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AUTO NEWS – LEVC VN5 van assessment | Auto Categorical

LEVC VN5 van assessment | Auto Categorical


That is the LEVC VN5, a one-tonne van from the Coventry-based firm that is most well-known for constructing the TX taxi. In a nod to the taxi, the VN5 options the identical entrance finish design, and it is largely similar below the pores and skin, too. Which means this van incorporates a range-extender (REx) drivetrain, with an electrical motor driving the wheels and a petroleum engine on board that cuts in when the battery is flat.

In some ways it is a pioneering van idea. Solely the Ford Transit Customized gives an identical plug-in hybrid (PHEV) drivetrain, however the VN5 has been engineered as a PHEV from the outset, slightly than being a diesel van that is had its drivetrain swapped out. In consequence, the VN5 has a bigger battery than the Ford (31kWh in comparison with 13.6kWh), and due to this fact it might drive additional on electrical energy alone. LEVC’s purpose is to supply a van that can be utilized in a zero-emissions zone for a days work, however then have sufficient vitality in reserve so it would not want recharging. The LEVC VN5 has a pure electrical vary of 61 miles, and an general vary of round 300 miles with a full tank of petrol as nicely. 

The van itself has a two-box form that is acquainted from the small van sector, nevertheless it’s really on the bigger finish of the medium-sized van class. For the time being it is available in only one physique type, a panel van with a sliding aspect door and offset barn doorways on the rear. They open to disclose a load space that has a capability of 5.5 cubic metres, whereas there is a payload of 830kg. These aren’t excellent figures, nevertheless it’s sufficient for the form of city deliveries and journeys that the VN5 is predicted to undertake.

Just like the TX taxi, the VN5 options aluminium building below its plastic physique panels. The van has a 400mm longer wheelbase than the taxi to create a bigger load space, however the rear-wheel-drive format means LEVC has retained the taxi’s steering rack to create a good 10.1-metre turning circle. There is a metal bulkhead between the load space and passenger compartment and a two-seat format, however the cabin design precludes the choice of becoming a 3rd seat between the motive force and passenger.

The VN5 is obtainable in three trim ranges – Enterprise, Metropolis and Ultima – and even the entry-level van is nicely geared up. LEVC is owned by Chinese language agency Geely, which additionally owns Volvo, and among the Swedish firm’s tech has discovered its means into the VN5. The nine-inch portrait display is similar one that you will discover in a present Volvo, whereas commonplace equipment on all vans contains computerized LED lights, auto wipers, Bluetooth, twin USB ports, dual-zone local weather management, keyless beginning and a digital dashboard. There’s additionally numerous Volvo-sourced security equipment, together with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise management and loads of airbags, whereas equipment akin to lane departure warning, street signal recognition, entrance and rear parking sensors and a rear digital camera all accessible.

The raft of equipment goes some strategy to justifying the worth of the VN5. It is on the market from round £47,000, and it additionally qualifies for the Authorities’s £8,000 Plug-in Van Grant. As for rivals, there are not any direct opponents to the VN5, however there are eco options. The Ford Transit Customized PHEV has an identical general driving vary and has a bigger payload and cargo capability, however it might’t match it for EV-only driving. All-electric vans such because the Mercedes eVito and VW e-Transporter can carry extra, however with an general vary of round 90 miles and no range-extending back-up, you may be charging them up whereas the VN5 retains going. The brand new Vauxhall Vivaro-e (in addition to the Peugeot e-Knowledgeable and Citroen e-Dispatch) can journey additional between expenses, however nonetheless have an general vary which is half that of the VN5.

As with many different plug-in hybrid autos, the LEVC VN5 has a comparatively excessive checklist value, however house owners will reap the advantages by way of operating prices – so long as the battery is stored at a full cost. The vary begins at round £47,000 for the Enterprise model, with the Metropolis and Ultima variations round £1,000 and £5,000 additional. Go for the top-spec Ultima mannequin, and also you’re getting one of many best-equipped vans available on the market. There is a heated windscreen, heated seats with electrical adjustment, sat-nav, aspect curtain airbags, lane departure warning and street signal recognition, entrance and rear parking sensors and a rear digital camera.

The VN5’s plug-in hybrid drivetrain includes a 148bhp electrical motor mixed with a 31kWh battery and a Volvo-sourced 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that acts as a generator. With a full cost and tank of gasoline, you possibly can anticipate a spread of round 300 miles, with the van capable of drive on battery energy alone for 61 miles. LEVC additionally quotes a CO2 determine of 21g/km, considerably decrease than the 81g/km for the Transit Customized PHEV.

Charging the 31kWh battery is completed by way of one among two charging ports within the nostril of the VN5, both aspect of the upright grille. One is a Kind 2 socket for normal charging, whereas on the opposite aspect is a high-voltage Chademo socket. This implies charging from a mains plug, purpose-built wallbox or public quick charger are all doable, with charging taking as little as half an hour by way of a DC charging supply.

