What Car? says...
The Fiat E-Ducato electric van hails from Italy, where physicist Alessandro Volta first harnessed electricity back in 1800 – so you could argue that it's been a long time coming.
The e-Ducato is based on the pre-facelift version of the Fiat Ducato van, which means it looks and feels a bit more dated than its diesel-powered stablemate.
On the plus side, it's available with a choice of two batteries – a 47kWh unit and a larger pack that will hold 79kWh – and a full spread of body styles. There are three lengths and three roof heights in panel van form, and three lengths and four wheelbases in its chassis-cab version.
Both panel van and chassis-cab models give you the choice between a 3.5-tonne and a 4.25-tonne gross vehicle weight.
If you’re in the market for an electric van, the e-Ducato gives you plenty of options. But is that enough to get you to choose it? Well, read on and we’ll tell you more about it, including what it’s like to drive, what it’s like to sit in, and of course, what you’ll be able to lug around in it.
Once you've decided which van to get, remember that we can help you find the best leasing deals through our What Car? Leasing pages. The free service allows you to get a quote for whichever make and model of car or van fits your personal or business needs.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
They could be missing a trick, because the Ducato is just as dynamic as a Transit and as comfortable as a Sprinter – and those qualities make for a strong combination when it's converted into the E-Ducato electric van.
In fact, the direct and balanced steering combined with a lower centre of gravity (from the weight of the batteries) gives the electric version even better handling and road-holding than a diesel version. Power is plentiful, and the 121bhp motor gives it a decent turn of speed and 207lb ft of torque.
Being electric, it’s quiet – and it's not just hushed when compared with a diesel van, but by electric van standards too. It’s not quite in the same league as the Ford E-Transit, which has better insulation from road and tyre noise, but it’s much better than its French counterparts, the Peugeot e-Boxer and Citroën ë-Relay.
The E-Ducato is available with either a 47kWh battery pack or a 79kWh one. The smaller battery has a shorter range (up to 146 miles officially) but frees up payload space. It you're willing to sacrifice some load-lugging volume to make way for a bigger battery, you get an official range of up to 230 miles.
Big vans can often feel unruly when lightly loaded, but the additional weight of the batteries in the floor helps with the ride comfort of the E-Ducato. That’s another huge positive, because the diesel Ducato is already among the best in its class in this respect.
There are three driving modes to allow you to alter the way the E-Ducato drives. Normal mode is best for everyday use, Eco limits how much power you can use to increase the range and Power mode is best suited for heavy loads. When the battery is getting low, a 'turtle' mode kicks in to help eke out the remaining charge while you find somewhere to top up.
The regenerative braking (which recovers energy as you slow down) is quite strong in the E-Ducato, but in a non-intrusive way. If you want to really get the most out of every charge, you can increase its effect using a paddle shifter behind the steering wheel.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Vans don’t get updated all that often, so when they do, the changes tend to be significant. That's why it's a bit disappointing that the E-Ducato is based on a pre-facelift version of the Fiat Ducato rather than the current one, meaning it misses out on a major update of the interior.
The story behind the story is that the E-Ducato has been in development for a few years. All the testing and hard work to get the van to perform well and meet its range expectations was done using the old interior and systems, so trying to fit the new interior would have been a big headache for Fiat.
Still, that's not the end of the world because the lay-out and technology you get is fundamentally sound by today’s standards. The driving position and visibility are good, the dials are easy to read, and all your battery information is shown on a handy little screen mounted on the A-pillar.
It’s a successful conversion of a diesel model using an ageing interior, and it doesn’t feel forced or cheap. That's not something you can say about the interior of the less-impressive Peugeot e-Boxer and Citroën ë-Relay.
While the plastics used in the E-Ducato aren’t as nice as the current Ducato’s interior, and its infotainment screen, central dashboard cluster and rotary dial air flow controls are a bit dated, it’s still a pleasant place to be.
Once you put any thoughts of the new interior out of your mind, you’ll quickly get over the fact that this electric van is brimming with the latest equipment. You’ll appreciate it for what it is – a robust interior for a working van.
The exception to the e-Ducato’s logical layout is the position of the driving mode button behind the gear shift. It’s an unusual location and makes it rather inaccessible while driving.
There’s a decent amount of tech to play with too. Standard features include climate control, a rear-view camera with parking sensors and a 7.0in infotainment touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Fiat E-Ducato is a big van that does big volumes and big payloads. There are three lengths and three heights for the panel van, giving you a load volume range from 10.5m3 up to 17m3. Like the diesel Fiat Ducato the rear loadspace has a width of 1870mm, with its length ranging from 2670mm to 4070mm, and height from 1662mm to 2172mm.
Fiat has used the additional gross vehicle weight allowance that applies to electric vans to produce two different weight options – 3.5-tonne and 4.25-tonne. That means the best van to carry weight – the 4.25-tonne GVW model – has a maximum payload of 1855kg. The best of the smaller GVW vans is still capable of moving 1160kg.
By large van standards, the E-Ducato's storage is a little bit limited, especially around the driver. You get a small tray for keys or coins, and the lower portion of the central dash is set up as twin cupholders.
The passenger side of the cab is better equipped, with a good-sized upper glovebox, and some of the clever work-office features of the Ducato are available on the E-Ducato. They include the option of a tablet computer holder that pulls out of the top of the dash, as well as a table with extra cupholders that folds out of the middle seats.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The price of electric vans is always a key factor to consider, not least because big vans tend to be expensive anyway. If you go for a large battery pack, that large electric van can be twice the price of a diesel one before you know it.
Charging times vary depending on the connection, but the E-Ducato can support up to 50kW DC charging. Up to 80% capacity can be added in just 50 minutes for the small battery or 85 minutes for the larger pack.
Using an 11kW charger will take approximately five hours for a complete charge and eight hours for the larger battery. Charging from 0% to 100% on a 7kW wall box will take just under eight hours for the smaller battery and more than 11 hours for the larger pack.
Safety systems are abundant in the E-Ducato, which gets three new systems not previously available on the version of the Ducato it's based on. Rear cross path detection will stop you reversing into a vehicle or cyclist crossing behind you, full brake control will warn and assist you in avoiding rear-ending someone, and blindspot assist keeps an eye out for vehicles you can’t see.
They're joined by traffic-sign recognition, lane-departure warning, high beam assist and a tyre-pressure monitoring system. It’s an impressive list of standard safety equipment.
The E-Ducato gets a five-year or 100,000-mile warranty as standard plus five years of free servicing and five years of roadside recovery. The batteries are covered for eight years on the 47kWh model and 10 on the 79kWh version.
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About the author
George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.
Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.
Prices for the E-Ducato start at more than £60,000, which makes it a particularly expensive proposition. By comparison, the Renault Master E-Tech costs around £20,000 less, though it does come with a smaller battery too.
According to the WLTP Combined Cycle, the 47kWh model will travel 88 miles on a charge, while if you upgrade to the 79kWh version, you get up to 175 miles of range.
Depending on which version you choose, the E-Ducato can carry up to 1,855kg, though more basic models carry as little as 720kg.
Not officially, but it wouldn’t be too hard to buy an E-Ducato from Fiat and have it converted by an aftermarket supplier. There should be no reason why the chassis-cab version can’t also be turned into a motorhome quite easily.
Yes – and you can do so from the What Car? Leasing hub, where we’ve brought together some of the best deals on the market.