Fleet News

Citroen Berlingo Electrique

Citroen

Review

##citber.jpg --Right##ANY fleet managers worth their environmental salt have a duty to try out vehicles like the Citroen Berlingo Electrique. A panacea for all polluting ills it is certainly not, but Citroen must be praised for putting its money where its mouth is in offering fleets the chance to fly the green flag with a vehicle that emits virtually nothing in pollution terms.

The merits of the Berlingo are well-known. The vehicle was the first to break the car-derived mould in that it was designed as a van from the nuts and bolts up, moving the goalposts ahead of the rest of the pack.

A three cubic metre load volume, high, wide rear doors and a roomy cab all helped the Berlingo win a string of awards, including best van under 1.8 tonnes for the past two years at the Fleet News Awards. The Berlingo has recently been treated to PSA's new common rail 2.0-litre diesel unit, boosting power over the old diesel unit from 71 to 90bhp. But it was the electric model I decided on for a track test, purely because I had never driven an electric-powered vehicle before.

The layout inside is similar to that of an automatic car, with two pedals - accelerator and brake - and an auto-style stick shift. The dash has two main dials - one for miles per hour and one showing how much battery power is left.

Turning the ignition on has no effect at all, except for firing up a couple of warning lights on the dash. Dab your foot on the accelerator and the van moves off in eerie silence. It's a bizarre feeling for the first couple of minutes and makes you realise just how noisy normal engines really are. Conversations with a passenger can be undertaken in quiet whispers, but the silence does tend to amplify any other little creak and groan from the vehicle.

Acceleration is swift and sure and there is no clunk-clunk of gears changing while under way. After a couple of laps, I had decided this was a most pleasant way to travel.

The van has a 500kg payload, slightly less than the 600kg or 800kg on offer from the conventionally-powered models, but interior space remains the same, thanks to the batteries being stored under the load floor and bonnet.

There are drawbacks, of course. A slight incline on the track saw the Berlingo slow down markedly - and with a top speed of 60mph a full charge will take you just 60 miles. But as a plus, the van can be charged overnight from an ordinary 13amp plug. And it still has the luxury of power steering.

Chatting to a council workman the other day who drives an electric vehicle, I also discovered another problem. Apparently, he is plagued by kamikaze pedestrians who make a habit of diving across the road in front of him. They just don't hear the vehicle approaching. It's a niche product, but one that must surely be a 'must have' item for city councils and other town-bound fleets.

Price is £9,160 excluding VAT and there is a £74 a month plus VAT charge for battery rental.

Environmentalists may point out that driving such a vehicle is purely shifting the dirt from one place to another - after all, pollution will be created wherever the electricity is generated. But there are always bound to be pluses and minuses in any such argument and at least the Electrique will be doing its bit to clean up the city smogs.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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