UK’s largest ever electric commercial vehicle pilot launched in North East

Nissan and preferred training partner Gateshead College, together with British Gas and Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions, have launched the country’s largest electric commercial vehicle trial.

The pilot of 28 Nissan e-NV200 vans will test the future viability of 100% electric vehicle technology as part of British Gas’ fleet of 13,000 home service vans.

Running from this month (November), the trial of the zero emission vehicles will roll out nationwide until April 2014, to assess how the vans perform in winter conditions during typical British Gas home services daily usage patterns.

If successful, it could see British Gas order in excess of 400 Nissan e-NV200 vans. Such a move will significantly reduce British Gas’ use of fossil fuel as part of its continued championing of future technology.

As part of the pilot, Gateshead College delivered all of the training to British Gas drivers to ensure they are fully briefed on how to drive and live with the e-NV200. They were taught how to work safely with the vehicles, how to meet the challenges and risks of working with a high-voltage battery and how the technology of an EV differed from that of a regular car.

The training took place at the college’s Washington-based Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing and Innovation (SASMI), which is located near the Nissan plant and is Europe’s leading facility for training in low carbon vehicle (LCV) development.

Mick Brophy, managing director of business, innovation & development at Gateshead College, said: “We are proud to be a part of this flagship development in low carbon technology. If Britain is to continue to lead the world in the development and adoption of cleaner vehicles, we must also provide top-quality training for the people who will design, build and service them.

“Our purpose-built Skills Academy for Sustainable Manufacturing Innovation – the UK’s first education centre dedicated to the clean technologies sector - was perfectly equipped to deliver this type of training, which was tailored to meet the needs of British Gas and Nissan.”

Nissan has been globally piloting the e-NV200 for two years ahead of the van going on sale to the public next year.

The vehicle is a breakthrough zero emission compact van that promises an 80% reduction in fuel costs  while also helping the environment by bringing CO2 emissions down to zero at the point of use. As British Gas home services engineers operate within a defined zone, the Nissan e-NV200 can easily operate within a British Gas’ daily usage pattern on just one charge.

Jim Wright, Nissan GB managing director, said: “We’re proud to be providing the vehicles for the UK’s largest ever electric commercial vehicle pilot in conjunction with our strategic partners. Piloting such a large number of vans exclusively with British Gas in advance of the e-NV200 going on sale in 2014 underlines the closeness of our relationship and marks the final stages of the vehicle’s development.

“Our engineers will take the feedback of the British Gas drivers to ensure we launch a vehicle perfectly suited to British road and business conditions. With an expected harsh winter ahead, the 28 Nissan e-NV200s will be delivering home services around the country whatever the weather, demonstrating how strongly the 100% electric van can perform for large fleets with challenging daily routines.”

As the UK’s largest ever electric commercial vehicle trial to date, the winter test underlines the importance of the relationship between Nissan and British Gas.

Colin Marriott, general manager fleet at British Gas said: “We’re committed to leading the industry in reducing the amount of carbon and other harmful tail pipe emissions emitted by our 13,000-strong vehicle fleet, This trial, the largest of its kind in the UK, is a great opportunity for us to understand how the Nissan e-NV200 vans perform during the winter as we move towards our goal of having at least 10% of our fleet running on electricity by 2015.

“We have worked closely with Nissan and Hitachi Capital to ensure that the Nissan e-NV200 is ready to support our engineers during even the most demanding of winter conditions. All 28 have also been provided with a British Gas home charging point and access cards to public infrastructure to keep the vehicles charged up. I would like to thank Nissan, Hitachi Capital and Gateshead College who have all supported us to make this trial a reality.”

As part of a long-standing contract to manage the entire fleet for Centrica, British Gas’ parent company, Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions’ dedicated British Gas team has been involved with extensive testing to prove the concept and played a key role in rolling out to engineers and then providing on-going 24-hour support.

Jon Lawes, Hitachi Capital Commercial Vehicle Solutions divisional managing director, said: “We have enjoyed a long relationship with Centrica and the British Gas team, and if this pilot proves a success it could mark a tipping point in the evolution of the commercial electric vehicle market. 

“After working closely with British Gas, Nissan and Gateshead College to set up the pilot we will continue to play a major part in monitoring its progress throughout the winter months before analysing the results with our strategic partners and deciding on next steps.”