Best Selling EV in Europe This Year May Be Utility Van
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.
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.
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.
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