As an experiment in trying to find a less polluting way of doing all our running around I bought the only electric van I could find at the beginning of 2021. I thought people might find this journey interesting. It’s a 2015 Nissan e-nv200 and I bought it with a little over 20,000km on the clock. I’ve since added about 10,000 km.
I originally looked at the only factory electric van on the market the Renault Kangoo, but the price was just a bit hard to justify for a business the size of ours. So I took a chance and bought a Japanese import vehicle from an importer in Queensland that had one in stock. The process was a little painful but we got there in the end. The van is actually a 7-seater with an upper-end trim spec that includes a separate air conditioning unit in the rear of the vehicle for the back seat passengers. It can only be registered as a 4-seater vehicle in Victoria because of its compliance plate. That was an annoying thing to find out but taking the seats in and out isn’t very difficult as they bolt in. As it is mainly used as a van I have removed all five of the rear seats.
The situation for importing has improved since I did this with a few more e-nv200s around thanks to companies like The Good Car co.
When you sell electric bikes there are often a few standard questions around range and charge times. When people ask me about the van these are often the same questions that get asked. So here goes.
The van has a nominal 24kWh battery (approx 400v DC and 290kg) so not so easy to take out and swap over like a typical Bosch or Shimano. It has lost some capacity from new and now only has about 19kWh left. When fully charged the distance meter shows 135km of range available. It mostly gets used for short trips driving between our warehouse and shop and my house all in the inner north of Melbourne. I have driven 55km there and 55km back to a delivery and it made it ok. Around town the regen helps and I usually get a week between charges. My partner and I share it as we use bikes for the majority of journeys!
We have solar at our house so I only charge the van at weekends when there is enough power coming out of the inverter to charge the battery, takes most of the day if it is really flat. I have used some of the charging stations around Brunswick to test the fast charging with the Chademo port but it is rare that there isn’t a bunch of Teslas using the charge stations so I pretty much use the Nissan granny charger at home all the time.
Towing with an electric vehicle
For a small van, it is surprisingly spacious. I can get 4 bikes in boxes in the back and the front passenger seat folds flat so you can get some long objects in if needed. I also fitted roof racks. I had to adapt these from some that I found in hard rubbish but they are very useful. The problem with Japanese import vehicles is there are less aftermarket parts available.
We attend a few shows and events so already own a small box trailer. It is aluminium and quite light. I had to source a Towbar from the US (intended for the petrol NV 200) and fitted that myself originally just to use a bike rack but I tested how it towed the trailer and had no problem at all. It does impact range of course but for hauling often larger than average bikes and trikes around it is great. The van has plenty of torque so towing is straightforward.
So far the costs of running the van have been very low. I changed the final drive transmission oil just in case and the 12v battery died early on so I had to replace that but essentially zero fuel costs since purchase have made it very cheap. No other servicing needed so far. Paying the Vic government road usage levy (ZLEV) charge has been annoying but I have complied and paid up.
Finding an insurer that will deal with a Japanese import was harder than I thought but the RACV insure it. If it were a Nissan Leaf it might be easier but I really needed the van body.
If you have any questions feel free to email me via the shop email and i’ll happily answer.