Best Selling EV in Europe This Year May Be Utility Van

By · October 24, 2012

Electric Renault Kangoo from the French postal service

Electric Renault Kangoo from the French postal service

Much has been said already about the sales of the Nissan LEAF falling short of expectations. Europe and the U.S. are pretty equal, and sales for this full year should be well below 10,000 cars here or there. The difference in Europe is that there are several other EVs on the market, with one of them so successful that it may see more sales than the Japanese car. This is the Renault Kangoo Z.E. and it's not a passenger car. It's a utility, a compact van, and its success may not be a good signal for the electric car.

A few companies or public utilities, the largest being the French postal service, have bought many electric Kangoos. It's certainly a positive move to put many EVs in the streets, but the negative sign is that those EVs have been bought by people who will never drive them. Some business managers have a green motivation though. They want a cleaner fleet because they are concerned with climate change, reducing CO2 emissions and all that. They want to act and they do, but others have bought a few EVs only because it's good PR. There may be more hope with the employees. Those who now drive EVs daily because it's their job might be enticed to buy an EV for their personal needs, but it's too early to say for sure.

Electric Citroen Berlingo

Electric Citroen Berlingo

On the other hand, utility vehicles may be the biggest chance the electric car has ever seen because it is the opportunity for EVs to financially prove themselves. Companies want vehicles that are cheap to run, and business managers are very familiar with the idea of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This is precisely where the electric car is known to shine.

Buyers pay a lot upfront for an EV, but then it cost peanuts to run, with low maintenance and cheap fuel (electricity). That's the way it could work, but unfortunately, this scheme is not true anymore. That's because Renault decided not to sell any EV with its battery. The battery is rented at a minimal cost of €72 each month ($93), a sum which can double to €145 ($187) for someone who drives over 20,000 miles per year. With the high price of automotive fuels in Europe, Renault says an electric remains cheaper to use than a diesel. And of course it's far greener. Other car manufacturers have made the same calculations, and they will soon compete with Renault's Kangoo. PSA Peugeot-Citroen, has already announced an electric version of its Partner and Berlingo models (Citroen model shown). Nissan will launch its electric NV200 next year (the same minivan that is now operating as a taxi in New York). That will make four electric compact vans on the market.

Nissan electric NV200 concept

Nissan electric NV200 concept

And there may be enough demand for all of them. It's obvious there are tens of thousands of professionals who never drive more than 100 km (60 miles) a day. They work on fixed hours, and they have a designated parking for each of their vehicle. All that makes them the best possible customers for EVs. So there's no doubt that the utility market will remain strong for EVs for several years, and it may begin with a bang in the form of the EV sales crown this year. We'll find out next January.


· · 4 years ago

I think the plan to rent the batteries is not bad at all. If anything ever goes wrong with them it's not the Owner's problem or worry. You're probably still saving money and the added benefit of not having to worry about the costs of a new pack.

And quite honestly, the teeny engines they put in the American versions of these vehicles (Like the Ford Transit) is easily put to shame by an electric motor's torque. I'd imagine that drivers would have positive things to say about that considering how they complain now!

· Bill Howland (not verified) · 4 years ago

Business wise a utility van EV makes perfect sense in France. Electricity is not much more i'm told than in the States, but gas is twice the cost. Pretty soon all commercial vehicles will be EV there.

· · 4 years ago

In Silicon Valley, not only do we see Leaf and Volt every day, but I also frequently see the Smith Electric delivery trucks. I think the only EVs on the market that I haven't seen in the wild around here are the Transit Connect Electric and the RAV4 EV. The RAV is very new on the market and the TCE may not be easy to distinguish from regular ones.

· · 3 years ago


I think we can be more optimistic than you imply - yes, the Kangoo ZE van is selling well, but that doesn't take away from electric cars. Rather, it confirms that the headline should probably be 'Best Selling EV in Europe This Year Will Be a Renault'. Renault have come along after Nissan and its Leaf, but it has jumped in with both feet. Renault launched the Kangoo and it's selling well. It released the Fluence, but its poor sales only reflect the fact it was produced for BetterPlace and doesn't suit the European market which likes hatchbacks. Renault launched the Twizy, and it's selling well. Renault is currently launching the Zoe and advanced orders are looking very strong (at least 5,000 so we're getting into Tesla territory). Overall I think the European (ok, Renault) EV market is looking very good and the Zoe is going to be a huge success.

In particular I think Renault's innovative policy of leasing the battery rather than including it in the upfront costs is a stroke of genius and will win them the market.


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