With every major motor manufacturer aspiring to add an electric option to its LCV range, it is Peugeot who are looking increasingly at “home on the range”.
If in doubt let the expert do the talking, so they say, and with 25 years of pedigree, and impressive global sales behind it, Peugeot’s appropriately named light commercial vehicle offering clearly speaks for itself. The word on the street right now, of course, is all about its fully electric offering, which is based on the third-generation diesel model introduced in 2016. It’s the result of a collaboration of technical boffins within the Groupe PSA, the second largest vehicle manufacturer in the world, which has also led to very similar e vehicles being rolled out under the Vauxhall Vivaro and Citroen Dispatch brands. Those are for another day but, like the e-Expert itself, the French giants were quick off the mark to loan us a vehicle which would provide the opportunity to scrutinise some of its market leading claims, which have already earnt it the prestigious International Van of the Year 2021 Award.
Most significant of these, of course, concerns range – an impressive 211 miles on a full charge of the most powerful battery option, and around 140 miles for the smaller one. Those are amongst the highest available in electric vans currently. That’s a game changer in any one’s language and, on paper at least, means that businesses no longer have to compromise on practicality and eco ideology.
For us, one of the biggest issues always when testing electric vans, is, will it do what it says on the tin? With a diesel or petrol vehicle you fill up and when it says 450 miles, or whatever, you pretty much know within a mile or two that’s what it will achieve. Without exception, our anxiety levels have tended to keep pace with the average speed of the electric vehicle being driven.
Of course, with a projected range of over 200 miles those concerns are considerably less, but that early optimism can swiftly change with your foot hard down on the pedal. Our trip from HQ in Watford to picturesque Henley on Thames is a well-worn one and about 80 miles there and back. Admittedly, a significant part is on the motorway, but by the completion of the test we were showing less than 100 miles in reserve (a discrepancy of more than 20 miles). It’s by no means an exact science, of course, with load type and even ambient temperatures having a discernible effect on performance criteria. Driven carefully around town the drop out was significantly less, but it suggests that the elusive code hasn’t been fully cracked just yet.
As for the van and drive itself, it is hard to find any discernible faults. All electric vehicles take a little adjustment from the off, but Peugeot have cleverly dialled back on the often-startling instant response to make for a smoother ride in general. You can accelerate to 30mph before you know it, although it’s fair to say our vehicle came unladen, and there was a noticeable tail off at higher speeds. Nevertheless, given the weight of the batteries, Peugeot have done well to maintain over a tonne of payload on all versions, ranging from a 1,001kg up to 1,226kg. It can also tow up to 1,000kg and interior load space, depending on wheelbase, is up to a respectable 6.6m3. Charging with a 100kW fast charger will top up the larger battery from 15 to 80 per cent full in around 45 minutes.
It’s always essential in order to fully maximise performance, that you first comfortably familiarise yourself with the various driving modes. There are three with the e-Expert. The least powerful, Eco limits top speed, cuts off the air conditioning and throttles back power to just 82hp in a bid to extract the last drop of range. The default mode, Normal produces 109hp and sticking with this for most of our journey it was never found wanting. There’s a Power mode that unlocks the full potential of the electric motor but, of course, acceleration comes at a price, not least to those all-important anxiety levels.
One of the best things about electric is the smooth and almost insulated bubble-like operation, with no gears to worry about – simply, Park, Neutral, Drive and Reverse – all selected by a simple toggle. There is also a B mode which ramps up the regenerative braking for more pronounced slowing when the foot is removed from the accelerator, which again is probably the go to normal daily driving position.
One of the issues we have had previously when driving the Diesel version of the Expert has always been the slightly claustrophobic cab compared with its competitors, and it seems we may have to wait a bit longer for a full redesign with only small alterations made to accommodate the electric info data. The driver seat is pretty rigidly set and, although we didn’t try (social distancing and all that) one wouldn’t like to contemplate the prospect of three burley builders packed in on a long journey. Storage is a bit limited too.
For now at least going fully electric is an option which all businesses can weigh up and, despite the significant improvements consistently being made to range, and impressively low running, maintenance and servicing costs (The e-Expert comes with a standard three years or 100,000 miles warranty), it clearly won’t suit the daily requirements of everyone involved in transporting men and materials. But if you are thinking of making the leap in the not too distant future then be sure to call in an Expert first!
Three trim and size levels are offered with Prices starting at a very competitive £25,000 for entry level, rising to £34,400 top of the range models excluding VAT, but including discount from the UK Government’s Plug in Van grant.
For further information on the Peugeot e-Expert visit https://business.peugeot.co.uk/business-models/expert.html