The passenger version of Nissan’s new electric van is a niche vehicle, but could hold appeal for growing families who need the space
Aerodynamic revisions, a wider front track, lower centre of gravity and a faster-reacting drivetrain; all the stuff you’d expect Autocar to write about. Only here it relates to a van, or in correct parlance a LCV (Light Commercial Vehicle), the Nissan e-NV200.
What’s really significant here is that drivetrain, those enhancements coming thanks to a battery pack and electric motor borrowed from the Nissan Leaf, making the e-NV200 the working class addition to Nissan’s push for greater electrification of its line-up.
While a couple of small pallets will fit in the back of the panel version there is at least a model with rear seats and windows. In the UK that will be the Nissan e-NV200 Combi, us Brits denied the plushest (relatively speaking) Evalia model, which brings MPV-like niceties such as picnic tables on the back of the front seats and proper plastic moulded door cards on the rear sliding doors.
UK-spec Combis start at £22,895 – or £17,895 if you want to lease rather than own the battery pack. Four grades are available, Tekna Rapid bringing the most car-like specification as standard, with alloy wheels, a multi-function steering wheel, auto lights and wipers and Nissan’s pre-heating or cooling CarWings system linked to your smartphone. Even it comes with push-stud fixings and rough material panels in place of those Evalia door cards and nowhere to picnic.
Most, Nissan admits, will be sold to taxi firms and fleet users, but it’s not unreasonable to expect the odd Leaf buyer who’s after a bit more space for a growing family eyeing the e-NV200 with a glimmer of desire.
The Leaf absolutely dominates the plug-in EV marketplace, Nissan having shifted 110,000 of them worldwide, and it hopes the e-NV200 will do much the same in the LCV arena. It arguably makes even more sense here too, as business operators with fixed or predictable mileage routes aren’t quite so stymied by range anxiety issues.
Range is 106 miles in perfect conditions, which is plenty given Nissan’s claims that some 35 per cent of vans don’t cover more than 80 miles a day. A growing urban and nationwide charging network and the e-NV200’s 80 per cent, 30-minute fast charge potential – which rises to as much as 12 hours if you plug into a conventional plug at home for a 100 per cent charge – help.
The ability to run in low emission zones and operate in near silence in noise-sensitive areas are also obvious advantages. As are lower servicing and running costs and the appealing tax and Congestion Charge avoidance potential of a plug-in over a diesel NV200 – Nissan equating these to around £16,127 for a London user over four years. That mileage would easily cover the school run; the additional space inside and the massive boot clearly useful if you’ve outgrown your family Leaf.
The revised aerodynamics up front bring some Leaf-like looks too, the nose stretching by 160mm to house the charging socket behind the central flap. Just 50mm is to house it, some 80mm accountable for high-speed crash protection and the remaining 30mm to pass pedestrian impact tests.
The re-profiled bumper mates with wider front wings, the e-NV200’s front track some 40mm wider than its diesel relation. That’s thanks to the adoption of the Leaf’s front axle, which is specifically designed to house the electric motor.
Craig Paterson, vehicle layout specialist at Nissan’s Technical Centre Europe, says this has been done to keep costs reasonable, the e-NV200’s drivetrain as unchanged from the Leaf as possible, down to things like motor mounts, even though the e-NV200 wasn’t originally conceived as a plug-in EV.
The battery pack is modified slightly to fit under the floor, that bringing the centre of gravity down over its diesel relation, although the kerb weight rises by around 230kg as a result.
What is it like?
Get in and it’s like a van, the upright driving position with its excellent view and the steering wheel position both screaming ‘commercial vehicle’. Depending on specification, there are some Leaf refinements: the centre console containing Leaf-like detailing, air-conditioning controls and central screen.
The instruments too are similar, at least the details of battery capacity and driving modes – operated by both the Eco button and the gearstick. That stick is more conventional than the Leaf’s somewhat awkward button-shaped shifter, the auto stick offering Drive and B modes. The latter ups the energy scavenging regenerative effect to the point where with planning you can drive the e-NV200 around town without touching the brake pedal.
Like the Leaf it’s not silent, the electrical noise more obvious in the larger interior of the e-NV200, which is less insulated for sound.
Neither can the e-NV200 hide its van status, the plastics superficially looking okay, but undeniably built to last rather than provide appealing tactile quality. The drive is, somewhat unsurprisingly, van-like, although that low centre of gravity gives it a more stable feel in corners over its diesel relation, while the electric motor’s instantaneous response is always amusing.
It’ll manage the 0-62mph dash in 14 seconds, while top speed is 76mph – try to achieve these figures often, though, and you’ll be looking for a charger fairly quickly. Refinement is good, wind noise more obvious in the absence of dominant engine noise, the loss of vibration from the diesel motor the most significant gain. The steering steers and the brakes stop, which is pretty much all you could ask here, the suspension too riding decently.
Should I buy one?
The Nissan e-NV200 is all very predictable. It does everything a Leaf does, but with masses more space and a bit less sophistication on the road. If that appeals to you – and we can see why it might to some – then the e-NV200 Combi is the most practical EV you can buy.