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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nissan Electric Van Event

Nissan and Portland General Electric (PGE) held a joint Ride & Drive press event on June 11th, 2014 in Portland Oregon for the e-NV200 electric van. Nissan was handing over the keys to PGE for a 6 week evaluation program. Here is my photo-blog of the event:

The event was held at PGE HQ at the Portland World Trade Center building.

The key is officially handed off; she doesn't want to let go. After a couple laughs, Charlie eventually wins the key from her.  

This is one of only two e-NV200 vans currently in the United States. The other one is in the same evaluation program at FedEx in Washington DC. These two vans will travel the US for about a year and they will get new "owners" every 6 to 8 weeks. This will allow Nissan to collect feedback from many companies, large and small. The FedEx van is next scheduled to go to a family owned bakery. The bakery owners are Leaf drivers in their personal lives. Soon they'll be able to drive electric at work too. 
Charlie Allcock of PGE behind the wheel. Charlie (an EV driver himself) said that PGE would love to get some of these permanently and if they were available today he would order them immediately. 
The van has plenty of room for tools and equipment. Sidebar #1, I didn't like the name e-NV200. It just seemed like a jumble of letters to me, but it is a fleet vehicle, so I guess a cool name is not as important. Later, I started thinking about it as Electric Nissan Van (eNV) and the name made more sense. 
I was told about the van arriving at PGE a couple a couple of weeks ago under a "press embargo". This meant that I could not disclose the information until this event. However, if you are someone that reads the MyNissanLeaf forum, then you might have read the posts by the PGE driver of the van. He loved it so much that he posted photos, talked about his experiences, and answered questions about it. I guess someone forgot to tell him about the embargo. It has been said that driving an EV can quickly turn you into an EV advocate. This van is no exception.
It was my turn for a test drive. I was surprised just how much like the Leaf it felt. I had the "EV grin". I assumed a work van would have stiffer suspension and a rougher ride but it felt just as smooth. The acceleration was also similar to my Leaf's. It has the same motor, so this is not surprising. I thought perhaps this one would be geared lower. It even stopped smoother than my 2011 Leaf. This is likely an upgrade that common to the 2013 Leaf.
As we glided through downtown Portland, I did notice that the dash layout was different (see stock photo below). And the nav system was a Pioneer, rather than the custom Leaf system that included EV charging stations. The product specialist, Evan, that rode with me said they didn't have the US nav system ready yet, but would before it is rolled out here. 
Evan continued and informed me that the van could be configured the fleet managers' specifications. This model had the same 24kWh as the Nissan Leaf, but it would be possible to get more battery capacity; although he would not tell me what other size(s) would be available. Other options were also available such as 120V or 240V outlets (this one didn't have any) and all the options that the gas powered van has such as tool cabinets and roof racks were also available. PGE had a roof rack added to this one so they could carry ladders on top of it.
Nissan e-NV200 at Electric Avenue in Portland Oregon
There was one place I *had* to take the van, that was Electric Avenue, of course. In the photo above that is Evan, our e-NV200 product specialist in the photo above. Sidebar #2, I plugged the van into the Eaton Level 2 charger. That happens to be the charger that does not work with 2013 Nissan Leafs (or the e-NV200). There is a note on the charger that explains that Eaton has found the cause of the problem and that unit is scheduled to be repaired or replaced soon. That was fine the van had nearly a full charge and I just wanted it plugged in for the photo.
Nissan e-NV200 in Portland Oregon
I asked Evan a lot of questions about aerodynamics and load impacts to the range. He said that Nissan has not released any official data for this yet. For low-speed urban use, like PGE has planned for this one, aerodynamics are not too important. One of the points of this program is for fleet managers to get an idea where they can best utilize these and for Nissan to understand what changes the fleet managers would like to see. 
Nissan stock photo of the e-NV200
My first EV was a fleet vehicle, it was a Chevy S10EV that served its fleet life at Disneyland and then I got at an auction. This van was much nicer than a 1998 truck. I really liked it. The e-NV200 vans are available for fleet sales in the UK today, Japan later this year, and the US sometime next year.

You can read more about the van at Nissan's official site: http://www.env200.com/ 
There they list the cargo space (4.2 cubic meters), max speed (75 MPH), and other specs you might be interested in. 

Here is a quick video from the event:
cheers, 
Pat