertain time. By providing 100 electric cars to our NHS heroes, we hope that we will help to keep healthcare moving so that as many people as possible can receive the support they need.

“It’s also our way of saying thank you to those selfless people who work so hard to keep us all safe”.

2019 MG ZS EV

Many car manufacturers have been joining the effort against coronavirus. While MG’s contribution is akin to ‘boots on the ground’, companies like Vauxhall, Nissan and McLaren are working on ventilator supply. Nissan and Vauxhall will be producing them, while McLaren has been on design duty.

MG launched the ZS EV last year, pitching it as the ‘first truly affordable family electric car’. However, MG’s £3,500 contribution has elapsed, as has the old plug-in grant. With the new £3,000 grant, it’s now £25,495. Still quite impressive for an electric family crossover good for 163 miles of range.

Electric vehicles ARE cleaner than petrol cars, report claims

Driving test change for electric cars

Electric cars are less emission-intensive than their fossil fuel counterparts in the majority of countries. That’s according to scientists from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen and Cambridge.

They found that in 95 percent of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a conventional petrol car. It divided the world into 59 regions to account for differences in power generation and technology.

In 53 of these regions – including the whole of Europe, the U.S. and China – they found that electric cars and heat pumps are less emission-intensive. These 53 regions represent 95 percent of global transport and heating demand.

Some studies have questioned the effectiveness of electric cars in the challenge to reduce carbon emissions. Detractors have pointed to the energy consumed during electric vehicle production, along with the electricity used during recharging.

However, Dr Jean-Francois Mercure at the University of Exeter, said that the “last few debatable cases will soon disappear”.

The study projects that by 2050, every second car could be electric, helping to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 gigatons per year. This is the equivalent to the CO2 emissions of Russia.

It also claims that average lifetime emissions from electric cars are up to 70 percent lower than petrol in countries like Sweden and France, where most electricity is sourced from renewables and nuclear. In the UK, emissions from electric cars are 30 percent lower.

‘We should choose electric cars’

Making the switch to electric car

Dr Mercure said: “We started this work a few years ago, and policy-makers in the UK and abroad have shown a lot of interest in the results. The answer is clear: to reduce carbon emissions, we should choose electric cars and household heat pumps over fossil-fuel alternatives.

The lead author of the study, the University of Nijmegen’s Dr Florian Knobloch, added: “In other words, the idea that electric vehicles or electric heat pumps could increase emissions is essentially a myth. We’ve seen a lot of discussion about this recently, with lots of disinformation going around.

“Here is a definitive study that can dispel those myths. We have run the numbers for all around the world, looking at a whole range of cars and heating systems.

“Even in our worst-case scenario, there would be a reduction in emissions in almost all cases. This insight should be very useful for policy-makers.“

Switch to electric ‘without any regrets’

On-street electric car chargepoints

The electric car industry still faces many challenges if it’s to meet the study’s 2050 forecast. Many consumers perceive electric cars to be too expensive, although the launch of new EVs in 2020 will help to improve matters. There’s also the ongoing issue of range anxiety and a required shift in attitudes, not to mention the short- to medium-term effect of the coronavirus.

“Taking into account emissions from manufacturing and ongoing energy use, it’s clear that we should encourage the switch to electric cars and household heat pumps without any regrets,” Dr Knobloch concluded.

The paper published in Nature Sustainability can be accessed here.

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The e-Bulli is a feel-good electric classic VW bus

Volkswagen e-Bulli electrified T1 bus

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and eClassics have electrified a T1 bus – the classic camper – from 1966. It’s called the e-Bulli, and if you want to swap you air-cooled power for ions, you can: eClassics will take commissions for conversions.

As with VW’s previous classic electric conversions, the e-Bulli T1 exchanges its choppy, unreliable, smoggy and slow air-cooled motor for an electric drive system from a modern VW EV. It packs an 83hp electric motor in place of the original 44hp four-pot. Amazingly, this is the most powerful T1 that Volkswagen has ever made.

It’s not just Volkswagen that electrifies its classics. We’ve driven a Volkswagen Beetle that’s got EV power courtesy of electrogenic.

Volkswagen e-Bulli electrified T1 bus

Drive goes to the wheels via a single-speed transmission. The new lever, instead of swapping cogs, swaps between P, R, N, D and B. The first four are relatively self-explanatory. B, meanwhile, allows the driver to vary the degree of energy recovery under braking. The e-Bulli can be charged up to 80 percent in 40 minutes, using CCS charging. A full battery will get the electrified bus 124 miles up the road before it needs to juice up again.

It may look like a proper classic, but it’s not just the powertrain that’s changed underneath. A new multi-link front and rear axle with coilover shocks join a new rack-and-pinion steering system. The e-Bulli also features internally ventilated disc brakes.

E-Bulli: still a classic?

Volkswagen e-Bulli electrified T1 bus

All that said, there are exterior hints as to the e-Bulli’s reinvention under the skin. There are new round LED headlamps, with day-runners.

At the rear, there are also LED charge indicators, so you know how much juice it has as you walk up to it. What is hidden, is the charging port, neatly behind the rear number plate. Overall, it’s subtle enough to retain the original’s classic style.

Volkswagen electrified T1 bus

The subtle update continues on the inside, while being rigorously faithful to the original’s style. The dial is old-school, but with a digital element within. The wheel is as was, while the seat trimmings match the exterior.

Out of sight, on the roof console, is a tablet which features Volkswagen ‘We Connect’, with all the connectivity features you’d expect on an ID.3 You can even check the charge status of your 1966 e-Bulli camper via your smartphone. The radio has a proper retro look, but has DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB built in. The best of both worlds, like much of this build.

