Coventry Council is supporting local business owners who want to make the switch to electric vehicles, with the help of a quartet of battery-powered Mercedes-Benz eSprinters supplied by local Dealer Midlands Truck & Van.
The local authority has been awarded funding from the Highways Agency to set its own fleet of electric vans and cars on the road. These are now being offered to those working in and around the city for free extended trials, allowing them to assess how effectively cleaner, ‘greener’ vehicles could fit into their businesses.
The aim is to reduce pollution and improve air quality in Coventry. Participants in the ‘Electric Fleet First’ scheme are offered the use of a van or car for at least two months. All are fitted with telematics systems that generate reports recording usage patterns and allowing easy calculations to be made on potential reductions in running costs.
The Council also provides support and advice on integrating electric vehicles into established fleets, as well grants and assistance with the provision and installation at attractively subsidised rates of connection points from approved partner EO Charging – those taking up this offer could save up to £500 per charger.
While electric cars have already been provided to a driving school and local taxi operators, the Mercedes-Benz eSprinters are the biggest of the vans being offered through the scheme. The first proved so popular with local traders that Coventry Council has now added three more – all arrived via Midlands Truck & Van’s branch in Whitley, Coventry.
The eSprinter is powered by a 114 hp electric motor that drives the front wheels. It can travel 95 miles (combined WLTP with 80 km/h speed limiter) on a single charge – ample for most urban delivery and ‘last mile’ applications. Recuperative energy recovered when decelerating supplements the batteries’ output.
The vehicle is based on the L2 (medium length), H2 (high roof) Sprinter. Its 55 kWh high-voltage battery pack is securely mounted beneath the body, so does not impinge on cargo carrying space. As a result, the eSprinter’s 11m3 load volume is identical to that of its diesel-engined, front-wheel drive stablemate, and half a cubic metre larger than the rear-wheel drive equivalent.
Among those who have already trialled an eSprinter under the Electric Fleet First scheme is Coventry-based catering business The Paneer Wrap Streetfood Company, headed by local entrepreneur Dev Bhamra.
“The eSprinter is fantastic – a really impressive vehicle,” he enthused. “It certainly created a buzz among our customers. The people who buy our food are generally very aware of environmental issues and were delighted to see us using a van that produces zero exhaust emissions.
“The eSprinter has a very practical load area, with space to stand up inside, and is so easy to drive. It’s also built to a very high standard – as I knew it would be, having operated Mercedes-Benz Vito vans for several years.
“I’m now seriously considering investing in a battery-powered Mercedes-Benz. Working in Coventry, there are so many public charge points in the city that running out of power need never be a worry.
Five other English local authorities are running similar schemes with Highways Agency backing, the others being Bristol, Kent, Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield.
Coventry prides itself on being a leader in the drive towards electrification. The city already has more than 400 public recharging points and the council recently announced plans to bid for funding to add another 400, to encourage the take-up of electric vehicles by households without private driveways. Meanwhile, moves are underway to convert the city’s bus fleet to all-electric by 2025.
Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Regeneration and Climate Change, said: “This is a great scheme that’s supporting local businesses to make the switch to electric vehicles. By enabling risk-free trials, we’re showing businesses that now is the right time to make the move to electric. With the 2030 deadline for the manufacture of petrol and diesel cars fast approaching, there has never been a better time for companies to invest in this green form of transport.”
He continued: “Coventry is leading the way when it comes to transport electrification. With more charging points than anywhere outside London, not only is Coventry one of the most convenient places in the UK to own an electric vehicle, but with the establishment of the publicly-funded UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, we’ve placed our city at the heart of the green industrial revolution. I’d urge all our local businesses to take a look at this scheme to see if an electric vehicle is right for them.”
Amy Shakespeare, Coventry’s Electric Fleet First Project Leader, commented: “We aim to support local businesses who want to explore their options, by allowing them to trial an electric vehicle for an extended period in their day-to-day work, but without any need for a big financial commitment.
“The Mercedes-Benz eSprinters are the biggest vans on our electric fleet and as such they offer a practical option for operators who need lots of space to carry large cargoes. There’s been a great deal of demand for these vehicles from business operators, which is why we now run four of them.
“They’re generating a lot of interest and we hope that by becoming a talking point among local companies, and being seen out on the street, they’ll help to raise the profile of electric vehicles across the city.”
Midlands Truck & Van Sales Executive David McKay, who managed Coventry Council’s orders, added: “The Electric Fleet First scheme is a fantastic way to introduce people to the potential benefits our electric Mercedes-Benz vans can deliver, so we are delighted to support the authority’s forward-looking initiative.”