An often overlooked segment with big growth potential given tightening pollution restrictions in urban areas, is the humble delivery van that automakers are increasingly sparing a thought for in the rush toward electric vehicles.
Many in the industry expect it will take at least a decade for electric vehicles (EVs) to win over mainstream car owners, given lingering consumer concerns about cost and charging infrastructure.
More vehicle makers see opportunities for faster take-up of EVs as delivery vehicles, taxis and other business uses in dense, urban areas as e-commerce begins to dominate the retail sector and cities clamp down on pollution.
a concept model of its e-NV200 electric van with refrigeration capabilities, designed to transport chilled food to restaurants and homes was unveiled by Nissan Motor Co, an early embracer of EV technology and maker of the Leaf, at the Tokyo Motor Show which opened to the public on Friday.
“Imagine if you have city access challenges, how will you get food delivered to restaurants, and goods to customers?” said Ashwani Gupta, head of the light commercial business at the automaking alliance of Nissan and France’s Renault SA.
“There’s no other option but to go electric.”
Gupta said that the refrigeration model is being planned to be launched in Japan next year by Nissan. Electric vans are already being marketed in Europe by Nissan and Renault.
And as big cities in China effectively ban gasoline and diesel trucks and vans in an effort to crack down on emissions, there is expectations that demand for electric vehicles will “explode” and hence Nissan is also looking to introduce the e-NV200 series in China in the near term.
Although Ford Motor Co wants to drive its truck-making China partner Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) more toward electric commercial vans, the country’s electric light commercial vehicle market has yet to be tapped by major foreign automakers currently.
And already selling its eCanter electric light-duty truck in the United States, Europe and Japan, where it targets transport delivery services and convenient stores is Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation, majority owned by Germany’s Daimler AG.
When it designed its LCV D-Cargo concept model, the harried delivery van driver was in the thoughts of Toyota Auto Body, a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor Corp, as increases demand for e-commerce creates more work for delivery services.
“We set out to make the delivery truck more comfortable for drivers,” said Ichiro Mukai, who worked on the model’s design.
“In the past home deliveries mainly centered around larger parcels, but recently, a big increase in the number of deliveries has come just as people are getting smaller parcels delivered,” he said, adding that this had increased the workload of drivers.
The model’s futuristic design can be adapted to operate as an all-battery electric and is based on Toyota’s gasoline-hybrid minivan models marketed in Japan.
(Adapted from Reuters)