There’s a new kid on the block, with a rather impressive pedigree, which could see a bit of a shake-up in the one-tonne medium-size van sector.
Enter the London Electric Vehicle Company, LEVC for short, the Coventry-based maker of the iconic black cab for the last 70 years.
Earlier this year the company launched the TX London cab, an all-new EV with a petrol range extender, becoming the only taxi to comply with Transport for London’s rules on all new licensed cabs registered after 1 January needing to be zero-emission capable.
The new, as yet un-named, van arrives in the UK late next year and promises an outstanding driver ergonomic package (it is based on a taxi, after all!) an electric range of around 80 miles and a petrol range extender which can be used to recharge the battery on the move.
The Van Expert was invited to a special briefing from the company’s bigwigs and offers here a full lowdown of everything we gleaned.
Who is LEVC?
Until last year the company traded as the London Taxi Company but the name change to LEVC reflected its bold aspiration to become the “urban commercial vehicle provider of choice for cities across the globe.”
The company is owned by Geely, one of China’s biggest carmakers and owner of Volvo, Lotus, Proton and Lynk & Co, all-electric car company set to debut in Europe with an online sales platform in 2020. The increasingly global aspirations of Geely recently saw it take a 10% stake in Daimler, the owner of Mercedes-Benz.
Geely acquired the business in 2013 and immediately set about an ambitious turnaround which has resulted in the opening in 2017 of a new £325m production plant in Ansty, near Coventry.
Under Geely ownership, the business has already moved away from its insular one-market one-vehicle past by exporting the new TX taxi to the Netherlands, where it will soon debut in Amsterdam, with plans afoot to target other major European cities with Germany likely to be next.
By opening these markets LEVC will also be able to start conversations about its new van.
What do we know about the new van?
Quite a lot, although the name and price are still under wraps.
The only image available so far reveals a close family likeness with the TX. It has a one-tonne payload and an aluminium body, which will make it super lightweight.
With two rear doors and a sliding side door, the cargo bay can accommodate two euro-pallets, one from the rear, the other from the slide.
It will be built at Ansty, near Coventry, on the same line as the TX; the first dedicated EV plant in the UK.
Early models will be tested by UK fleets later this year ahead of sales starting in late 2019.
“Entering the van market will be a crucial part of our plan to become a sustainable business. We believe that the van market is ready for a disruptive new entrant – who will offer a very different value proposition,” said Chris Gubbey, CEO of LEVC.
How can it be an EV if it has a petrol engine?
The van uses the same eCity powertrain as the TX, namely an electric motor hooked up to a three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol engine, supplied by Volvo. The technology will allow for a range of around 400 miles, including 80 miles in pure electric mode
The thinking is that 1-tonne diesel vans are typically used to transport goods from out of town distribution centres to urban destinations; daily trips typically covering up to 100 miles. The range-extender technology will enable drivers to use petrol power for the first part of the journey switching to electric in the city. The petrol engine can also be used to recharge the battery on the move.
Plug-in recharging takes 20 minutes on a rapid charger and around two hours on a fast charger.
With the van featuring internet connectivity, geo-fencing technology could also be used in the future to ensure the vehicles only operate in EV mode in zero emission zones.
What creature comforts and features will it have?
The van will benefit from its shared underpinnings with the TX which was built to deliver maximum driver comfort, so expect a spacious cabin with supportive seats.
While LEVC isn’t giving too much away it has promised high levels of connectivity and road sign recognition technology, a handy visual prompt for delivery drivers in a hurry.
It also promises class-leading safety features as standard including autonomous emergency braking, an important consideration in an urban environment which should help protect cyclists, pedestrians and drivers from nasty shunts. This should also help to reduce insurance costs.
It’ll also have an awesome turning circle!
Cost of ownership?
With the van not going on sale until late 2019, LEVC is keeping its pricing strategy under wraps until nearer that time.
In common with other EV vans, its sticker price will be higher than a comparable diesel-engined van because of the cost associated with the electric motor and battery pack, plus this model’s petrol engine range extender.
However, it said the total cost of ownership, or TCO, would be comparable with a similarly sized diesel-engined Ford Transit Custom, especially once congestion charges are factored into the equation.
“We are aiming to deliver a vehicle that, for its size, will deliver a competitive TCO to a diesel van but there will be a purchase price premium,” said Gubbey.