The What Van? Awards are designed to celebrate the best in the marketplace, to help guide van users towards the most commendable products on sale.
So it’s rare that a vehicle that won’t be available for another half a year, and even then in small numbers, is deemed worthy of a What Van? gong.
But the Renault Kangoo ZE is a rare vehicle. It’s also one that could be feeling the pressure, as it’s the first EV that’s priced within throwing distance of the internal combustion-engined model it’s based on, although the early adopters will have to lease the batteries separately for around £60 per month, depending on intended mileage.
The initial outlay is going to be £16,990, which compares very favourably with other electric vehicles that can cost three or four times the diesel base vehicle. And it’s built on the same factory line as the ‘normal’ Kangoo. For that price tag you’ll get a vehicle with a 100-mile range and claimed 81mph top speed that maintains the 3.0cu/m load capacity, although the extra weight of the batteries means payload drops slightly to 650kg. What Van? was invited to drive the Kangoo ZE, and while it’s not perfect, there’s plenty to like for operators able to cope with the limited range, which is a natural product of electric vehicles still limited by the battery technology that’s little past its infancy. The regenerative process that collects energy during deceleration is too severe for our liking, and has a similar effect to hitting the brake pedal, but with prolonged exposure, adjustments to driving style could negate much of the impact.
Renault, with its subsidiary Nissan, is taking the electric market seriously, and it’s a technology that will certainly grow in the coming years, even if traditional power will remain dominant for at least the next decade. But as the infrastructure improves, there will be more operators finding ways to make electric power work for them, and if other companies join Renault in offering cost-effective solutions then it can only be good news.
At least initially, the brand is expecting to sell its first electric vehicle to larger fleets who have the capability to absorb a handful of new models, and are willing to accept the compromises in exchange for the green message that will be sent out. They will also find it easier to justify the outlay on charging points.
Also investing in new technology that will offer greener alternatives for van operators and drivers is Iveco. The firm achieves a highly commended in this category thanks to a varied eco strategy that has seen it invest in alternative fuels since the mid-1990s, and that now takes in the latest diesel technology, diesel-electric hybrids, pure electric vehicles, compressed natural gas and compressed biomethane. The wide variety of options to suit most operators are commendable, and worthy of our praise.