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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.”

LEVC VN5 electric van

LEVC VN5: London taxi-based electric van named

LEVC VN5 electric van

LEVC, the maker of the London taxi, has revealed the name for its next new product line: the VN5 electric van.

Just as it’s TX for ‘taxi’, the VN is short for ‘van’. And 5? That represents the load capacity, in cubic metres.

LEVC VN5 electric van

The LEVC VN5 will launch towards the end of 2020 and is set to quickly grow the Coventry commercial vehicle specialist’s annual production towards its 20,000-unit capacity.

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“Our new VN5 further signifies our transformation from the iconic British taxi brand to leading electric commercial vehicle manufacturer,” said LEVC CEO Joerg Hofmann.

He adds it will also “revolutionise green logistics”.

How? With the same eCity range-extender technology as the LEVC TX taxi. A 31kW battery gives a pure EV range of 63 miles. This can be fast-charged in 30 minutes.

Alternatively, a 1.5-litre turbo petrol Volvo engine can act as an onboard generator, creating electricity to give a total range of 301 miles (it’s fuelled by a tiny 36-litre tank).

LEVC VN5 electric van

It is not plug-in hybrid tech, stresses LEVC. The electric motor is in the back, driving the rear wheels; the petrol engine is in the front.

There is no connection from the engine to the wheels; it is only hooked up to the rear drive unit by electrical cables.

‘New type of van’

LEVC VN5 electric van

The front end is shared with the TX taxi, but it is custom-designed from behind the front seats for the target one-tonne van sector (total payload is 800kg). 

The VN5 is commodious. Total capacity is actually 5.2 cubic metres, it can swallow two Euro pallets, and has a load bay that stretches 2.4 metres front to rear.

LEVC VN5 electric van

The 60/40-split rear doors open wide, and a sliding side door has an opening more than 1 metre wide.

This gives the VN5 its party trick: one Euro pallet can be loaded in the side door, and another in the rear.

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Mr Hofmann, a former Audi executive, says it has the potential to transform delivery van emissions. In London alone, there are 65,000 diesel van trips a day in and out of the city.

The new VN5 can switch these to zero-emissions electric without the range anxiety of other electric van solutions.

Fast-changing means the batteries can be replenished during a coffee stop or lunchbreak at the depot. And the range extender gives companies confidence to make the switch to electric without the risk of their drivers being left stranded.

LEVC VN5 electric van

Pre-production of the new green van is already underway in Coventry, with a market launch expected in the spring.

Prices have yet to be announced but will sit below the TX taxi, which costs from £55,000. The LEVC VN5 will also be eligible for the Plug-in Car Grant, worth up to £8,000 for commercial vehicles.

Van drivers are still using phones behind the wheel

Van drivers till use their phones behind the wheel

New research reveals less than half of van drivers are using hands-free tech to make phone calls. That means the majority risk six points and a £200 fine – not to mention their own lives and the lives of those around them.

On average, working van drivers make seven phone calls a day, with a total of 37 minutes of call time. But just 41 percent are doing so via Bluetooth or other hands-free tech.

On top of that, 17 percent admitted to sending and receiving texts, checking emails and social media while on the road. And 23 percent don’t actually have a hands-free kit in their van.

Van drivers till use their phones behind the wheel

It’s now three years since the tougher laws on phone use behind the wheel were introduced. The penalty of six points on your licence means being caught twice is enough for a ban.

“Mobile phone use behind the wheel is a topic that we’ve been monitoring for the past couple of years and the recent statistics show it is still a huge safety problem on UK roads,” said Claire English, head of fleet at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, which conducted the research.

Van drivers till use their phones behind the wheel

“Despite carrying a hefty punishment, it lacks the taboo of other offences such as drink-driving and this needs to change.”

“As part of our Working With You promise, we’re committed to improving safety on UK roads for both our customers and other road users, always ensuring we provide the right equipment for the job, for example offering autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a hands-free kit as standard across the range.”

LDV brand is dead

LDV van brand will die in Britain – again

LDV brand is dead

It’s one of the most famous commercial vehicle names in Britain, but the LDV brand is about to die – again. As of April 2020, LDV will rebrand as Maxus across right-hand-drive Europe.

In 1987, the Leyland Trucks division of Rover became Leyland DAF when it merged with the Dutch truck maker. Six years later it became an independent firm following a management buy-out. As the official LDV website points out, ‘the company has had many highs and lows’.

After going into administration, the company was purchased by Sun Capital Partners in 2005, before being acquired by the Russian company Gaz in 2006. Plans to increase production at its Birmingham plant and to create new export markets failed to materialise, and by 2008 the factory had closed. The intellectual property rights were sold to a Chinese firm in 2009, before they were acquired by SAIC Motor in 2009.