The pondering behind the LEVC VN5 is that it is able to do a day’s work on a full cost and tank of gasoline. That battery vary of 61 miles is right round city, however a person can save this whereas travelling at increased speeds – from a depot to a metropolis, for instance – and they are going to be unlikely to want to cease to recharge the van throughout the day, so there’s extra time devoted to work.

We’ve not pushed a VN5 for a protracted interval to see how all of this principle interprets into real-world use, however the usual PHEV mantra holds true for the VN5: plug it in as typically as doable to reap the advantages. Run on electrical energy as a lot as you possibly can, and you may quickly recoup the van’s preliminary buy value. With that respectable 61-mile vary accessible to you, it is also doable to keep away from visiting petrol stations for weeks on finish.

Whereas the LEVC VN5 is a pioneer by way of plug-in tech, it is a bit of a compromise for practicality. It is the primary automobile that LEVC has constructed that is not a taxi, so there is not the broad vary of selection you’d get from a conventional high-volume van producer. There’s simply the one panel van physique type on provide which comes with a single sliding aspect door and offset barn doorways on the again.

The LEVC VN5 has a cargo capability of 5.5 cubic metres and a most payload of as much as 830kg. That is lower than most medium-sized panel vans (the Ford Transit Customized has 6.0 cubic metres of area whereas the PHEV is ready to carry nicely over a tonne), which is a shock contemplating the VN5 is definitely bigger than most vans on this class. The blame for this may be positioned on the REx drive system. Due to its place between the axles and below the ground, it leaves the VN5 with a comparatively excessive cargo flooring. At the least the ground space itself is giant, with sufficient room for 2 europallets inside. 

The aspect door slides to disclose a gap of 1,128mm, whereas the again doorways lock open at 90 or 180 levels. One trade-off of the excessive load flooring is that the rear wheelarches do not intrude into the load space very a lot, whereas there are 4 lashing eyes within the cargo flooring (eight within the Ultima) and 6 roof mounting factors. That flooring and the interior partitions are lined for defense, whereas LEVC claims that the VN5 is able to be transformed with the minimal of fuss. There is a metal bulkhead dividing the cargo space from the cabin, which is barely angled so there is a bit of additional flooring area, however LEVC would not at the moment provide through-loading into the cabin.

One space the place LEVC might be an unknown amount is by way of reliability. Nevertheless, the TX taxi is designed to satisfy the powerful necessities of London’s Hackney Cab laws, and for the reason that VN5 relies on the identical operating gear, that ought to give some peace of thoughts. On high of that, LEVC did endurance testing of the VN5 earlier than it went on sale, together with subjecting the aluminium chassis to corrosion endurance checks, and placing all of the doorways by in depth opening and shutting checks.

LEVC’s commonplace guarantee is 5 years/150,000 miles for the van and plug-in drivetrain, whereas the 31kWh battery has an eight-year/150,000-mile guarantee. There may be an possibility to increase this additional, to 6 years/200,000 miles for the van and eight years/200,000-miles for the battery.

It is price highlighting that as a result of LEVC is a part of the Geely group, it has entry to loads of expertise from different manufacturers throughout the Chinese language conglomerate. Chief amongst these is Volvo, and there’s loads of switchgear and expertise from the Swedish agency to be discovered within the cabin and below the pores and skin. Whereas it does give the VN5 a little bit of a parts-bin really feel (particularly for those who’ve pushed a contemporary Volvo prior to now few years), it additionally means there are many tried-and-tested elements on board.

The actual take a look at of any new drivetrain expertise – particularly in a van – is how straightforward it’s to get together with. Fortunately, the LEVC VN5 is simply as straightforward to drive as any diesel auto van, however with much better refinement. For starters, all vans function keyless beginning – merely preserve the important thing in your pocket, press the brake pedal click on the rocker swap clockwise to show the van on, and also you’re able to go. Like different plug-in and electrical autos, you are greeted by silence when the VN5 begins, and the one clue to the very fact it is operating is the dashboard lights switching off and the van’s ancillaries begin to run.

Transfer the stubby gear selector into drive, press the accelerator, and the standard-fit electrical parking brake releases and also you’re away. The VN5 stays quiet on the transfer, with solely a faint whirr from the on-board sound generator, which is designed to warn different street customers of your presence. Tyre noise builds as you go quicker, however the VN5 remains to be far quieter than any diesel van.

Van drivers are accustomed to torquey diesel engines that may deal with all kinds of weights and circumstances, and fortunately the plug-in range-extending hybrid LEVC VN5 proves simply as succesful. There’s 148bhp on provide, which is a medium to excessive output for a mid-sized panel van, however of extra significance is the truth that this energy – in addition to the van’s torque – is obtainable as quickly as you speed up.

Which means the VN5 is sprightly off the road, with the form of immediate acceleration that is acquainted from most different electrical autos. Nevertheless, due to the van’s rear-wheel-drive format, there is no wheel-spinning drama as you draw back, the van’s weight merely shifts over the rear axle, serving to the tyres grip and getting you shifting. 

