Green van, man: we put the fully electric LDV EV80 to the test
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
Among battle-hardened, fetishist motoring enthusiasts it’s a dirty, poisonous word — a representation of the modern car’s decline.
Among everyone else, however, refinement is a lovely thing. It represents perhaps the biggest advancement in cars over the past few decades. New cars don’t rattle about like mum’s old 323, and we thank refinement for that.
Only, there’s one segment of the motoring world that refinement hasn’t worked its magic on — the trade vehicle.
Few cars on New Zealand roads travel more kilometres than the proverbial one-tonne ute or refrigerator-white van. Yet, they remain the least refined vehicles on our roads thanks to the prevalence of juddering, loud, diesel engines.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise the LDV EV80 makes a lot of sense to me.
As the garish comedy sign-writing subtly suggests, the EV80 is a fully electric vehicle. It can be obtained in either a chassis-cab or van format, and is the only vehicle of its kind available new in New Zealand.
Putting the engine tech to one side for a moment, there isn’t a heck of a lot to this thing. Open the cab doors and you’re greeted with a utilitarian dashboard that houses air conditioning, a radio, and ... not much else.
I know these things are meant to be simple in their nature, but as tested the EV80 comes with a $80,490 price tag. That’s a lot of money — almost twice the price of its regulation 2.5-litre turbo-diesel cousin.
Late last year we drove LDV’s T60 ute, and with a sticker price of 40 grand, it impressed with its lashings of equipment. Ripping the infotainment and reverse-camera from it, and chucking it into the EV80 would do wonders for the interior — for seemingly limited investment.
But really, discussions on the interior’s merits miss the point. The key element of the EV80 is that electric motor.
It’s a permanent magnet synchronous unit, mated to a 56kWh lithium iron phosphate battery system. Together, this puts out 100kW of power and 320Nm of torque — almost identical to the manufacturer’s 2.5-litre turbo-diesel alternative.
Range? That’s an odd one to answer. LDV’s initial claims used to be in 300km per charge ballpark. But since then the number has been dialled back to between 150km and 180km per charge.
Given LDV New Zealand’s test vehicle was a pre-production sample that wouldn’t be able to plug into our traditional socket, we weren’t able to fully test range claims. But based on the trajectory of our mileage, regularly achieving something towards the higher side of that 150-180km spread is easily possible.
The obvious question is whether that range is enough for traditional van buyers, and it’s hard to be definitive in an answer.
Those based in Auckland, particularly around the central city, should be smitten. Factor in a charge over lunch (two hours will fill it back up to the brim) and a charge overnight, and the EV80 makes good, green, sense.
Those working in the country’s wide expanses, however, may struggle — particularly given the lack of charging infrastructure away from home.
On the plus side (battery puns, always a good laugh), contrary to some other electric and hybrid vehicles LDV’s battery system doesn’t compromise space. That’s because instead of housing the batteries inside the van’s commodious rear end, they’re mounted underneath.
“Bellying” the EV80 on a kerb, it goes without saying, is probably not recommended.
This means the van retains its impressive cargo area specs — 10.4m3, in the case of our mid-spec long-wheelbase tester.
Where owners do lose out, however, is payload. With torquey diesel power replaced with electric, the haulage potential of the LDV slips from 1419kg to 1000kg in this midsize variant.
But don’t, for a second, assume that means the EV80 is a slug.
Stomp on the not-so-loud pedal, and this hulking van accelerates from a static start to 50km/h with surprising gusto — easily quick enough to channel each and every “white van man” stereotype. And once you’re moving, the subsequent driving experience is surprisingly stable and assured.
We’re not talking “ludicrous mode” levels of performance insanity here, but the EV80’s pace is still impressive. And, more impressive is what putting an electric motor into a trade-orientated vehicle does for refinement.
In general driving, the EV80 is almost perfectly quiet. Under stiff power applications there’s a gentle hum, and at motorway speeds the huge wing mirrors produce a bit of wind noise. To pilot a vehicle such as this in almost complete silence — coupled with the stability and poise already present on the platform underneath — is bliss, and a radical shift over the norm.
Refinement might be a dirty word among those seeking driving thrills. But, in the EV80’s arena, it’s the future.
2018 LDV EV80
Price: $80,490 as tested
Pros: Drives like an enormous cloud, huge capacity and practicality, zero emissions
Cons: Pricing, range could be a hard sell, reduced payload, lack of toys