From Chile to South Africa... The EAVan is attracting a lot of interest...!
Honey I shrunk the van!
Imagine a van that uses absolutely no fuel. Does this sound like it’s a pipedream? Enter the EAVan – which relies on a bit of electricity and some pedal power, instead of petrol or diesel!
By Charleen ClarkePublished: 4 September 2019, 10:53
Challenges with vans
While vans are popular delivery vehicles, they aren’t without their challenges. One is the cost of fuel. Another is the environmental cost of emissions. Another is the associated health issues (according to a study published in the European Heart Journal, air pollution is causing an estimated 8.8 million deaths globally each year – versus 7.2 million deaths caused by smoking in 2015). Then there is the time that it takes to make deliveries – which increases as our roads become more congested. And hey, there’s the initial purchase price of the vehicle too!
Enter the EAVan
All of these challenges are being addressed by the EAVan, the brainchild of a British start-up called Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV) Limited.
Now I know what you’re thinking: there’s the eBike. Surely this is none other than a fancy eBike? Well, yes and no. With eBikes, the designers start out with a bike and aim to make it more van-like. The clever chaps at EAV did exactly the opposite: they started out with a van, and then introduced bike-like elements to that van. This means that transport operators have a bundle of benefits from e-mobility, but they don’t lose all those features that they love in a van.
As Adam Barmby, Technical Director and Founder of EAV, explains: “Getting people out of vans and onto eCargo bikes isn’t easy if they think it’s going to be an awful experience. Being exposed to the elements or being low to surrounding traffic isn’t going to appeal to anyone. So, we started with the idea of the outer body of a light commercial van and we added the electric pedal-assist propulsion system. Essentially have engineered the EAVan ‘down’ from a van rather than ‘up’ from a bicycle.”
All the tech stuff
So, how does this van morphed into a bike actually work? How useful is it? And how fast does it go?
The EAVan is built on what EAV called “a unique Cloudframe chassis design”. Practically speaking, this means that it’s modular, super flexible and capable of doing lots of different things. At its heart is an eCargo bike powered by a standard lithium-ion battery cell, which has a payload capacity of 150 kg. The cargo can be locked into the rear cargo storage area, which comes with double doors.
When you hop on board, you press a thumb throttle, which EAV calls an “e-nertia” switch. This propels the EAVan up to about 4.8 km an hour. Then you just peddle away happily and the EAVan will increase its speed to about 24 km an hour.
Does this speed sound too low? Nigel Gordon-Stewart, Chairman and Executive Director of EAV, doesn’t think so. “We travel much slower than we think, especially in towns and cities,” he points out.
A slower speed does not necessarily reduce the time of deliveries either. According to a study conducted by students from the University of Southampton, cargobikes complete jobs up to 50% faster than small vans during peak weekday times. The same will no doubt apply to the EAVan – because it’s small, nippy and can operate in bicycle lanes.
Like most electric vehicles, the EAVan regenerates power into the batteries under braking. The range is battery size dependent (generally 29 to 32 km at full assistance, constant top speed; more if you add more batteries) but the EAVan can obviously have an unlimited range if you only use pedal power.
Charging takes place via a standard 240V three-pin plug. It takes two to three hours to charge the EAVan from zero charge to full. “The alternative is to have more batteries and have them constantly charged and ready to swap over. It’s a really simple process to change batteries. This is the perfect solution for urban transport. In some countries we can also add more batteries to increase range and increase the power of the motor so the vehicle could operate in rural locations and cope with much more demanding terrain,” adds Gordon-Stewart.
The interesting thing is that the bio-mechanical aspect allows the vehicle to continue to travel even if the electrical assistance power runs out – so you can’t be stranded. “We are also developing a system whereby, in the event of power running out, the bio-mechanical (pedalling) facility can operate purely as a rapid charge system for the batteries – in other words, you pedal to charge up the batteries,” Gordon-Stewart reveals.
That system isn’t the only development in the pipeline. “We’re adding a solar panel to the roof so that we can get additional battery charge. We’ve also found new tyre producers and can raise the chassis – we can even add a second rear axle to provide a six-wheel option, so we can produce an all-terrain version of the EAVan in different wheelbase versions. The direction of R&D was to find a vehicle that could operate in a 60-mile (96 km) range in African countries, providing access to outlying areas. The EAVan could serve as a medical vehicle, a school support vehicle – anything that a small van could do,” Gordon-Stewart explains.
While Africa and South Africa specifically are most definitely on the cards for future sales, a number of European companies have already decided that the EAVan could be the way to go. The Norwegian postal and parcel logistics company Posten Norge and their sister logistics and parcels company Bring.com have already placed orders for EAVans. Posten Norge aims to only use CO2- free vehicles by the end of 2025. The vehicles will run on the Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen from September this year. Global delivery firm DPD will soon begin trialling EAVans in London.
Barmby says he also hopes to be able to secure more sales throughout Europe “in the coming months”.
Pricing for the EAVan kicks off at £10 128 (roughly R184 000).