Tests on the latest lithium-ion batteries used in electric vans have shown that the vehicles should lead productive working lives for at least a decade.
Smith Electric Vehicles, which has more commercial electric vehicles on UK roads than any other manufacturer, has conducted extensive trials on the lithium-ion phosphate (LiFePO4) batteries in its Smith Edison light commercial vehicle. When combined with data from its customers’ vehicles, Smith Electric can make a compelling case for the real operational life of its vans and light trucks.
Kevin Harkin, sales director for Smith Electric Vehicles, said: “The battery condition reports delivered much more impressive figures than we ever expected, demonstrating far lower levels of battery degradation than even the manufacturer forecast.
“Our own research - and independent tests that we commissioned - have verified that the battery should still have a minimum of 80 per cent capacity after 3,000 cycles.
“So even if the vehicle uses a full battery cycle, every day for 300 days a year, it will still be 80% efficient after 10 years. For example, a vehicle that had a 100-mile range brand new will still have an 80-mile range, a decade later.”
Smith Electric previously used Sodium Nickel Chloride (Zebra) batteries, but moved to LiFePO4 for its longer life, durability and better performance. Smith now guarantees its batteries for five years, as opposed to the three-year warranty it could offer on Zebra batteries. And because the drive train on a Smith vehicle is friction-free, it does not wear in the same way as an internal combustion engine.
“Couple this to the extended battery life and you can see why many of our fleet customers are pushing out the operating life of our vehicles to seven, eight or even ten years,” added Kevin.
“This extended life creates a compelling saving on whole life costs – it’s an extra three to five years without having to buy diesel. That is one of the reasons why we use the Ford Transit chassis – it is extremely durable and long-lasting.”
Although battery technology will undoubtedly improve as the EV industry matures, Smith does not expect that this will render older technologies obsolete. The company expects the value of older vehicles will be linked to their displacement of diesel costs – therefore, every increase in pump prices or congestion charging enhances the worth of an EV. There are road-going electric commercials built by Smith 30 years ago that are still working vehicles.
“I spent 20 years of my career in fleet management and can completely sympathise with Glass and CAP in the challenge of establishing residual values for commercial EVs,” said Kevin.
“It is incredibly difficult for them to set RVs, because they have no historical data – the new lithium-ion battery packs have only been in the field for three years.
“We have sold more pre-owned electric vehicles than anyone else. Recent sales of ex-demonstration models have justified our views on where the RV can be set. But real comfort for CAP and Glass will come when we start seeing pre-owned vehicles offered on the open market.
“Right now, fleet managers can purchase with confidence that the vehicles will have a long, useful and profitable life.”