LONDON -- Geely's London taxi firm aims to double production at its UK plant with the introduction of a van using the same plug-in hybrid drivetrain as its TX eCity taxi.
The London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) is betting that increasing numbers of cities across Europe will go beyond diesel restrictions to limit certain areas to zero-emissions capable vehicles only.
"The desire for cleaner air in the cities is driving legislation. That's going to drive the economics [of the van]," LEVC CEO Chris Gubbey told journalists at the announcement of the van on Wednesday in London.
LEVC is targeting the one-ton van market, currently led by Ford's diesel-powered Transit Custom. Production of the unnamed van will start in the final quarter of next year, LEVC said. Ford is developing a plug-in hybrid version of the Transit Custom that will also launch in 2019.
Production of the van will reach 5,000 a year at LEVC's new Coventry, central UK plant by around 2022, Gubbey predicted. The taxi will be produced at the same rate.
LEVC started selling the TX eCity taxi in London at the beginning of the year after city authorities mandated that all new black cabs should be zero-emissions capable.
The taxi uses a 31KWh lithium ion battery for a claimed electric-only range of 129 km (80 miles), LEVC claims. A 1.5-liter gasoline engine charges the battery to extend the range to 606 km (377 miles). LEVC shares suppliers with Volvo, also owned by Geely, to minimize costs.
The van will use the same technology to give a similar electric-only range, depending on the weight of goods being carried. LEVC claims the van's lightweight aluminum architecture also shared with the taxi will mean it'll have a comparable payload to a conventional diesel van, despite the extra weight of the batteries.
LEVC didn't disclose the van's cost, but it's expected to be substantially more than an equivalent one-ton diesel van. The taxi costs 55,599 pounds ($74,140) in the UK.
Gubbey said the van would be measured on its lower running costs compared to a diesel van, rather than purchase price. "You're paying for this lightweight structure, battery pack, electrical system on top of the engine. There is a purchase-price difference, and if you look at that you might [be shocked] – but with total cost of ownership it looks better," he said.
LEVC said the ownership costs will further improve if the van is used in areas such as central London, where zero-emission capable vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge payment. It will avoid the additional Ultra Low Emission Zone charge in London due to be enforced from April 2019. From July this year, two areas in the London boroughs of Hackney and Islington will also restrict traffic to zero-emissions capable vehicles at rush-hour times.
Electric vans are increasingly being developed my manufacturers for use in urban delivery situations. StreetScooter, a company set by the Deutsche Post DHL Group to build delivery vans specific to its needs, has branched into supplying other firms and recently secured a contract to supply 200 vehicles to a diary company in the UK to deliver milk.
LEVC said it plans to be exporting around half its UK-built vans and taxis to Europe and other markets by 2022. The company has won orders for its taxis in Oslo, Norway, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In July, it will start selling the taxi in Germany, Gubbey said. LEVC will start producing a variant of the taxi in a new plant in China at the end of next year.