Tested: Pre-Production VW e-Crafter – For Hard-Headed Fleet Managers?

There’s one common factor with fleet managers all over the world and that is emotion does not come into their vehicle buying process – money does.

That’s why Volkswagen has put automated emergency braking (AEB) across its light commercial vehicle range as a standard feature. It did this, because some of its big fleet clients reported their data that showed the extra cost of adding the safety feature to their vehicles, when it was an optional extra, was far outweighed by the costs of repairs on top of vehicle and driver out-time following accidents.

So, it’s to these hard-headed fleet managers that the forthcoming VW e-Crafter all-electric LCV will have to formulate a convincing business proposition. I got to test drive the pre-production model VW UK brought to its media range sampler day at the Millbrook Proving Ground for the auto industry near Bedford about 40 miles north of London.

It’s a large 3.5-tonnes high-top van and yet lives happily with the BEV powertrain lifted straight out of the family hatchback e-Golf. VW claims the e-Crafter has been tailored to typical city operation with its 100 kW (136 PS) power, 290 Nm torque output, a claimed range of up around 70 miles and top speed limited to 56 mph. A lithium-ion battery is integrated into the underbody, meaning the standard vehicle’s cargo volume is a healthy 10.7 m3 losing just 0.6 m3 to the ICE equivalent siblings. A maximum payload of between 1.0 and 1.75 tonnes is available.

On the Alpine test track of Millbrook, the big van performed very well being light to steer and stable through the mix of fast sweeping bends and tight hairpin turns. More importantly for the powertrain assessment, the course’s hills were taken fairly well. Power management driving is also advised to preserve the vehicle’s charge levels, so running downhill provides the chance to regenerate the battery’s electricity levels and extend the vehicle’s potential range.

That said, you have to anticipate the climbs in advance because, if you don’t, the electric motor just doesn’t have enough grunt to accelerate up the inclines and would be easily humbled by most its diesel rivals. It’s worth pointing out that the test was with an empty cargo bay, so these deficiencies will only be exacerbated when a full load is on-board.

However, for fleet managers whose vehicles work in urban environments untroubled by mountainous inclines, the e-Crafter could be a serious option. Provided, of course, the fleet has its own dedicated charging infrastructure because, certainly in the UK where there is just one public charger for every eight EVs on the road, the manager will not be able to rely on the in-work charging options currently available.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


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