It’s fair to say that take-up of electric vans in the UK has been somewhat slow, glacial even. Initial cost, range anxiety, reduced payload concerns and residual value insomnia all conspire to push fleets away from electric van manufacturers.
Yet new models are on the way, with Nissan promising its e-NV200 and both Peugeot and Citroën showing electric vans at last year’s CV Show, though we’ve yet to see any of these on the road yet. For the time being, Renault remains the undisputed champion of the electric van, with Kangoo Z.E. now in its second generation, thanks to the Phase II facelift applied to all Kangoo models last year, and UK sales well into three figures.
The Z.E. has the same bluff front end as its diesel stablemates, with the over-sized Renault diamond taking pride of place between the massive headlights. While Renault says there have been no specific running gear changes with the facelift, the company admits that it has been refining and honing the driveline since its launch some years ago.
Certainly it seems that regenerative braking force has been toned down from the last time we drove a Kangoo Z.E., gently slowing the LCV rather than throwing you into your seatbelt as soon as you lift off the throttle pedal. The van activates the brake lights when regenerative braking is working too, to warn vehicles behind that you are slowing.
Driving Kangoo Z.E. is as simple as ever. Simply turn the key until you get a green GO message on the dash, slide the auto transmission lever into D and push the right hand pedal for forward travel.
Though using an auto lever, the electric motor won’t hold the van on a hill or creep forwards like an auto box diesel. It really is simple to drive though, accelerating briskly, thanks to the full 226Nm of torque being available from standstill.
Unfortunately our test van was sporting a folding mesh bulkhead and fold-flat passenger seat, so there was quite a bit of noise from the rear wheels. There is little more than an electrical whine from the front. A full metal bulkhead has the secondary benefit of allowing the van to warm up much faster on a cold morning too, as you aren’t heating the rear compartment as well as the cab.
The van offers the full 3.4m3 of load volume and the same 650kg payload as its diesel counterpart. What’s more, the government does now include the vans in the Plug-in Van Grant scheme, so it is possible to claim back 20% of the purchase cost of the Kangoo Z.E., making it a more palatable £12,995 plus the VAT.
You do have to rent the battery pack, but in some ways that provides peace of mind – Renault will repair or replace the batteries if they fall below 75% capacity for the life of the vehicle. Renting also provides a known running cost for the life of the vehicle.
Other than that ownership costs should be relatively low, with cheap electrical overnight charging and very little maintenance required at service time. There’s a fairly comprehensive warranty attached too, plus that guarantee of battery life. The only real fly in the ointment is that there is virtually no used van market for electric vehicles, making it hard to put a residual value on the Kangoo Z.E.
What we think
For a low mileage urban operation, with regular depot over-night parking, the Kangoo Z.E. makes a lot of sense. Simple to drive and economical to power, it has a lot going for it.
MODEL Renault Kangoo Z.E. ML20
BASIC PRICE £12,995
ENGINE Synchronous electric motor
FUEL INJECTION n/a
KERB WEIGHT 1,426
LOAD SPACE LENGTH 1,731
LOAD SPACE WIDTH 1,223
LOAD SPACE HEIGHT 1,188
LOAD HEIGHT (unladen) 588
LOAD VOLUME 3.4m3
FUEL TANK CAPACITY n/a
CO2 EMISSIONS 0g/km
SERVICE INTERVALS 12,500 in first year, then 2yr/25,000 miles
WARRANTY 4 yr/100,000 miles