- Range-extending hybrid powertrain promises clean running in cities
- 377-mile total driving range, with 80-mile electric-only capability
- Order books open in 2020, target is best-in-class ownership costs
Having first revealed the production version of its forthcoming petrol-electric hybrid van in June 2019, the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), manufacturer of the latest London taxi, has now revealed plans to expand into Europe.
At an event in Frankfurt timed to coincide with the 2019 motor show, LEVC announced that it expects to be exporting 70% of the vehicles it makes in its factory near Coventry in the UK by 2022. A European office will be established in Frankfurt to assist with this plan, and in Germany at least the taxi and the new van will be sold via Volvo dealers.
What is the LEVC electric van?
Based on the taxi platform and equipped with a range-extending hybrid powertrain, the LEVC van promises to be an eco-friendly method of making city-centre deliveries, as it is said to be capable of 80 miles on electric power alone.
But with a petrol engine as backup, the new LCV (light commercial vehicle) in fact targets businesses that travel around 100 miles a day, and should offer a halfway house between a fully electric van such as the Nissan e-NV200 or the Renault Kangoo ZE and a traditional diesel model.
It’s a response to the increasing so-called ‘Amazonisation’ of retail; with the convenience of online shopping, many consumers are buying items little and often, requiring frequent deliveries from out-of-town distribution depots.
Wait a minute - wasn't this LEVC hybrid van cancelled?
You are absolutely correct. We reported in January 2019 that LEVC had abandoned this taxi-based plug-in hybrid van project in favour of waiting for the arrival of some dedicated all-electric vans from parent company Geely (on which more below).
As this new launch event clearly shows it has subsequently been uncancelled, a reversal that comes as part of a new business plan instigated by new LEVC CEO Joerg Hofmann.
What powertrain does it have and how far can it drive on electric power?
The LEVC van features the same range-extending hybrid system as its taxi sibling. This means that while there is a small 1.5-litre petrol engine under the bonnet, it never directly drives the wheels. Instead, the engine is there to charge up the batteries that power the electric motor when they run flat.
This is similar to the drivetrain used by the Ford Transit Custom Plug-in Hybrid.
The van's 31kWh lithium ion battery pack can also be topped up from a charging point or plug socket, and will travel 'more than' 80 miles on electric power alone - although that figure likely refers to city centre driving, rather than the open road. Regardless, engaging the petrol engine sees a total claimed range of 377 miles between fill-ups.
LEVC says that there are 65,000 unique journeys into London undertaken by LCVs every day – the vast majority by diesel vans. With the capital tightening up emissions regulations, a van with zero-emissions capability could soon be a requirement in London – and potentially in other major cities, too.
How much can the LEVC taxi-based van carry?
LEVC won't confirm payloads or dimensions for its van until closer to the on-sale date in 2020, but says you will be able to fit two Euro pallets in the back – making it slightly less capacious than the Fiat Doblo Cargo small van, which can fit three.
It should be a comfortable environment for the driver, though. LEVC is owned by Geely, the same Chinese manufacturer that owns Volvo – and as a result it’s been able to employ Volvo components into its cabin. We’d expect the van to feature the same interior as the taxi, with a driver’s seat, steering wheel and infotainment touchscreen lifted directly from Volvo’s passenger car range.
Another carryover from the taxi world is the turning circle, which is as tight as that of the black cab, making it class-leading for a small van.
Where can it be charged?
The van was unveiled in London by mayor Sadiq Khan alongside plans for a raft of new charging solutions. London has plans for a new rapid charging infrastructure, cutting down the amount of time drivers are left waiting, as well as five new charging hubs.
As for the rest of the country, the LEVC van can be charged anywhere an electric car can be. Most chargers are located along major routes, which could be an issue for drivers who mostly pootle around town – but it shouldn’t be a major problem for most.
Many of these vans will be operated as fleets, and returned to a depot each night where they can be charged. And even if not, there’s always the petrol engine as back-up.
When can I order one and how much will it cost?
Order books will open towards the end of 2020. No firm date has been set yet, and nor has pricing. However, the LEVC taxi is a premium product, available to buy outright for £55,599. We’d expect the van to be slightly cheaper than this, but it will likely still be around the £50,000 mark.
However, most owners are likely to opt for a business lease, where low rates and the reduced running costs of a part-electric van make a lot more sense; LEVC says it is targettng 'best-in-class ownership costs'.
We’ll update this article when we know more about the LEVC van’s pricing and specifications.