What Car? says...
When the Nissan e-NV200 was first introduced in 2014, it was seen as just a Nissan Leaf with a van body, but in reality, it's so much more. The unconventional size of the e-NV200 – it's taller than most other small vans – meant it was immediately more suitable to businesses wanting to maximise carrying capacity in a zero-emission van. And while the market for electric vehicles was still relatively immature back then, the e-NV200 has found itself a role in the best and biggest blue chip fleets in the years since.
The first models were fitted with a 24kWh battery pack, providing a realistic real-world range of less than 60 miles. However, in 2018 the e-NV200 was upgraded with a new 40kWh battery that has boosted its official range to 174 miles, or in excess of 100 miles in real-world conditions. That still may not sound like much, but any increase in range is as significant psychologically as it is practically.
The latest e-NV200 is suitable for a wider range of users than early versions, then. And for added peace of mind, it's worth considering just how often you actually need your van to cover more than 50-60 miles in a day. Particularly under urban delivery conditions, it could be that your van seldom exceeds 100 miles. Concern over range limitations is less relevant when longer journeys are less frequent.
Like its diesel-engined sibling, the e-NV200 is available with a van body, as a five-seat combi van, or as the five or seven-seat e-NV200 Evalia people carrier. The e-NV200 comes in just one size, with a 107bhp electric motor. Three trim levels are available, comprising entry-level Visia, mid-range Acenta and top-spec Tekna.
Although electric vans are far from dominant in the segment, the Nissan e-NV200 has a surprising amount of competition that includes the Renault Kangoo ZE, and the electric versions of the Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner, as well as a forthcoming Volkswagen e-Caddy. Larger electric vans include the Renault Master ZE and the Volkswagen e-Crafter.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The e-NV200’s big advantages over diesel-engined vans are that the torque from its electric motor arrives immediately (all 187lb ft of it) and that you don’t have any gears to change though. Driving is therefore seamless and smooth.
The obvious limitation is its shorter service range, but with a battery pack that allows the e-NV200 to cover more than 100 miles on a charge in real-world conditions, many vans, particularly if operated by businesses with set areas of operation, will survive the working day if charged on a nightly basis.
Occasional longer journeys are possible, too, thanks to fast charging; the on-board 6.6kW charger allows the battery to be charged up to 80% in just 30 minutes, at the kind of charging point you'll find at a motorway service station. That's compared with eight hours from a 32A wall box.
There’s also an Eco mode that helps drivers improve the range of the van. This limits acceleration and increases how much energy is recovered while coasting and braking. It’s a useful addition to the overall driving experience, because it encourages much greater awareness and forward planning in order to maximise the regenerative potential of the systems. However, with the Eco button turned off, the e-NV200 becomes an enjoyably and surprisingly fast little van.
The floor-mounted batteries help to lower its centre of gravity, and, in a high-sided van like this, that certainly makes it feel more planted than the diesel-engined NV200.
The real bonus, however, is in the utter serenity of its driving experience. The 1.5-litre diesel engine in the NV200 is not particularly noisy, unless you have the five-speed manual gearbox and are doing a lot of motorway mileage. But without an engine altogether, the e-NV200 becomes truly relaxing to be in thanks to its sheer quietness. Road noise is present, but only because there is nothing else to drown it out, so it's far from being bothersome.
The interior layout, fit and finish
On the inside, there is nothing major to differentiate the electric e-NV200 van from its diesel sibling – that is except for the replacement of its manual gearshift by an automatic-style lever that controls its parking and driving modes.
In terms of space, the e-NV200 is quite a sizeable van, its outwardly tall and thin appearance not impacting the room on the inside. Its driving position is fairly upright but not uncomfortable, and, aside from feeling a little oddly proportioned, it’s a perfectly acceptable workplace.
The quality of its plastics could really do with an upgrade, though, and an issue with interior storage is that most of it is open and undersized. The passenger seat does fold down, however, giving you a tabled surface to work at. We recommend getting the optional storage trays between the seats, and the under-seat storage tray to give you some proper useable storage.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
You might think that, with all those batteries on board, the e-NV200 would suffer in terms of both payload and volume compared with the diesel, but they are located under the floor and have little effect on cargo space, so it will transport the same 4.2m3 maximum load.
There isn’t a huge weight penalty, either; payload only drops to 701kg – around 50kg less than the diesel – because the combustion engine and gearbox have been removed. Compared with other small vans, its carrying capacity is the biggest in the sector by some distance, and the largest of any small electric van.
It has a length of 4650mm, width of 2011mm (including mirrors) and height of 1860mm, while the maximum load length is 2040mm, width is 1500mm and height is 1358mm.
If you need to transport even longer loads, such as ladders, you can specify the Versatility Pack. This includes a folding mesh bulkhead and a folding passenger seat, and increases the carrying length to 2800mm.
Loading (floor) height is 524mm and the side door has an opening of 1171mm. The rear doors both open to 180 degrees.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Whether or not you buy an electric van should boil down to the key question of whether it is suitable for your needs. If you make irregular journeys and often have to travel more than 100 miles in a single day, right now they're probably not for you. However, if you can charge frequently, can plan your journeys or work within a tight radius of your base, then the chances are you could benefit significantly from owning an electric van, with running costs as low as 2p per mile.
When it comes to choosing which e-NV200 to go for, we recommend mid-range Acenta trim because it gives you equipment that helps maximise your electric range. This includes a rapid charger, battery heater and cooler, and cruise control. It also comes with air conditioning.
Every e-NV200 benefits from the NissanConnect EV telematics system, which, among its features, allows you to remotely pre-condition the van's interior temperature while charging before the working day begins. This minimises battery usage in getting the vehicle to the driver's desired temperature. The system also enables remote monitoring of the battery charging status.
Rounding off the package is Nissan’s generous warranty terms. As with its diesel vans, the Nissan NV400, NV300 and NV200, there’s five years of back-up. The e-NV200 is also covered up to 60,000 miles, while the batteries are protected against capacity loss of 25% or more for up to eight years or 100,000 miles.
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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.