Renault has only just commenced its local trial of the Kangoo Z.E. all-electric commercial van with Australia Post, yet the electron-powered Kangoo is already starting to pique the interest of big business in Australia.
And according to Renault Australia boss Justin Hocevar, it's a natural fit for a back-to-base delivery vehicle such as those used by Australia Post's parcel service.
"It’s been a really pleasant surprise to us that there is that interest," Hocevar said to TMR at the local launch of the updated Megane hatch and wagon range.
"At the moment, there are about half a dozen companies that have shown interest [in Kangoo Z.E.], and they’re big operators," he said.
"Mostly freight logistics companies, as well as airlines and airport operators.
And a lot of them keep asking ‘when will you have a Trafic or Master-sized EV’."
Around 4000 Kangoo Z.E.s are currently in use with the French postal service, and Australia Post is currently trialling four of the battery-electric small vans.
Power in the Kangoo Z.E. is provided by a 44kW/226Nm electric motor, with energy coming from a 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
Under normal conditions, the Kangoo Z.E. can travel for 80 to 125 kilometres of ‘real world’ driving on a single charge, and if the French experience is anything to go by, each vehicle will only need to cover around 70km each day.
And while Hocevar recognised that the per-unit cost would be much higher than a standard Kangoo - the most expensive of which currently retails for $24,990 - he's confident that businesses will see the economic sense of running the all-electric delivery van.
“At retail cost and without any subsidies it’s probably around $40,000, plus on-roads," he said.
"Commercial vehicle buyers, however, are more accepting of the premium, and they’re willing to absorb some of that premium because they’ve got some other objectives within their business - like cutting emissions by a certain number, communicating about their emissions-reduction programs, et cetera."
However, the higher purchase cost of the Kangoo Z.E means it will take longer for operators to recoup the extra investment through fuel savings.
“At this point in time because of the higher cost of the vehicle versus an internal-combustion alternative, they’re saying they’d have to operate the vehicles for a much longer period [to get a return on investment]," he said.
“And that period is greater than five years," he continued.
“But that’s possible given that mechanically we’re talking about a much simpler proposition.
Hocevar was also optimistic that the uptake of all-electric light commercial vehicles like the Kangoo Z.E. wouldn't be harmed by the carbon tax repeal or impending review of Australia's renewable energy target, saying that the agendas of multi-national companies would likely override any moves made by the Federal Government.
"Maybe some domestic companies might be affected, but I think global corparations and their local subsidiaries, they've got objectives that transcend these issues," he said.
"But there's no doubt in my mind that there needs to be more done by active members of parliament to support [EVs]."
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