The VN5 does really feel a little bit heavy for its dimension, however that is no totally different to an identical van carrying a payload, and the load does assist it to journey fairly comfortably. LEVC has recalibrated the steering over the taxi, however the wheel remains to be gentle, and the steering lock is tight sufficient that the VN5 can execute kerb-to-kerb U-turns fairly simply – it is definitely a far tighter turning circle than some other van on sale. One draw back of the steering is that the wheel does have a tendency to want fixed correction whenever you’re travelling at increased speeds on the motorway – the van does really feel like it’s going to wander a little bit for those who’re not giving your full consideration.

One niggle that we discovered is that the wing mirrors are on the small aspect. Loads of vans of this dimension function twin wing mirrors with wide-angle glass within the decrease part, however the VN5 cannot even match these vans with single glass mirrors, so there are vital blind spots that you simply want to pay attention to whereas driving.

With computerized drive, the VN5 may be very straightforward to get together with. Nevertheless, LEVC has borrowed its gear selector tech from Volvo, so slightly than shifting the shifter into your required gear (Park/Reverse/Impartial/Drive) and leaving it there, you utilize the follow click on by to the gear you need. In case you’re not in tune with the system, you possibly can simply shift from Drive into Impartial when what you have to do is transfer the selector as soon as extra to pick out Reverse. As we are saying, it is a little bit irritating, however is certain to be one thing you get used to the longer you spend on the wheel.

The VN5 has a few options that enable you to handle vitality use whenever you’re on the street. The primary is obtainable by way of the touchscreen, and lets you decide a driving mode. Choose Good, and the van manages vitality use routinely, and you probably have a totally charged battery, you may infrequently resort to utilizing the engine. When the engine does hearth up, you possibly can barely hear it, though there’s a show displaying real-ttime vitality use.

A Save perform lets you preserve the battery vitality saved till you want it, which is the beneficial setting to be used on the motorway, and once more, the engine is quiet sufficient to not be heard when on the transfer. The ultimate setting is Pure EV, which leaves the engine off so long as there’s sufficient cost left within the battery. In contrast to some PHEVs, the VN5 is not capable of recharge the battery utilizing the engine whereas driving. That is high quality with us, as a result of this type of mode has a huge impact on gasoline economic system that defeats the article of operating a PHEV.

The opposite function is braking resistance, and there are three settings on provide – a coasting perform and two ranges of resistance that are chosen by shifting the gear selector left or proper. We discovered the very best setting the perfect to make use of, as a result of it wasn’t too harsh, though it isn’t sturdy sufficient to bask in one-pedal driving round city. Some EVs and hybrids undergo from jerky braking as they swap between the electrical motor slowing the automobile to the bodily brakes on the wheels, however the VN5 is definitely very easy when coming to a halt.

Climb aboard, and the LEVC VN5 gives seating for 2, whereas the dashboard format means there is no scope for including a 3rd seat between them. The driving place is on the excessive aspect, and it feels just like the bonnet is positioned low forward of you, though this does offer you a transparent view of the street forward. Construct high quality feels good inside, with loads of plastic trim masking the entire inside. There’s hard-wearing material upholstery, whereas the seats themselves are moderately comfy, though taller drivers may discover the seat butting up towards the bulkhead to get sufficient legroom.

The steering wheel is clearly taken from Volvo and is a multifunction merchandise that controls the digital dials, additionally a Volvo-sourced merchandise. The nine-inch portrait touchscreen can also be from Volvo, and like that firm’s automobiles, the system is not probably the most user-friendly to make use of when on the transfer. It makes use of swipe and pinch instructions to pick out totally different menus, and whenever you’re driving on a bumpy UK street it may be difficult to function.

There are not any armrests with the seats, whereas the place of the motive force’s seat relative to the door means there is no pure place to position your elbow on the door card. LEVC makes nice claims about cabin consolation, however that is one thing that would do with addressing to make the VN5 much more comfy to drive.

Cabin storage is so-so, slightly than excellent. There’s sufficient room between the entrance seats so as to add a lidded cubby, however the VN5 solely has a tray with a pair of cup holders included. There is a glovebox, common door bins and storage below the seats, whereas there is a modest quantity of overhead storage and a few USB ports for charging gadgets.

The place the VN5 actually impresses is with its driving help options. It is full of security equipment, with twin airbags as commonplace, auto lights and wipers, computerized emergency braking and adaptive cruise management, hill begin help and tyre strain screens all fitted, too. Go for Metropolis or Ultima spec, and also you get entrance and rear parking sensors, street signal detection, lane departure warning and aspect curtain airbags, too.

Van dimensions

Top 1,990mm
Width 1,945mm
Size 5,233mm

Load space dimensions

Top 1,373mm
Width 1,574mm
Size 2,447mm
Quantity 5.5 cubic metres

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AUTO NEWS – LEVC VN5 van assessment | Auto Categorical
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