Nissans e-NV200 was shown in Geneva last month

Nissan's e-NV200 was shown in Geneva last month

Nissan's UK MD Jim Wright has told just-auto that he sees its Barcelona built e-NV200 electric van as a model introduction that will boost Nissan EV sales in the UK fleet marketplace.

Wright acknowledged that building EV sales has been tough, but said that he sees things beginning to shift and believes that Nissan's electric van will be key to building sales of electric vehicles in the UK fleet market.

"We over-estimated the benefits of being first to market and perhaps under-estimated the drawbacks that come with that [being first to market]," Wright concedes.

"But we are starting to see a change in the [EV] marketplace, helped by the fact that BMW have arrived, Volkswagen are about to arrive. Kia showed an EV at Geneva. For one thing, the media acceptance of the technology is starting to mature.

"On the fleet side in the UK we have seen a reluctance to pick up the technology in any significant numbers so far. Fleet customers are typically buying one at a time. But again, over the past three of four months this is starting to change."

And Wright sees the arrival of the e-NV200 as a development that will further change UK fleet managers' perceptions of electric vehicles.

"This an electric van off the Leaf platform. This vehicle will go on sale in June and we are talking to a number of large fleet customers about this vehicle," he says.

"The concept is immediately understandable: 'I have a defined route, fleet size of X number of vehicles and the Total Cost of Ownership benefit is X.' Therefore it quickly makes commercial sense for them and we have some really significant fleets who have expressed an interest in this.

"And when you have a fleet of say 5,000 vehicles you can try maybe 1,000 electric and it's not an all or nothing choice. They know how much budget they have to spend, how much they can save. They can manage their risk."

First year volumes in the UK will be low as production in Barcelona is ramped up. Wright estimates that Nissan will sell around a thousand e-NV200s in the UK in the first year.

"It's a demonstration in a very practical way of the benefits of the technology," he says.

"We have some customers coming in and saying 'tell us about your electric van'. Well we can do that and also say 'we have a car, too'".

What sort of fleet users are we talking about?

"If you think of delivery companies, they know the route before they leave in the morning. Same with utility companies. The vehicles are parked up overnight so they can be charged overnight. If the drivers take them home, they can often be charged overnight there as well. And it is very easy to define the usage.

"You can easily calculate the benefits in that kind of environment."