Modified Citroen Berlingo Electric Van Sets Range Record at 621 Miles

By · November 08, 2011

Electric Citroen Berlingo

Modified Citroen Berlingo electric van sets range record with 621-mile trip.

Limited range is often described as the Achilles' heel of pure electric cars. For routine daily driving of my Nissan LEAF, I almost never feel impinged by its 80 or so miles of range. But once every few weeks, an additional 50 or 60 miles would come in extremely handy.

BEA-tricks, a German company that sells electric car conversion kits, recently demonstrated that nearly any amount of range is possible, if cost and practicality are thrown out the door. That's great to know, but the key question remains: What's the best combination of EV range and price?

BEA-tricks, headed by engineer Daniel Sperling (no relation to the CARB board member), fitted a standard Citroen Berlingo van with 10 lithium-ion battery packs that typically power the Smart Electric Drive. The resulting electric Berlingo van carried a whopping 180 kilowatt-hours' worth of batteries, which consumed almost the entire rear compartment of the vehicle. Even the cheapest assessment of what that amount of energy storage costs would put the Berlingo's oversized battery pack price in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars.

Modified Citroen Berlingo van packed with batteries

Batteries consume most of the Citroen Berlingo's cargo area.

Two BEA-tricks' drivers hopped in the electric van and headed from Flensburg, Germany to eCarTec's facility in Munich. The 621-mile trek took 17 hours—all on a single charge. "We still had charge remaining. We could have gone another hundred miles, no problem," said Sperling. "We made the drive under real conditions in normal every-day traffic."

Sperling claims that this record is more relevant to the average consumer than some of the other existing range records, because the BEA-tricks van drove on public roads with commercially available batteries, rather than with prototype equipment or on closed tracks.
For much of the route, the modified Berlingo cruised along on public roads at speeds between 30 and 50 miles per hour.

I suppose the demonstration has some PR value—potentially grabbing the attention of the public and dispelling the myth that it's absolutely impossible to use an EV for long-distance travel. Mostly, it's just good but very expensive fun, with little practical relevance. At this stage of the game, I'm not looking for a quantum leap in EV range. I'd simply like to see a relatively affordable electric car—maybe about the same cost as a LEAF—with range in the neighborhood of 120 to 150 miles. I know that it's just a matter of time—perhaps three years, right about the time when my lease of the LEAF finishes—before battery costs come down and make that a reality.

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