Changing the Last-Mile Delivery Market
This is not your usual test drive. Smarticd usually spends its time in sedans, crossovers and the occasional pickup, reviewing new technologies. We’ve been in a variety of electric vehicles, but the Chanje V8070 is the biggest one we’ve ever piloted.
Piloting is the right term because this is a large truck. Side-by-side with a standard FedEx or UPS delivery wagon, the V8070 gives up nothing. Its unibody look, a slicker design than the current models on the market, is augmented by a modern cockpit with a 10.4-inch touchscreen that’s as easy to use as the ones found in most modern cars.
Chanje founder and CEO Bryan Hansel said to expect it to “drive like a minivan.” As a longtime minivan owner, I have to say that any 26 ½-foot-long van is going to be challenged to fulfil that promise. It was very maneuverable, with responsive power steering and a fairly tight turning radius, but the length of this white electric beast takes it far out of the minivan category.
Big Because It Needs to Be
That length, sitting on a 194.3-inch wheelbase, offers what Hansel said the medium-duty market is looking for. The Chanje V8070 has 580 cubic feet of cargo storage space inside and is rated to haul up to 6,000 pounds. The roof is tall enough that a six-footer can easily walk through the space, and the rear doors swing open wide. A sliding door offers another point of entry.
Power for the unloaded van was fine for the short, flat test drive. The dual electric motors deliver 198 horsepower and, more important, 564 pounds-feet of torque to the rear wheels. Chanje claims it’s capable of taking on a 30 percent grade while loaded. The electricity is stored in a 70-kWh lithium-iron-phosphate battery (LiFePO4, the same basic chemistry BYD uses). The van comes with a 7.2 kW on-board charger.
The specifications for the unit are built around customer needs in this segment, according to Hansel. Average routes are calculated to be 65 miles and the Chanje V8070 is built to haul 3,000 pounds for 100 miles before needing a charge.
Customers Are Ordering the Chanje
The specs of the Chinese-built utility van have found some early adopters at Ryder, which has started delivery of the first of 125 vans ordered for its North American operations. The company will lease or rent them along with its conventionally powered vehicles. The first vehicles will land in California (San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose), followed by Chicago and New York.
Chanje’s energy solutions business will set up a charging network for Ryder to support the electric vans, using level 2 chargers from Chanje partner . Chanje vice president of Energy Services Suresh Jayanthi told Smarticd that Chanje could “map a system of chargers and back-up storage to the needs of the duty cycle” of any fleet customer. He said the goal was for those customers to see Chanje as a “one-stop shop” with vehicles, charging infrastructure and Ryder’s distribution and service.
CEO Hansel, a serial entrepreneur who had earlier electric truck experience with Smith Electric Vehicles, admitted the medium-duty delivery market is “tough.” But he believes the Chanje V8070’s ground-up design as an electric truck for the U.S. market gives it an edge. He added that the evolving economics of this class of fleet electric vehicle should allow it to compete at “price parity” with existing diesel models because of lower operating costs.
Once established in the last-mile delivery sector, Hansel sees the company establishing a North American assembly plant (current models are built in an existing Chinese plant) and expanding into the shuttle van, cab-chassis and Class A school bus markets.
There’s no lack of ambition here, but the first product is rolling into the market and should get some quick feedback from the diverse users at Ryder. If electric trucks generate the same reaction that their smaller car brethren have, we expect we’ll be back reporting on this segment again soon.
Final Note: For those of you who might be curious—V8070 can be decoded into: Van-8.0-meter length-70 kWh battery.
Flash Drive: Smarticd “Flash Drives” are concise reviews of vehicles that include the major points and are easy and quick to read. A “Flash Drive” is often followed later by a comprehensive test drive review.
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