With British Gas recently ordering 2,000 Vauxhall Vivaro-e’s, it’s clear that electric vans are here to stay. Alongside sister brands Citroen & Peugeot, Vauxhall bought the Vivaro-e to market in 2020. Thanks to Covid 19, we didn’t get to drive one in 2020 but took delivery of a Vivaro-e Elite 3100 75kWh in February 2021, so that we could see what all the fuss is about.
The all-electric Vauxhall Vivaro-e looks pretty much the same as a diesel Vivrao & comes in two trim levels; Dynamic & Elite. It’s also offered in two lengths, L1H1 & L2H1, two bodies, Van & Double Cab & with two battery sizes, 50kWh or 75kWh.Vauxhall claim a range for the larger battery of 205 miles. which will they believe be the more popular option.
It is based on the EMP2 multi-energy platform with exactly the same load volume ability as the internal combustion engine Vivaro. The payload ranges from 1,000kg on the L1H1 Elite Panel Van 3100 with the 75kWh battery, rising to 1,226kg on the L1H1 Dynamic Panel Van 3100 with the 50kWh battery. Uniquely in the market for all-electric LCVs, Vivaro-e is capable of towing up to one tonne.
Battery choice & range.
The electric motor produces 136hp (100kW) & 260Nm of torque. The 50kW battery powered Vivaro-e, offers 144 miles of all-electric range in WLTP conditions, including a half payload, whilst the larger 75kW battery offers 205 miles of range. With an average annual fleet mileage of 20,000 miles, both battery sizes are built to cope with the daily weekday mileage of 76 miles.
As far as charging time goes, 100kW charging capability is available as standard, so if you are lucky enough to charge your Vivaro-e this way, rapid charging of the 50kW battery from zero to 80% takes 32 minutes, whilst rapid charging the 75kW battery takes 48 minutes. The on board charger is 7.4kW, so charging at home on the most common 7.4kW wall box will take 11 hours & 20-minutes. Three-phase 11kW charging is available as an option, so if you have the more powerful wall box then this would speed things up. And, connected services are available via the MyVauxhall App. This allows you to remote charge your van when the electricity costs are lower, such as during the night. The App, also gives customer’s the ability to temperature pre-condition the cabin before setting off, which is especially useful in Winter.
The Dynamic model features automatic transmission, with e-toggle shift; electric parking brake; electronic stability programme with traction control; ABS with electronic brake force distribution; hill start assist; driver & front passengers’ airbag & remote control central deadlocking. In addition, there is a multi-function trip computer with 3.5″ digital instrument cluster, plus a multimedia infotainment unit with 7″ colour touchscreen, Digital radio/AM/FM stereo radio, Bluetooth connectivity & steering wheel mounted audio & phone controls.
Elite adds a driver drowsiness alert system, a panoramic rear-view camera, SatNav, a Head-up display, Lane Departure Warning, front parking sensors, autonomous emergency braking, 17″ alloys & metallic paint.
Access to the load area comes via a nearside & offside sliding doors & twin solid rear doors. Elite versions add the Vauxhall FlexCargo load-through bulkhead, so longer items can slide under the front passenger seat. The cabin has some decent storage space as well, with large door pockets, a dash top lidded compartment, two corner-dash mounted cup holders, an open glove box, with extra storage space located under the passenger seat.
Climb aboard & you’ll notice that the electric Vivaro features a slightly different instrument cluster than the diesel model. The information in the instrument cluster illustrates the vans remaining range & gives you a power meter instead of a rev counter. This enables the driver to know how much energy is being used whenever you accelerate & on the flip-side, the amount you’re gaining whenever you slow down. There’s also a gauge to show you how much battery energy the heating & ventilation system is consuming. Forward or reverse movement is undertaken via push-buttons for Drive, Reverse, Park & Brake Regen, with a switch close by for the driving modes.
Talking of which, drivers can select one of three driving modes, Power, offering increased performance for heavier loads, Normal for daily use & Eco which gives the driver the best optimised settings to use the lowest energy consumption.
When you set off, the Vivaro-e always starts in Normal mode. This setting restricts the motor to 80kW, equivalent to 109hp. Change into the Eco setting & this further reduces the motor to 60kW or 81.5hp lowering the on board temperature, which reduces the power consumption. Switch to Sport mode & the power increases, with the full 100kW or 136hp on offer.
We believe that the best way to get the most out of your electric Vivaro, is to drive it in Eco mode wherever possible, whilst utilising the vans built in brake regeneration. These settings are especially useful on the motorway, where you can select cruise control & settle in at 60mph or below, which really is the speed to best conserve battery range. If you can resist the temptation to go above 60mph whilst on the motorway, you’ll see a return of 1 mile of distance travelled for 1 mile of range used. Top speed is limited to 81 mph.
Even though the Vivaro-e is nippy, especially from a standing start, around town, or on A & B roads, the battery range improves. As you slow down more often, the brake regeneration kicks in more regularly & you can idle up to junctions & roundabouts whilst the battery recharges. We found that if you travelled 40 miles like this, you’d only use 27 miles of the van’s range.
As far as ride & comfort go, the Vivaro-e is excellent. Perhaps the twin front passenger seats are a little cramped,especially if you’re sat in the middle, but otherwise the cabin is a nice place to be. All controls fall easily to hand & you soon get used to the range & power monitors as you make progress.
We connected our iPhone via USB, to capitalise on Apple CarPlay & were able to make & receive hands-free calls on the move. The four speakers on board offer clear reception, so coupled with zero engine noise, conversations are a pleasure rather than a chore. CarPlay’s Google Maps is markedly better than Vauxhalls own SatNav system as well.
Pros & Cons
Compared to the carrying capability, towing strength & driving range of a diesel Vivaro, the Vivaro-e comes a poor second. However, that is not the comparison one should make. In the electric van sector, the Vivaro-e is the leader of the pack. It offers the best range, coupled to the best carrying capacity with the same internal dimensions as the ICE Vivaro, so a volume of 5.8 – 6.6 cubic metres. It’s also good to drive, comes well equipped & being electric, it’s cheap to run & to repair.
The two main negatives are cost, our test van cost £43,840 & charging time from zero to full, takes over 11 hours for the 75kW battery version using a 7.4kW home charger. To negate the cost, electricity is far cheaper than diesel, although it will take some time for the cost benefit here to kick in. And, as regards charging times, not running your Vivaro-e’s battery down below 20%, will give you a reduced charging time & if you have the option to fit more powerful wall boxes at your place of work, this will make a big difference as well.
In 2021, if you are looking for a medium electric vans, then the Vivaro-e should be in pole position. You’ll need to adapt your driving to make the most of the electric range, which means avoiding motorway speeds above 60mph, driving mostly in Eco mode, whilst utilising the ‘B’ brake regeneration function wherever possible. Around town, in slow-moving traffic, or on the outskirts of our towns & cities, the range improves & it’s much better proposition. Like all EV’s, cold weather reduces battery range, so also be aware of that. As regards servicing & repairs, with less moving parts your battery-powered Vivaro should be cheaper to service as well. Take all of these things into consideration & you should find life with an electric van a breeze.