What Van? Awards 2013 Innovation: Emerald Automotive

Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The What Van? Innovation Award goes to Emerald Automotive for its t-001, the prototype for a lightweight hybrid-electric van that the firm believes could revolutionise large delivery fleets.
 Co-funded by money from the Government-backed Technology Strategy Board as part of its Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation platform, Emerald built two demo vehicles. They are powered by high-voltage lithium-ion batteries supplied by Axeon, with 1.4-litre Ford Fiesta diesel engines used as  range-extenders. For the prototypes Emerald used Ford Transits as the basic component donor vehicles.
The van, which is scheduled to come to market in 2014, is targeted at meeting the needs of large fleets of at least 40,000 units using 3.5-tonne CVs.
During development Emerald consulted blue-chip companies such as Royal Mail and DHL. According to Emerald’s boss Andy Tempest, their chief requirements were to maximise economy without impacting upon payload capacity. They were also keen to eliminate the range anxiety that currently puts off fleets from making major investments in pure- electric vans.
So as not to eat into the 1400kg payload and 5.2m3 load volume with the introduction of electric components such as batteries, inverters and traction motors, Emerald has pioneered a lightweight structure for the vehicle based on techniques more commonly found in motorsport. The t-001 features an aluminium chassis, space frame cab and lightweight composite body panels. According to technical director Ian Collins, it is sturdy enough to pass the most stringent safety tests.
In tests Emerald claims the demonstrators achieved CO2 of 31.5g/km – an 80% reduction compared with the current best-in- class heavy vans – while fuel consumption was measured at a jaw-dropping 232mpg. But the manufacturer is still not satisfied with these figures and reckons CO2 can be cut to 25g/km and consumption stretched to 300mpg.
Emerald predicts the van will have a capacity of just over 64 miles in pure electric mode, with the batteries powering a 75kW motor, before the range-extender kicks in to drive up its range to 400 miles.
The diesel engine drives a 54kW generator that recharges the batteries and provides current to the electric motor – it does not drive the wheels directly.
Tempest says the production van will have a price tag of about £32,000 and adds that Emerald needs sales of 4000 to break even. The firm has a base business plan to produce 10,000 units a year rising to 100,000. Tempest reckons fleets are looking at a payback time of 22 months and predicts average annual fuel savings of £7200 per vehicle.
What Van? tested one of Emerald’s Range-Extended Electric Vehicle demonstrators and found it remarkably similar to driving a conventional automatic van – a characteristic that should ease its passage into the marketplace.

Highly Commended

Ford is recognised this year for a number of practical innovations on its new Transit Custom. Among them, the option of an integrated retractable roof rack, which can
be deployed when required to carry equipment but otherwise sits flush with the roof to allow the Custom to fit underneath 2m-high car park barriers, is arguably the standout feature.

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