SAIC has rebranded its LCV operation as it bids for a big hit in the UK market with a new electric vehicle.
The artist formerly known as LDV is back and launching a new album under the name of Maxus. That’s right, the name, which awkwardly hung next to LDV badges in the early noughties like a groupie at a gig, is now the lead singer, and management hopes its first hit is going to be the new eDeliver 3.
Name confusion is clearly a high priority for Chinese owners SAIC, who promptly undid all the good work created at the 2019 Commercial Vehicle Show when LDV revealed the LDV EV30 by renaming the brand. But the changes didn’t stop there, because after ditching the EV30 name the new LDV van was originally going to be called E Deliver 3, only to be changed shortly thereafter to a lowercase ‘e’ plus a gap. Still following? Good. This is, then, the Maxus eDeliver 3, or if you’re really being picky and conforming to the marketing material, the eDELIVER 3. Whatever its name, it is the new all-electric small van from Maxus, which isn’t actually that small at all.
Available with two different wheelbase options of 2,910mm and 3,285mm, the rear loadspace has up to 2,180mm or 2,770mm front to back, with a width of 1,665mm and 1,220mm between the wheel arches. There’s just one height option available, giving you 1,230mm in the loadspace and a total vehicle height of 1,895mm, ensuring the eDeliver 3 can fit in even the most height-restricted of car parks.
It is a fairly boxy van, being a bit shorter and a little taller than most normal mid-sized models, and can accommodate quite a lot in its 4.8m3 or 6.3m3 rear.
Two battery sizes are available on both wheelbases, while there’s also the option of a chassis cab, which only gets the larger 52.5kWh battery pack rather than the smaller 35kWh cells. Having two battery options means that payloads vary slightly between models – the short wheelbase with the smaller battery pack is capable of moving 865kg, but with the larger battery pack can move 905kg. Yes, that seems illogical, but Maxus has intelligently uprated the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of the higher-capacity battery van from 2,310kg to 2,460kg. The payload differences also apply to the long-wheelbase model, which has a 1,020kg payload for the small battery pack and a 990kg payload for the larger one, although in this case that’s despite GVW increasing from 2,550kg to 2,630kg. While upping GVW for the LWB has not had the same affect as doing so on the SWB model, it is a sensible decision nonetheless to get some useable payloads out of these vans.
Power is courtesy of a single 90kW motor with 255Nm of torque. It’s capable of doing 0-62mph in just 11 seconds, but it actually feels quicker than that. Charging for the batteries can be done via AC or DC currents of up to 50kW, and the literature says a 45-minute charge will restore 80% battery life to both battery sizes – which is a little unlikely. Sadly, not owning a fast-charging station means we’ve not been able to test that theory out.
The van does, though, have a sizeable range that we did push to its limits. The SWB model with the large battery pack has a 151-mile claimed range on the WLTP combined test, while the LWB equivalent sees that range dip by 10 miles. The smaller battery pack, however, still has a range of 99 miles and 95 miles for the short and long-wheelbase vans respectively.
Our test vehicle was the short-wheelbase van with larger batteries, and having initially taken it very steady to ensure we would make it home that night we managed to cover 142 miles, parking up with 15 miles on the range indicator. That, we would say, was a stunning performance given that the second half of the journey was conducted at speed and with heavy bursts of acceleration.
Unburdened by range anxiety, the eDeliver 3 is actually a fun vehicle to drive: it’s not particularly sophisticated, the power is either on or off, and the motor spews it out with a sort of shunt. There are three energy recovery modes, of which the top setting is very effective – however, when cycling through the modes they don’t always apply a consistent amount of braking. Running and slowing from higher speeds seems to deliver a much more effective amount of retardation, but the same setting at half the speed does very little. Perhaps this is deliberate, but the inconsistency makes you wonder if the system is working all that well.
Unusual electrical behaviour sadly became a feature of our test drive, not least because the infotainment system was particularly haphazard, not only at finding a radio station and maintaining a signal but also because it reset itself on several occasions. There’s also no obvious way of turning off the radio, and volume controls seem only to be available on the steering wheel.
But the infotainment irritations aren’t as serious as the problem we experienced when in low charge. At a predefined point, perhaps as low as a 10% battery charge, the eDeliver 3 puts itself into a go-slow mode indicated by a tortoise on the dashboard. The idea is to limit your power consumption by reducing the amount of juice you can give it. It also lowers your top speed from the 75mph max to the Eco button’s default 58mph limit. So far, so clever. Less clever was when our test vehicle decided to limit power altogether, requiring a full on-off restart to get power back. Maxus duly investigated the issue and reported back that an update was necessary, which solves the problem. We hope it was an isolated occurrence, but it took the sheen off what was an otherwise, on the whole, enjoyable van to drive. The gear selector does need a park function, rather than relying on neutral and the handbrake, and cycling through the informative trip computer should be done from a steering-mounted button rather than a push pin on the dash screen itself. Maxus should also look to improve some of the quality of the plastics you touch and look at the most, because on first impressions the van looks smart and modern, but as you spend more time with it you can see some obvious and unattractive cost savings. This is most apparent in the plastic around the display cluster, which has very cheap-looking materials on the surround.
The look will also polarise opinion, as rather than make an EV that blends into the regular urban traffic, the eDeliver 3 stands out as something oddly futuristic with its dimpled front grille and plastic wings and bonnet.
It might not be the smash hit we had hoped for, but it’s a statement of intent from a brand that is ambitious and disruptive. At £25,530 after government grants the starting price for the eDeliver 3 alone might make you consider one. Whether Maxus will ever reach number one with it remains to be seen, but it could have a top 10 hit on its hands.
Maxus eDeliver 3 SWB 52.5kWh
Price (ex VAT, inc PIVG) £25,530
Load length 2,180mm
Load width (min/max) 1,220/1,665mm)
Load height 1,230mm
Load volume 4.8m3
Gross payload 905kg
Fuel economy (combined) n/a
As the deadline for voting in the International Van of the Year (IVOTY) competition looms, I’ve been having a lot of time behind the wheel of some of the contenders.
Up for the award this year are the Peugeot e-Expert, Citroen e-Dispatch and Vauxhall Vivaro-e models, the Mercedes-Benz eSprinter and eVito, plus the Maxus Deliver 9 and the zero-emission eDeliver 3, while Fiat Professional has the eDucato. With the exception of the Maxus Deliver 9, they’re all electric, which has got me obsessed with menus and buttons. Firstly, regen braking settings need to be steering-mounted, but perhaps more importantly the dash menus showing these things need to be clear.
I’ve recently been driving the Ford Transit Custom PHEV (last year’s IVOTY winner) and need to say how much I like the menu system on the van: it’s clear, concise, and with words as well as pictures to show you what the button you’re pressing is doing. The PHEV isn’t perfect – it has dash-mounted control for the driving modes to let you change between engine-only, battery and engine and battery only – but when I press the button, at least I know what to expect. It’s a simple thing, but so many get it wrong.
George Barrow is the UK judge for the International Van of the Year, the prestigious prize awarded by leading European LCV journalists.