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Wheels of the Week: Enviro Automotive electric panel van

The Chinese battery electric vehicle has been tested on a 5,200km road trip across South Africa.

Enviro Automotive has completed the local testing programme of its EC35 panel van with a 5,200 km open-road trip.

Enviro is South African importer and distributor of Chinese automaker DFSK’s C-Series battery-electric panel vans and bakkies,

Gideon Wolvaardt, the Managing Director of Enviro Automotive, says the idea of an open-road trip was developed iwith Winstone Jordaan, founder and MD of GridCars, the electric vehicle charging network. “Although the EC35 was developed for last-mile deliveries, we decided to test it on the open road to tick off all the boxes of our local testing programme.”

Battery-electric panel vans are used for last-mile deliveries and are usually less used on the open road. However, Enviro Automotive wanted its battery-electric delivery vehicles were exposed to different conditions across the country. This included hot and cold weather, heavy rain, mountain passes and city driving.

The purpose of this trip was to visit 27 GridCar fast-charging stations en route to Durban, and the Western and Eastern Cape, as part of the company’s annual hardware and software maintenance programme. The company manages more than 300 charging stations across South Africa. The trip started from GridCars’ head office in Roodepoort and took nine days to complete. One of GridCars’ senior project and maintenance managers was behind the steering wheel.

Says Jordaan: This was the first all-electric maintenance trip done by GridCars. While we understand the vehicle was designed for last-mile deliveries and knowing we were doing a safari, the vehicle exceeded our expectations. 

“After doing the maintenance activities, it was really convenient to test the charger with a vehicle. The EC35 drew a crowd wherever it went and will certainly be a good package for anyone looking to start the transition to electric.”

Wolvaardt says that the data collected from this trip is vital for future product planning, service support and warranty programmes.

“The test data will be shared with DFSK in China and is used to ensure the optimum performance for both the EC35 panel van and the EC31 one-tonne bakkie.”

Enviro Automotive has been testing the EC35 in local transport fleets since July. Data about the EC35’s performance was collated and shared with potential customers, including big transport operators and entrepreneurs, supporting them in their transition to electric vehicles.

“This trip gives us extra confidence about our DFSK battery-electric workhorses. The EC35 not only passed its last-mile delivery tests with flying colours but also impressed us with efficiencies shown on the open road at a fraction of the cost of petrol and diesel panel van competitors. 

“Its excellent performance, ride comfort, cargo space and power consumption per 100 km make it the ideal vehicle in the highly competitive delivery environment.”

The EC35 will be launched in the market in January. The first EC31 one-tonne bakkie arrived in the country a few weeks ago and is currently being tested by the company and various transport operators. The EC31, which will be launched in the second quarter of 2023, shares the same platform and technology as its panel van sibling and offers a payload of 1,020 kg.

The EC35 offers a payload of 1,015 kg and a large loading space of 4.8 m³. The cargo area’s dimensions are 2 530 mm (L) x 1 440 mm (W) x 1 270 mm (H). The cargo area is accessible via sliding doors on both sides of the panel van and the tailgate, making loading and offloading easy.

It features ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) and Electric Power Steering (EPS). It boasts a selection of modern-day driver comforts, including air-conditioning, a reverse camera, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and a touchscreen infotainment system. It also features a pedestrian warning system that emits a warning sound when the vehicle cruises below 30 km/h.

The EC35 is equipped with a single synchronous electric motor that produces 60 kW and 200 Nm of torque. It features a 38.7 kWh Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery. Charging the battery will cost as little as R56.50 and yield a travel distance of up to 270 km, which equates to a 25 cents per kilometre operating cost. With a DC Fast charger, the battery could be charged from empty to 80 percent capacity in less than an hour.

The EC35 is backed by DFSK’s three-year/60 000 km manufacturer warranty and service plan. The traction battery has a five-year/120 000 km warranty. Minimal maintenance is required, and services are scheduled every 12 months or 20 000 km.

Enviro also plans to introduce a range of electric motorcycles, a battery-electric four-tonne truck and passenger cars.

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