LDV builds a range of commercial vehicles, including panel vans, tippers, minibuses and EVs. UK distribution is handled by the Dublin-based Harris Group, which is also responsible for Ireland, Cyprus and Malta.

In left-hand-drive markets, such as Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, the vans are distributed under the Maxus banner. Now, the LDV vans will be re-branded to follow suit.

‘Much-loved by many’

LDV at the CV show

Denise Harris, CEO of The Harris Group, said: “When it comes to changing a brand name, you have to think very seriously about the benefits and also the possible consequences, and decide if it really is the right thing to do for the brand and the wider business. The LDV brand is much-loved by many loyal customers but, with the advent of new models on new platforms that will undoubtedly change brand perceptions, I am confident that the market will welcome the transition.

“As the Maxus brand grows, both in China and across Europe, and with more and more models and variants being introduced to the market, it makes sense for us to align with the global Maxus brand. As a company and main distributor, we are really excited to be part of this evolution and I think that our enhanced offering will inject new life into the LCV market.”

By 3 April, all elements of the rebrand will be complete, with new Maxus signage and collateral installed across dealerships. The company will also unveil two new commercial vehicles in 2020.

‘On another level’

Maxus logo

Mark Barrett, general manager of Maxus UK and Ireland said: “2020 is going to be the brand’s biggest year ever with the impending launch of our game-changing diesel panel van, the Deliver 9 and the arrival to market of Maxus’ second EV model, the E Deliver 3, which was unveiled last year at the Commercial Vehicle Show.

“With cutting edge design, a brand-new platform and 2.0-litre engine, the LDV Deliver 9 will be the brand’s most comprehensive and versatile offering to date. Available in a choice of three lengths, three heights and a choice of front or rear wheel drive, this van really is on another level.”

Full details will be revealed at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April, when it will line up alongside the E Deliver 3.

Camper van tax could push ‘staycation’ families abroad

Camper van tax hike

A new tax hike on camper vans and motorhomes has been criticised by MPs and environmental campaigners, with warnings of a “catastrophic drop-off in production, an adverse impact upon UK staycations and associated job losses throughout the supply chain”.

Camper van and motorhome buyers now face a 705 percent increase in the cost of first registering their vehicle. This adds around £1,900 to the price of a new camper van. 

Volkswagen California Ocean

Camper vans and motorhomes have been moved from their previous ‘commercial vehicle’ classification to join passenger cars. The resulting change in vehicle excise duty (VED) is dramatic.

First-year prices shot up from £265 to £2,135 for vehicles registered after September 1 2019. That’s in addition to £200 extra annually for the next five years.

Combined, those added costs might be enough to fund an overseas holiday – which could be considered something of a backwards step, environmentally speaking.

California depreciation

The sector is already feeling the pinch. The National Caravan Council (NCC) reports that sales were down 7.3 percent in September. 

“Motorhome [owners] are committed holidaymakers, with the majority using their vehicles to holiday here in the UK,” said John Lally, director-general of the NCC. 

“These vehicles are not cars and should not be taxed as such,” he followed, warning against long-term harm to the leisure vehicle industry, which is worth £9.3 billion and employs 130,000 people. 

Volkswagen California update 2019

The Treasury has hinted that it is monitoring the situation, saying: “We want to incentivise drivers to make the greenest choices, which is why we’ve introduced a new, robust CO2 emissions test procedure.

“Motorhomes move into a different vehicle excise duty category as a result, but we recognise the concerns and keep all taxes under review.”

Cost of van insurance rises 2.2 percent in three months

van insurance prices up

Insurance costs for van drivers in the UK have shot up in recent months, following a period of stability over the course of the last year. Premiums have risen by 2.2 percent in three months, with the average UK premium now £1,515.

For reference, that rise is faster than the UK rate of inflation. Data from analytics company Consumer Intelligence also shows that premiums are up 37 percent since 2014.

It’s worse still for large section of van drivers. Those aged between 25 and 49 who use their van for business have seen an increase of 46.9 percent since 2014. And those aged over 50 are paying 45 percent more.

Younger drivers who use their van for work have faced a much smaller increase of 1.2 percent.

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So, what’s to blame? It’s partly a reset of the Ogden rate, plus patterns in insurance claims. Indeed, we’ve reported on increases in van-related crimes and thefts in recent months.

“Pricing fluctuations are based on claims experience and we’ve observed no other seismic events within the van market,” said John Blevins, pricing manager at Consumer Intelligence.

