First Drive: Nissan e-NV200


Nissan e-NV200

We wouldn't normally feature a commercial vehicle on AOL Cars, but this one is quite special. It uses the zero-emissions technology seen in the world's best-selling electric car – the Nissan Leaf – but in a body White Van Man would be more accustomed too.

AOL Cars headed to Barcelona to try it out.

What is it?

To put it simply and crudely, it's what happens when you leave a Nissan Leaf electric car and a Nissan NV200 van together alone for a while. Well, three years in fact, because that's how long the testing regime by different companies such as British Gas, FedEx and Coca Cola has taken to bring this project from the drawing board to market. The finished article is a van that uses many parts from the all-electric Leaf passenger car to create the largest electric van currently on sale in the UK.

What's under the bonnet?

We'll try and keep this straightforward; under the bonnet it's essentially a Nissan Leaf albeit modified for a van's way of life. So that's a 80kW AC synchronous electric motor powered by a 48-module compact lithium-ion battery, positioned in the engine bay so that rear cargo space is not affected. There's a healthy 254Nm of torque constantly available when the throttle is prodded, the top speed is 76mph and the 0-60mph sprint takes 14 seconds – half a second quicker than the diesel-powered NV200. Once you've used up the 106-miles available, it takes eight hours to charge with a 16-amp wallbox charger, or four hours with a 32-amp wallbox. If a CHAdeMO charger is used, you only have to plug it in for 30 minutes for a zero to 80 per cent top up. Trouble is, there are only 1,100 CHAdeMO charging points across Europe!

What's the spec like?

Don't think the e-NV200 is an expensive one-off because if you're considering one, there's a whole range to choose from and different ways of buying one. Naturally there's a van version and it's available in five trim levels starting with Acenta at £16,562 (or £21,775 without the Plug-in van grant) rising up to Tekna Rapid Plus at £19,324/£25,410. Even the entry-level model comes with iPod connectivity, keyless start, electric front windows and two side sliding doors. Meanwhile the Combi version (a van with windows and three rear seats, suitable for the hotel chauffeur) comes in four trims and range from £22,859/£27,849 to £26,309/£31,309. These prices are when you buy one outright – alternatively Nissan will let you rent batteries for £61 a month bringing prices down to £13,393 for the Van Acenta and £17,855 for the Combi Acenta.

Any rivals?

There aren't many. In the all-electric van market, there's just the Kangoo Z.E and the comical Renault Twizy Cargo – but they're both smaller in size. The e-NV200 is unique in the marketplace.

Nissan e-NV200

Nissan e-NV200

What's it like to drive?

If you've ever driven an electric car, then unsurprisingly the e-NV200 drives in a similar fashion. So there are just two pedals, a clever option on the gearbox to increase regenerative braking, and an instrument binnacle that displays battery range rather a petrol gauge. Oh, it's quiet, but not deathly silent like the Leaf. Thanks to its boxier dimensions, there's more wind noise.

It's a cinch to drive though, and makes light work of a typical city's stop-start traffic conditions. On the motorway, all of that electric-refinement makes it a bit dull, though.

The AOL Cars (vans) verdict

We have to admit it, before we tried the e-NV200 we thought it was a waste of time. Electric cars? Yes. Electric vans? A concept that's gone a bit too far. But it's really rather good. There are a lot of van drivers in the UK who stay fairly rigidly in the confines of an urban environment, so an electric van does make sense. Think electric milk float and how that works (on charge at night, deliveries during the day sometimes returning to the depot for a top-up) and the e-NV200 seems a good proposition.

The knowledge

Model: Nissan e-NV200 Acenta Rapid
Price: £17,428 (after gov. grant, as tested)
Engine: 80kW electric motor
Power: n/a
Max speed: 76mph
0-60mph: 14 seconds
Range: 106 miles
Emissions: 0g/km CO2