As electric vehicle sales increase as a percentage of the overall vehicle market, manufacturers will be able to diversify their model ranges into lower volume market segments.
One niche offering which used to be popular in Australia is the car-based small ‘panel van’. (Think Holden Gemini van or Ford Escort van from the 70’s, or even the Barina based Holden Combo van). In Europe, Renault in the early 2000’s even offered a rather useful 2 door panel van version of their Clio small car. (The van version was never brought to Australia).
A sign that this is beginning to happen in the EV world is the new offering from Renault Europe – they have just announced a light van version of their popular Renault Zoe ZE50 5 door hatch.
Whilst the idea is a laudable one – to offer a small car-sized light delivery vehicle with the versatility of an easily accessed flat floor area up to the front seats, a cargo barrier and side access doors – the execution does seem to leave a bit to be desired.
Overall, it comes across more as an aftermarket package to fit into a standard 5 door Zoe hatch than a dedicated panel van. (Presumably the development costs to create a more fully integrated version cannot be justified yet).
However, it will make an excellent gap-filler for those businesses that want an EV with light delivery capacity but with a normal car-like driver position and feel. (A vehicle type that till now was absent in EV form).
Renault are offering the Zoe van with simplified trim and specification levels plus steel wheels to keep the price down – so making it more attractive to the dollar conscious business market over a standard spec Zoe ZE50, especially given the easy access, flat boot floor with tie-downs and cargo barrier.
The next question is to wonder if Renault Australia will make it an offering when they eventually bring the ZE50 Zoe to Australia. (Currently only the superseded ZE40 Zoe is offered here, whilst the ZE50 has been on sale in Europe since late 2019).
What will also be interesting to watch is when the EV percentage of the overall market reaches the tipping point where manufacturers can justify tipping more into their development budgets.
That will be the point when we see the proliferation of EV models across all segments and niche areas. Perhaps then we will see a more dedicated version of what is probably best described now as a useful, if ‘toe-in-the-water’, idea.
|Basic specifications of the Zoe van over a standard ZE50 Zoe hatch|
|Total load volume:||1m3|
|Load area length x width:||1,205mm x 1,110mm|
|Protection:||Rubber flooring in the load area, four anchorage points on the floor, cargo barrier|
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.