“The recent increases are hardly surprising following the government’s reset of the Ogden rate in August.”

Young van drivers cut some slackvan insurance prices up

It’s not all bad news, though. For young van drivers who are using their van for non-work purposes, there have been big savings over the last year. Social, domestic and pleasure (SDP) premiums for 17-24 year-olds have shrunk by an average of 11.6 percent. Still, that doesn’t make the average premium cheap, at £4,112. 

The 25-49-year-old and over-50 categories pay £840 and £509 for non-business use respectively. The average SDP policy, in spite of the recent cuts for young drivers, has risen by 41.6 percent since 2014.

New bike rack camera is an ‘industry-first’

Bike rack camera

A Swedish company specialising in mobile living has launched what it claims is an industry-first bike rack camera.

If you’ve struggled to reverse a motorhome, campervan, estate car or van with a bike rack on the back, the Dometic CAM200 Bike Rack Camera could be the best product of 2020.

It’s a common problem for anyone travelling with a bike rack. With the bikes loaded, the rear-view camera is obscured. This restricts the view for the driver, making it harder to reverse when the bike rack is in use.

Two cameras

Dometic CAM200 Bike Rack Camera

Dometic’s patent-protected bike rack camera is the solution. It fits on the lower section of the bike rack to provide a clear rear view for the driver. Dometic says that by mounting it low, the “risk of misjudging the length of the rack can be excluded”.

As a bonus, the camera can be fitted without drilling on most bike racks – it simply slides into the outer rail by tightening the in-built screws.

The CAM2000 features two individually adjustable camera models, allowing the driver to find the best possible viewing angle. It switches between the two cameras to provide a clear view, even when bikes are loaded.

Of interest to UK buyers is the fact that the bike rack camera is waterproof. It’s also dust-proof. The system cable is detachable, so that the bike rack can be removed from the vehicle when not in use.

On sale in February for £320

Cycle rack camera

It goes on sale in February 2020, with prices starting from €379 (£320).

Dometic separated from Electrolux in 2001. The Swedish firm specialises in products designed for the mobile living sector, which includes RVs and boats. Its portfolio includes cameras, monitors, air conditioners, awnings, toilets, blinds, generators, vacuum cleaners and sanitation systems.

The company turned over 18.274m SEK (£14.725m) in 2018 and employs 8,000 people across the world.

Van theft epidemic: 30 are stolen every day

more than 30 vans stolen every day

On average, 30 vans have been stolen every day in the UK since 2016. That’s 43,000 vans over the course of three years.

Another 117,000 vans have been broken into over the same period. The result is a £61.9 million cost to businesses and drivers in lost tools and other items. The research was conducted by What Car?, which submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to get the figures.

Van theft is seemingly on the rise. Figures show an increase of 8.21 percent between 2017 and 2018. This trend continued into 2019, with 8,200 thefts registered in the first six months.

more than 30 vans stolen every day

London is a hot-spot for van thefts. A total of 14,263 were taken over a four-year period, with 44,742 broken into. 

A surprising 42 percent of new vans don’t come with an alarm fitted as standard. And 5.5 percent don’t even have the option of an alarm.

However, 90 percent come with remote central locking and 80 percent are fitted with deadlocks (which don’t feature a spring, and are therefore harder to pick).

more than 30 vans stolen every day

“More than four million van drivers rely on their vehicle for work or business needs,” said Jim Holder, editorial director at What Car? Vans. 

“The fact that four out of 10 new vans on sale do not feature a factory-fitted alarm as standard is a cause for concern – especially as our research found more than 43,000 have been stolen since 2016, with a further 117,000 broken into.

“While newer vans and higher trim specifications now come with many of the security features as standard, it’s concerning to see owners of lower trim levels having to fork out extra for something as simple as an alarm – this is something the industry needs to work on and underlines why van buyers must do careful research before purchasing their next vehicle.”

Van drivers spend 7 billion hours a year looking for parking

Van drivers facing parking crisis

The UK’s van drivers are facing a parking plight, according to new research. It’s calculated that the UK’s 3.3 million van drivers spend a massive 7 billion hours a year looking for parking spaces. Cross that with the average hourly rate of pay for a driver, and you get a cost to the economy of £76.2 billion. 

Over 45 percent of van drivers said they needed over five minutes to find a parking spot for their deliveries. Sixteen percent said they needed over 20 minutes.

The largest portion of respondents to the Vanarama survey (22 percent) actually said finding parking was a one to two-minute job. Worryingly, it’s this that the overall time and money figures are based on.

