Electric vans have occupied a position on the margins of the light commercial vehicle sector for years, and although they have always had their advocates, the vast majority of customers have shied away from buying them.
Apart from prohibitive pricing – despite government subsidies – the main sticking points have been concerns about compromised load-carrying capability (particularly reduced payloads due to the weight of batteries) range anxiety and worries about charging infrastructure.
But the Citroen e-Dispatch, along with its PSA Group siblings the Peugeot e-Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro-e, operate in the biggest market segment and look poised to dispel these misgivings and muscle their way into the mainstream.
The vans are designed on a platform that takes both the internal combustion engine (ICE) and electric technology into consideration.
With the e-Dispatch, Citroen has been careful to retain the operational and load-carrying strengths of the diesel van, which has held a strong market reputation since its launch in 2016.
The e-Dispatch is available with two battery sizes; the 50kWh option gives a claimed range of 143 miles on the WLTP cycle with a payload of 1,226kg, while the 75kWh battery installed in the van tested here increases range to a claimed 211 miles, but sees payload drop to 1,000kg. These payload figures are, however, just 130kg less than their diesel van equivalents. Power comes from a 100kW (136hp) motor producing 260Nm of torque.
We drove an e-Dispatch in the flagship Driver trim level, which sits above X and Enterprise. A traction-enhanced Worker version sits adjacent to X in the line-up.
Equipment levels are generous and correspond to the ICE vans.
All versions come with safety aids such as ESC with hill start assist and ABS, including emergency brake assist (EBA) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBFD), which automatically varies the amount of force applied to each wheel based on road conditions, speed and load.
Step up to Enterprise and the full steel bulkhead gets the Moduwork load-through flap under the outer passenger seat, which stretches load length on our mid-sized M model from 2,512mm to 3,674mm, and increases load volume form 5.3m3 to 5.8m3. The middle passenger seat can also fold down into a desk.
Enterprise and Driver versions also get aircon, rear parking sensors and a 7in colour touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth and a USB socket.
In addition to Enterprise, Driver features Citroen Connect navigation with voice recognition, leather trimmings, a multi-function steering wheel and the impressive Park Assist 1800, with front and rear parking sensors with blind-spot monitoring and a rear parking camera.
Safety is further enhanced with a head-up display, which relieves the driver of having to take their eyes off the road to check information on the dashboard. Driver also comes with the Safety Pack, which comprises lane departure warning, speed limit recognition, intelligent speed adaptation, driver attention alert and smart beam headlights.
As befits an electric van the e-Dispatch is quick off the mark with torque instantly available. The smoothly functioning single gear (with just forward and reverse modes) and low interior noise make for a relaxing driving experience. Meanwhile, battery energy can be maximised by selecting Eco mode, which limits power and torque, and B mode, which increases regenerative braking.
As impressive as the e-Dispatch is though, it is reliant, like all electric vehicles, upon the charging network, which can be less than dependable. There are myriad providers, all of which require the user to register. Having already downloaded the PodPoint app, we elected to use the facility at the local Sainsbury’s but despite ticking the ‘confirm charge’ link we returned after an hour and a half to find just four miles added to the range, which suggests the charge was not confirmed but had stopped after the 15 minute cut off period. We thus resorted to charging the van from a domestic plug, which takes 11 hours 20 minutes to charge from 0 to 100%. Where available, a rapid chargepoint will take 45 minutes to reach 80% battery capacity.
Citroen e-Dispatch Driver M 75kWh
Price (ex VAT, inc. PiVG) £34,380
Price range (ex VAT, inc-PIVG) £25,053-£34,380
Insurance group 36E
Warranty 5yrs/100,000mls (battery 8yrs/100,000mls)
Service intervals 2yr/25,000mls
Load length 3,674mm
Load width (min/max) 1,258-1,628mm
Load bay height 1,397mm
Gross payload 1,000kg
Load volume 5.8m3
Engine size/power 136hp 75kW electric motor
Range (WLTP) 211 miles
The e-Dispatch is a market-leading electric van but potential customers need to ensure they can establish a reliable charging solution