Time to practise what we preach? Dan Gilkes plugs in to the future of van use with our long-term e-Dispatch.
As a magazine editor it is quite easy to preach about the benefits of an electric LCV. Whenever we try a new BEV van it is provided with a full battery and with a pre-planned route, that won’t result in range anxiety. It is therefore fairly easy to be positive about the benefits of going electric.
However, on the few occasions that we have had an EV for a longer test and have actually tried to drive further than a single battery charge, things have not always gone so well. Broken or inaccessible public charging points, or a total lack of them in some parts of the country, have led to stressful journeys with multiple stops. The only real light on the horizon has been Gridserve’s Electric Forecourt in Braintree, which works perfectly, though it isn’t always on my route to or from events.
So, when Citroen asked if we would like to run an e-Dispatch as a long-term van for five months, we jumped at the opportunity. Here was a chance to see exactly what day to day life with an EV really means. Of course, the current lockdown rules have limited travel to and from press events, but the e-Dispatch is still racking up the miles.
Our Medium length van has the larger 75kWh battery, promising up to 211 miles of range, though we have yet to see more than a promised 190 miles on the dash readout. In Perla Nera black, the van is in Driver specification, which brings an impressive list of standard kit. That includes air conditioning, electric windows and heated, folding mirrors, cruise control, a 7” touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple and Android compatibility, navigation, plus the Moduwork twin passenger seat with underseat storage and load-through steel bulkhead. We’ve also got front and rear parking sensors with a Visio Park rear view camera.
You get plenty of assistance, thanks to a Safety Pack of lane departure warning, speed limit recognition, intelligent speed adaptation, driver attention alert and smart beam headlights. Our van also has the Drive Assist Pack, with collision alert and active safety brake, along with the Security Pack, that includes advanced emergency braking and forward collision warning.
On the road it’s a pleasure to drive, the 136hp motor offering up 260Nm of instant torque to deliver rapid acceleration if needed. In effect it’s a single-speed automatic, so progress is smooth as well as silent and, by flicking the B button behind the gear selector, you can increase the regenerative braking effect to the point where you rarely need the foot brake in town.
I am still struggling to get a charging point installed at home, though that’s one for another report. Suffice to say my electricity supplier has now upgraded the main electrical supply box with a new cut-out switch (£158) and the power grid has sent an engineer to uprate the main fuse (free). Unfortunately, they discovered that the ‘tails’ from the external box to my fuseboard are not big enough, so a call to the electrician is hopefully going to see them upgraded too. Then all I’ll need is a charge point provider willing to help with the installation.
I have been able to slowly top up the charge, using the three-pin plug cable supplied with the van and have also discovered a public CCS 50kW rapid charger in town, though it’s not as cheap to use as a domestic supply.
While the range question is always the first one asked by friends and passers-by, few ever wonder what the van is like with a heavy load. This medium length van offers a load volume of 5.3m3, or 5.8m3 if you include the load-through facility. It is also capable of handling up to 1,000kg, which leaves little room for complaint.
While helping a sheltering bubbled relative with a house move recently, we managed to load the e-Dispatch to the roof, with all of those essential garage contents that seem to move from one house to the next without ever quite reaching the local tip. While the van certainly registered the weight from the driver’s seat in terms of body roll, there was almost no noticeable drop in performance. Having full torque at all times means that, even with a load on board, the e-Dispatch pulls strongly, though it did see the available mileage dropping more rapidly.
We’ll be reporting back each month, to let you know what it’s like living the EV life with the e-Dispatch. So far, the positives are outweighing the negatives.