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Vauxhall Combo-e and Ford E-Transit preview

Turn logistical nightmares into electric dreams with this powerhouse pair of greener vans from Vauxhall, and Ford.

Mustard paintwork, greener power: The Vauxhall Combo-e van

Mustard paintwork, greener power: The Vauxhall Combo-e van

We’ve all seen the explosion of excellent electric cars from mainstream carmakers which have hit the roads, especially over the last 18 months or so. But now there’s good news for the country’s ever-growing band of White Van Men (and women): two new electric vans from Vauxhall and Ford.

The latter has introduced a new electric version of its iconic Transit, but before we delve into the benefits and strengths of Ford’s large electric panel van, let’s focus first on Vauxhall’s Combo-e small electric van.

The smallest electric van in the UK firm's line-up, prices for the Combo-e start at £25,238 (excl VAT) and including the Government's Plug-in Van Grant. Order books for the EV are open now at Arnold Clark dealerships, with first deliveries scheduled to begin towards the end of the year.

Available in both standard and long panel van bodystyles, you can also get a five-seat Crew Van with a folding rear bench and sliding bulkhead in the form of the latter. With the launch of the Combo-e, Vauxhall now has electric versions of all its vans, in the shape of the Vivaro-e and Movano-e.

Excellent, but what’s the Combo-e range?

That’s probably the most likely question from someone who spends their day delivering goods from the back of a van. Vauxhall says the Combo-e will cover 171 miles on the WLTP test cycle, which is pretty impressive.

Using the same drive system as the Vivaro-e, the Combo-e is fitted with the parent company’s 50kWh battery and 134bhp electric motor. No surprise that you’ll find the same combo in the Vauxhall Corsa-e, plus various Peugeot and Citroen electric cars. It’s a tried and tested package across the group.

Does the battery impact on stowage space?

Nope. Vauxhall has mounted the battery pack under the cargo floor, so there's no change to cargo volume; that means up to 3.8 or 4.4 cubic metres of space in the standard and long vans respectively.

However, the heavy weight of the battery does impact on maximum payload, which drops to 800kg; some diesel variants of the Combo can handle a one tonne payload.

And what about charging?

In standard form it’s perfect for overnight charging. The onboard 7.4kW charger allows the Combo-e to be recharged in 7 hours and 30 minutes. If you tick the box for the optional 11kW system, that time drops to 5 hours. Best of all, find a 100kW DC fast charger and you can charge back to 80% in just 30 minutes.

Anything else I should know?

Probably. As you would expect, there are three modes — Power, Normal and Eco — which help maximise the van’s charge. And inside the cabin there’s an eight-inch infotainment system with Bluetooth, a full steel bulkhead and rear parking sensors.

Buyers of the higher spec Sportive model get body-coloured bumpers, but more importantly they benefit from a FlexCargo twin-folding passenger seat with through-loading bulkhead. There’s also a comprehensive options list, including an overload indicator, which warns the driver when the van has exceeded its maximum payload capacity; plus traffic sign recognition, forward collision alert and automatic emergency braking, and a 180-degree rear-view camera.

Finally … prices?

The standard Combo-e starts at £25,238, with the long van priced from £26,438 and the Crew Van from £28,218. All prices exclude VAT, but include the Government's Plug-in Van Grant.

Ok; what about the Ford E-Transit?

With a starting price of £42,695 (excl VAT) — less than the rival Renault Master e-Tech and Mercedes eSprinter — it’s one of the most competitively priced large electric vans on the market. Plus, according to Ford, it has a WLTP range of 196 miles. Deliveries are expected to start in spring of next year.

Based on the existing Transit, it’s fitted with a 67kWh battery, and buyers can choose from two power outputs of 181bhp or 266bhp, and up to 430Nm of torque. The latter 266bhp is the most powerful electric van on-sale in the UK. As you’d expect, that power is sent to the rear wheels. Maximum payload is 1758kg.

Like the Combo-e, the battery is located under the chassis, meaning the E-Transit panel van versions will offer the same cargo volumes as the diesel version.

Does it look different to a diesel Transit?

Thankfully, yes, but just in a subtle way. The electric version gets its own new grille with blue bars, a charging socket in the nose and an E-Transit badging.

It will also be available in a number of bodystyles, including various panel van lengths and roof heights, chassis cab and as a multi-seat Double Cab. In fact, buyers will have 25 models to choose from.

And charging?

As always with battery packs, varied. Stick with the standard 11.3kW on-board charger and a full charge can be completed in 8 hours. But find a high-power DC source of up to 115kW, and that time is slashed to around 34 minutes to recharge from 15% to 80%.

Cleverly, Ford boffins have also included Pro Power Onboard; this provides a 2.3kW outlet so users can power tools and other equipment via the van's battery.

What’s the cabin like?

Pretty good. To coincide with the arrival of the E-Transit, Ford has revised the interior of the entire Transit range. That means a 12-inch touchscreen is fitted as standard on the electric van, with over-the-air updates; there’s also a Sync4 infotainment system. plus the driver gets enhanced voice control and sat-nav live traffic information.

And Ford has further enhanced the E-Transit’s safety systems with a new Reverse Brake Assist system and 360 degree cameras. There’s also lane assist, adaptive cruise control, traffic-sign recognition with intelligent speed assist, blind-spot detection, and a standard-fit FordPass Connect modem which allows fleet operators to monitor the E-Transit remotely.

Finally, what about running costs?

Ford is keen to emphasise that though the initial purchase price of the E-Transit is higher than diesel alternatives, the overall total cost of ownership should bring benefits.

How come? Well, Ford points to less money needing to be sent on both fuel and maintenance; in fact the company believes running costs should be around 40% lower than they are for a diesel Transit.

About the Author

Jim McGill