Modec Van

Date: Tuesday, October 07, 2008

If Dr Who ever decided to drive a van it would probably look a bit like a Modec. Its extraordinary styling is radically different to that of any other commercial vehicle you're likely to encounter.


 

It failed to turn any heads during our brief excursion around Coventry, however. Modecs are made there and the locals have grown used to seeing them. In any other city it would undoubtedly be a different story.

Our demonstrator was a medium-length van with an 11m3 cargo box accessed through a rear roller shutter door. Long- and extra-long models are up for grabs too, with load cubes of 13m3 or 15m3 respectively. Top payload is 2,000kg in all cases, gross weight is 5.5 tonnes and the vehicle is also on offer as a dropside and a chassis cab.

No matter which derivative you pick power comes courtesy of an electric motor generating top power of 102hp and 300Nm of torque and a lithium-ion battery pack. There is no exhaust pipe and thus no nasty emissions.

You get a range of around 60 to 70 miles between recharges, a top speed of 50mph and the battery pack takes about six hours to recharge fully.

Disc brake are fitted at the front, drums at the back and ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution both come as standard. Regenerative braking returns power to the battery when the vehicle brakes or decelerates.

 

The cab doors are to the rear of the cab and provide excellent access. A big windscreen, deep electric windows and large, electrically-adjustable, exterior mirrors ensure that all-round vision is good, although we suspect that the vast screen will help turn the cab into an uncomfortable greenhouse on a hot day.

There is plenty of head, leg and shoulder room but the driver's area isn't over-endowed with oddment storage space or creature comforts and the steering wheel suffers from a lack of adjustment.

 

On the Road

You touch an electronic key to a small plate to start up and this brings up a display on a monitor on the facia showing the speedometer and telling you how much juice is left in the battery. Pull a lever to your right into 'D' for Drive as you would with an automatic gearbox — there is no clutch and thus no clutch pedal — press the accelerator pedal and you're off.

There's certainly no lack of performance. The Modec accelerates strongly and is quite capable of holding its own on busy urban dual carriageways. It handles well too and boasts a commendably-tight turning circle.

On the downside the ride is unimpressive — you feel every pothole — although admittedly our demonstrator was unladen. Things may improve with some weight in the back.

Our big concern, however, was the amount of rattling and creaking generated by the body. While the absence of any racket from an engine to drown it out probably makes this more of an issue than it might otherwise be, the fact remains that the manufacturer needs to pay a lot more attention to noise, vibration and harshness.

Not that all the creaking and squeaking is apparent to pedestrians or cyclists, who rely on their ears as well as their eyes when it comes to detecting traffic. If you're in a Modec they may not hear you coming until it is too late, so pay extra attention when you're in their vicinity; because they won't.

 

VERDICT

So is the Modec a viable cargo shifter? It is, no question about it; but at £55,000, dropping to £35,000 if you're happy to lease the battery pack, it's an expensive one. The high initial capital outlay, however, has to be balanced against a typical electricity cost of just 7.0p a mile, no Vehicle Excise Duty, no London congestion tax liability and minimal maintenance costs. Nor do you have to bother about getting a tachograph fitted or obtaining a heavy truck style Operator's Licence; and acquiring a Modec will bring you all the low-carbon environmental kudos you can handle.



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