I want one

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We like it too, but it will cost you. A T1 conversion from eClassics will set you back more than £58,000. T2 and T3 campers can also be converted, and conversion kits can be sent to qualified dealers for the work.

DriveElectric ULEV Experience NHS Nissan e-NV200

‘Try before you buy’ EV scheme coming to UK cities

DriveElectric ULEV Experience NHS Nissan e-NV200

A ‘try before you buy‘ scheme for electric vehicles (EVs) could ‘act as a blueprint’ for cities across the UK. That’s according to the company behind a successful trial in Nottingham.

As part of the project, local businesses and public sector organisations were given chance to experience an electric car or van for up to 30 days. Organisations were offered the opportunity to drive a fleet of EVs including the Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia e-Niro.

In total, 52 organisations have experienced 72 electric car loans over the past 18 months. The result is that 20 electric vehicles have been adopted to date.

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust trialled the electric Renault Kangoo and Nissan e-NV200 for a month, with the Nissan well received by the organisation. The Trust now operates two e-NV200s, but there’s a potential to add a further 40 electric vans to the fleet.

The scheme was piloted by the Nottingham ULEV Experience project and financed through Nottingham City Council’s Go Ultra Low funding. Leasing company DriveElectric supplied the electric vehicles.

Similar schemes could be rolled out in other cities, particularly those operating Clean Air Zones (CAZ) to improve air quality. The Leeds CAZ will go live in September, with the Birmingham CAZ expected to launch in July.

Budget bonus for EVs

Electric cars could save drivers £40,000

At the recent Budget, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government will provide £403 million for the Plug-in Car Grant, extending the scheme to 2022-2023. A further £129.5 million will be provided to extend the grant for vans, taxis and motorcycles.

However, the grant itself has been cut from £3,500 to £3,000, with cars costing £50,000 or more ineligible for the grant.

The Plug-in Van Grant also continues, providing up to a maximum of £8,000 off the price of a plug-in van, and there’s up to £20,000 off the price of large vans and trucks.

Meanwhile, exemption of Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax), for zero emission electric vehicles will continue. What’s more, they are also exempt from the ‘expensive car’ first-year supplement for vehicles costing over £40,000.

‘Need to experience electric’

Mike Potter, managing director of DriveElectric, said: “Most organisations need to experience electric vehicles before making a decision to purchase. Fully-funded month-long EV loans are not readily available through dealerships, manufacturers or any other source.

“Therefore the ‘try before you buy’ EV loans provided by the ULEV Experience have been extremely valuable in filling a gap in the market not offered elsewhere.”

£500 EV charger rebate extended beyond March 31

OLEV charge point grant

The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has updated its position on charging infrastructure grants in 2020.

Orders for home EV charging points placed before March 12 will still benefit from the full £500 rebate, even if installed after March 31.

The grant was announced as reducing from £500 to £350 in the Budget of March 12. The original declaration says that the new rate applies to all installations on or after the first of April. However, there is an exemption if you ordered before March 12.

'Electric avenue' opens in london with full street lamp car charging conversion

The electric vehicle home charge scheme allows those that install charge points at home to claim a rebate. This has been reduced, supposedly to allow people to take advantage of it.

Under the previous £500 rate, 30,000 people could use it. Now, with the £350 rebate, 57,000 are expected to take it on.

Eligibility is also extending to those who have larger electric motorbikes, as well as those with electric cars and vans.

Mini Electric charging socket

To date, more than 120,000 home charge point installations have been partly subsidised by government grants. The decrease in the grant is considered to be in line with the reduction in the cost of installing a charge point.

In short, £350 is considered to be about the same percentage of the overall cost as £500 was when the scheme was launched.

Electric Avenue: the first entire street with lamp post car charging

'Electric avenue' opens in london with full street lamp car charging conversion

A London street has seen all its lamp posts converted to EV charging points. Sutherland Avenue in W9 (dubbed ‘Electric Avenue’) is the first road of its kind in the UK

The project was a collaboration between Ubitricity and Westminster City Council. It saw 24 lamp posts converted to charging points.

A further two adjoining roads are due to be finished in the coming weeks. Siemens and Ubitricity have now completed more than 1,300 installations across the city.

'Electric avenue' opens in london with full street lamp car charging conversion

“Lamp post charging gives people without driveways a very convenient, low cost, renewable, energy-friendly way to charge their EVs,” said Daniel Bentham, MD of Ubitricity.

“Cars spend 95 percent of their lives idle, so it makes sense to charge them while the driver is doing something else, like sleeping or working. Our technology is designed to keep installation and maintenance costs low, which translates to long-term low costs for EV drivers and councils.”

At present, Westminster City Council has more EV plug-in points than any other UK local authority. Electric Avenue is just part of its 296-strong lamp post network. Over the next 12 months, it plans to have 1,000 charge points in the area.

By contrast, public perception on available charge points is not favourable. Motorists believe there are between 100 and 200 EV charging points in London. That’s less than 10 percent of the installations Siemens alone has made. A third believe there are no charging points near their home or where they work.

'Electric avenue' opens in london with full street lamp car charging conversion

“In a city that suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country, we need to be supporting the change to green technology as much as we can,” said Andrew Smith of Westminster City Council.

“Electric Avenue gives us a glimpse into the future of streets in Westminster, where we hope to provide the infrastructure needed for our residents to make the switch to cleaner, greener transport.”