Plug-in Hybrid Electric Van From UK Has Implications For US

An extended range plug-in hybrid electric van is scheduled for production the UK beginning in September. That might have implications for the US market. Here’s why. The city of London has decided that it wants to get rid of its smelly, clattery, and dearly beloved black taxis and replace them with plug in hybrid vehicles, also painted black. The London Taxi Cab Company is owned by Geely Motors, which also owns Volvo. It has just completed the first new automobile manufacturing facility to be built in England in 10 years at a cost of $350 million.

Emerald T-001 plug-in hybrid electric van

That factory will produce the new TX5 plug-in hybrid electric taxis that will replace London’s diesel cabs over the next several years. That new factory has a capacity of 36,000 vehicles a year. But only about 5,000 TX5 taxis are expected to be manufactured annually. What to do with the excess capacity? Somewhere along the line, Geely also acquired Emerald Automotive. Emerald developed a new hybrid electric van it called the T-001 with engineering help from Riccardo.

Since Emerald is a privately owned company, it is tight lipped about technical details. But a single piece of paper with specifications has surfaced, according to Autocar. It reveals that the T-0001 will have a battery only range of “over 66 miles,” with an additional 342 miles possible once the gasoline engine is activated. It has 442 lb-ft of torque, which can push it to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. Top speed is said to be 85mph. It also can carry a payload of more than 3,000 lbs.

Autocar believes that Geely intends to use that extra capacity at the new factory to build as many as 30,000 Emerald T-001 vans a year. The TX5 taxi and the T-001 van share the same chassis and powertrain. So far, it has plans to build a short wheelbase version and a longer wheelbase high roof variant, but the platform would also be ideally suited to a minibus configuration.

What does anything that happens in Jollye Olde Englande have to do with things here in the colonies? Well, it turns out the US Postal Service is interested in replacing its fleet of 170,000 gasoline and diesel powered vehicles with electrified products. That contract alone could keep the UK factory humming for 5 years or more. Emerald also maintains a US office in St. Louis.

Some of the biggest polluters on the road are delivery trucks. Replacing them with low emissions plug-in hybrids would be a significant step forward in curbing global emissions. While everyone else is focused on what Tesla Motors is going to do next in the electric passenger car market, Geely could sneak in the back door and establish itself as a leader in the electric delivery van sector. At present, no one is offering an electric delivery van like the Emerald T-001, even though there is a large potential market for such a vehicle.

While some might complain that a fully electric van would be a better option, the truth is that such vehicles are not currently available at a price fleet owners are willing to pay. In this case, half a loaf is better than none. With help from the USPS, Emerald T-001 plug-in hybrid vans could start appearing on American roads in a year or two.

Source: Inside EVs

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.