THE FUTURE OF FLEET
New year, new LCV fleet challenges
2023 is likely to be a lean year for new vans as most manufacturers are not expecting production to return to normal, following the shortages of components and materials, until 2024.
In such a quiet period it could be a good time to launch a new contract hire company and that is what a group of Renault Trucks dealers has done in establishing Vertellus. To give fleets a route into operating battery electric vehicles, Vertellus has formed a three-way partnership with Renault Trucks and EV fleet and battery storage specialist, Zenobē. The programme is called EV Discovery and initially, it will offer customers larger vehicles in the 16-18 tonne GVW range equipped with box, curtainsider and refrigerated bodies. The offer is supported with a temporary charging solution from Zenobē to manage vehicle charging. A 24-hour helpline and performance guarantee are also part of the deal.
Vertellus will include light vehicles in the Renault Trucks Red range which will include battery electric Trafic E-Tech and Master E-Tech models.
Among the launches expected in the UK next year is the new Ford Transit Custom and Ford E-Transit Custom. Electric versions will use a similar powertrain to the E-Transit launched this year, featuring rear-wheel-drive for the first time on a Transit Custom.
From 2024, the Custom will be fitted with electric motors mostly produced at Ford’s Halewood plant on Merseyside. The motors were designed at Ford’s E:PriME product development centre at the company’s Dunton UK Headquarters’ site in Essex. This site is currently building prototypes of the electric drive system and training Halewood employees in machining and assembly. Ford has raised capacity at the new plant from 230,000 to 420,000 of the electric motors per year. According to Ford, this means that 70 per cent of the 600,000 EVs that Ford expects to sell in Europe by 2026 will be powered by the motors built at Halewood. Globally, Ford plans to produce two million EVs per year by 2026.
Besides the new E-Transit Custom, the Halewood-built electric drive units will also power the Ford Puma, Transit Courier and Tourneo Courier. Halewood will supply the Ford Otosan plants in Romania and Turkey.
Halewood’s selection as a production site was Ford’s first in-house investment in all-electric vehicle component manufacturing in Europe. Ford is targeting carbon neutrality for the site from the start of production in 2024. Electricity and gas supplies are already produced from renewable sources and this will be further supplemented with the installation of solar panels, which will generate up to 1,782MWh.
A number of other electric models are also due to make an appearance next year. These include the Renault Kangoo E-Tech, Mercedes-Benz eCitan and Mercedes-Benz eSprinter.
The eSprinter is expected to make its debut in February 2023. In contrast to the present model with its restricted range, Mercedes-Benz tells us that the new eSprinter will be available with three battery capacities. The company will also offer a variety of body variants from panel van to chassis cab. According to Mercedes, the new eSprinter will offer much more flexibility.
Mercedes conducted a test drive of a new pre-production eSprinter to demonstrate its range potential. Using a high-roof, extra-long eSprinter, the vehicle completed a route from the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart to Munich Airport and back, a distance of 475km (295 miles) without re-charging. The journey was carried out by a Mercedes-Benz test driver with an inspector from TÜV Süd monitoring it from the passenger seat. At the end of the test, the vehicle’s instrument panel showed a remaining range of around 20km (12 miles). We will bring you more information on the new eSprinter as it becomes available.