An on-going trial with Australia Post that has seen the battery powered Renault Kangoo ZE small delivery van integrated into the postal service's fleet, is stimulating interest from other business buyers according to Renault Australia.
The company's Australian light-commercial vehicles (LCV) senior model line manager Lyndon Healey told CarsGuide that others, including a number of local councils, have approached Renault about adding the electric vans to their fleets.
"Those vehicles are still being trialled by Australia Post and they're still driving them, but we now have a dedicated ZE product manager who looks after Kangoo ZE and... any customers interested in the Kangoo ZE, we'd be happy to talk to them," he said.
"We've had plenty of interest from local councils. Sydney City Council has been quite vocal about its interest in it, and there are a couple in South Australia as well."
Mr Healey acknowledged the Kangoo's higher price and relatively short range combined to make the vehicle a tough sell despite interest from corporate buyers.
The electric ZE sells in only modest numbers, priced at about $40,000, which is a $10,000 premium over the company's popular Maxi Crew diesel.
Renault claims to have sold five Kangoo ZEs to a fleet management company and one of its commercial partners but declined to name names.
The importers of expensive, low-volume electric or hybrid vehicles often blame a lack of government incentives for their small number of sales, and Renault has joined the chorus.
"It's on sale, it's just a very low-key thing – until there's more government support for these types of products, you have to be pretty dedicated to the cause to want to buy one at the moment," Mr Healey said.
The Victorian department of transport, planning and local infrastructure funds the charging station for Australia Post's two Melbourne-based ZEs.
The Kangoo ZEs were first used as postal vans in France where, according to Mr Healey, swapping from diesel to electric power meant health benefits for the drivers.
"The French Post used to have diesel Kangoos, when they swapped to ZE they got massive resistance," he said.
"Within 12 months they had the opposite problem, where their absenteeism had dropped by 40 per cent, and when they tried to put some people back in the diesels because they couldn't build the ZEs fast enough, they all went on strike because they didn't want to give up their ZE Kangoos."
Australia Post's four Kangoo ZEs are still currently in service almost three years after starting what was intended to be a 12-month trial program.
The ZE has a real-world driving range between 80km and 125km and is powered by a 22kWh lithium-ion battery that spins a 44kW/266Nm AC electric motor.
The battery can be fully recharged in six to nine hours with a 3kW plug.
Australia Post has not yet set an end date for the ZE trial.
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