Van drivers facing parking crisis

If the average driver is delivering 50 packages a day, with each delivery taking around two minutes, then that’s an hour and 40 minutes per day spent looking for a place to park. Cross that with the 3.254 million people that use a van for their job in the UK, and you get that enormous 6.99 billion hours per-year waste figure, and the £76.2 billion loss to the economy.

Scary, given that it all comes from one to two minutes of fishing for parking per delivery.

Van drivers facing finesVan drivers facing parking crisis

Van drivers don’t have a lot to work with either, it’s claimed. Vanorama took a closer look at the dimensions of the most popular vans sold in the UK. They found that they do not gel with the average UK parking space. 

The average UK parking space is 4.8 metres long. The van that sticks out the least in the top six is the UK’s fifth most-popular, the Vauxhall Vivaro, at 4.892 metres long. Bad luck if you’re in a regular-sized Ford Transit, the second most-popular van in the UK, you’ll be working with 5.531 metres of length. None of the six actually fit in the average UK parking space.

If you’re in L4 variants of the Ford Transit or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, it’s even worse. They exceed the length of the average UK parking space, by between 1.9 and 2.6 metres.

Van drivers facing parking crisis

Why is this a problem? Because van drivers catch a lot of grief for their over-sized vehicles and the space they take up, when there’s nothing they can do about it. Nevermind the vocal criticism they get, van drivers could face fines of £50 for protruding from parking spaces.

Too small, and not enough of them

The UK high street is “failing” our van drives, according to Vanarama. In the analysis of Birmingham, Manchester, London and Newcastle Upon Tyne high streets, Vanorama found that less than one percent of the total area was taken up by parking. All because of how crowded and unsuitable parking is for vans in these locations.

Opinion: Why must we go back for the future?

Morris JE electric van

‘A retro-styled electric masterpiece’, reads one headline for the Morris JE van. ‘Brilliantly retro’, says another. ‘Retro-cute’ and ‘the cutest electric van I’ve ever seen’ concludes this quartet of rather gushing and sickly-sweet intros.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying it. Quite literally, given the fact that the JE van is expected to sell for around £60,000 in 2021.

It’s a ‘reimagining of the original [and] iconic’ J-type van, says Morris Commercial, before describing the 1950s classic as ‘unapologetically distinctive’.

What’s the obsession with reimagining stuff from our past? What next, a reimagining of other distinctive elements of 1950s Britain, such as polio, pea-soupers and women tied to the twin-tub washing machine?

Mind you, there’s no knowing what Britain will look like two years from now.

Putting aside the pros and cons of electric vehicles for a moment, shouldn’t the designs be forward-thinking, progressive and challenging? I’m not sure a van that looks like something Mr Tumble might drive is going to do much for the EV market.

Morris JE van

The company claims it will appeal to a wide range of customers, but the list is exhausting, if not exhaustive.

Small boutique businesses, larger corporate fleets, luxury and lifestyle brands, the hospitality industry, the sport and leisure industry, high-end manufacturing, the events industry and green logistics.

And… breathe. Anyone for a game of monkey tennis?

Of those, who is going to want to drop £60k on Mr Tumble’s company wheels? I can’t see an artisan coffee company ditching the H-van for one of these. Is a fleet buyer going to say “no thank you” to the resources and support of Volkswagen, Renault, Nissan and the like?

The figures don’t add up. A range of 200 miles and a one-tonne payload might look acceptable in 2019, but the technology should have moved on by 2021. The LDV EV30 boasts another name from Britain’s ‘glorious past’, 200 miles of range and a one-tonne payload. The price? Rumoured to be in the region of £30,000.

Morris Commercial says it will create “an individuality in a market where dull, generic design is normal”. Which is one way of justifying an exorbitant price tag and a dashboard that looks straight outta LazyTown.

Vans are ‘dull’ and ‘generic’ because that’s what the market wants. These vehicles are built to do a job on time, reliably, efficiently and without fuss. Sure, there’s a place for vans without ‘clean me‘ perma-scrawled into the dirt on the back doors – I know folk who love their vans more than their family car.

It’s just that most vans I see look like they’ve been used as target practice at the local paintballing centre within a few months of hitting the road. How is the JE’s carbon-fibre body going to withstand even the lightest of damage?

I don’t doubt the hard work that’s gone into creating this ‘masterpiece’. But harking back to a bygone era hints at a lack of creativity and an absence of ideas. Besides, I have a feeling the ‘retro-cute’ market will be swallowed up by Volkswagen’s Buzz Cargo thingy.

I could be wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time). Maybe the commercial sector is waiting for Mr Tumble to roll into LazyTown in a blaze of zero emission glory. Me, I’m just waiting for someone to unearth a barn-find Bedford CF Electric.