Monday, August 10, 2015

Nissan e-NV200: Is this my Electric Minivan?

My search for an electric family car should start no further away than with the bigger, boxier cousin of my own Nissan Leaf.
Via Wikipedia Commons

The e-NV200 is a version of Nissan's NV cargo van built with the Leaf's motor and battery pack. It was originally unveiled at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show. It's a versatile platform that can be configured as a panel cargo van or a 5-seater. Recently Nissan revealed a 7-seat version. Then came along the Evalia package, which gives it quality touches like rear climate control, privacy glass and softer interior fabrics. Otherwise, it feels more like a utility vehicle than a family ride.

And it has functioned mostly as a utility vehicle to this point. In Europe, Asia and North America, Nissan has been loaning e-NV200s to power companies and postal services for testing. Some day soon, a regular person can buy one. Nissan is very quiet about a US release date.

But let's run a theoretical 7-passenger Evalia e-NV200 through our WIMEMV checklist.


Yup. The same motor, battery and front-mounted plug door as a Leaf. Plug it into a solar panel (or a windmill, if you have one) and it's a very clean, efficient way to travel.
Via Wikipedia Commons


True. Two up front, three in the middle and two in the back. The seats fold away to allow for a good bit of cargo. It will carry three bikes with the wheels on. If you're taking seven people on vacation, you may not have bunches of luggage room. Comparing it to other minivans is a little tricky. We have numbers on an NV200 cargo version, which is about 14-16 inches shorter than a Toyota Sienna or Dodge Grand Caravan. The 7-seat Nissan may be stretched out about a foot. It is a little narrower. Yet overall, it will carry more people and stuff than any other EV I can think of.
Photo by Karlis Dambrans via Flickr


The Evalia package should deliver the comfort and options consumers expect out of a minivan. The kids won't be happy if they're riding in the back of a construction vehicle.

The flexibility of this van, however, should be an advantage. My opinion is people have become way too caught up with extra stuff in their cars. Many doo-dads that have become compulsory I think are unnecessary and only extra expense. I'd like the option of buying a box with seats and a motor. I'll add on the extras I like and none of what I don't. The NV platform should give us lots of choices.


Estimates of price are only speculation, but this could start at around $35,000. With government and perhaps state incentives, that's a good price. Comparable to other vans but much cheaper to fuel and maintain. Compared to $100,000 or more for a Model X, it will be a great frugal choice.


This is where the bubble pops. Again, it's a Leaf underneath. It will have the same range or less when fully loaded. 80 miles or so. The efficiency will drop sharply at highway speeds, so this is not a road-trip car. Nice for getting around town but it will never take you away for the weekend. My Leaf works in my lifestyle because we have a Toyota Sienna for long trips with the whole crew.

Yet Nissan is talking about increasing the battery capacity. There certainly would be space underneath to double the 24kWh pack. Maybe more. There also could be a battery leasing option for those concerned about owning one.

I like the option of buying a battery to suit my needs and even upgrading if I want.
Photo by Karlis Dambrans via Flickr


The e-NV200 is a great step. It meets almost all of my needs in an electric minivan. The range is the big stinger. With a bigger pack comes increased weight and decreased performance. My Leaf is quick. The van should be a little slower. The van packing much more lithium-ion could be sluggish. Suddenly all the fun of driving an EV is gone.

But we're on our way. Next up: Tesla, Chrysler and more.


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