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Foton T5 2024 review: Pantech

The Foton T5 is available in one colour - white (Image: Mark Oastler)

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

3.8/5

It’s still early days for battery-electric workhorses in Australia but Chinese brand Foton is making a concerted push into the zero-tailpipe-emissions commercial-vehicle market with its T5 EV.

The Beijing-based manufacturer, which has topped commercial-vehicle sales in China for almost two decades, is offering the ‘new energy’ electric T5 cab-chassis with a choice of GVM ratings: 4500kg for car licence operation or 6000kg for Light Rigid truck licence holders.

With a claimed fully-loaded driving range of 180km and unique-for-EV 3500kg braked tow rating, Foton says the T5 EV can also provide fleets with upfront and operational cost reductions of around 20 per cent compared to diesel. And it can be fitted with a wide variety of service bodies, including its own ready-to-work Tipper variant.

Foton is aiming to expand local sales by focusing on customers involved in last-mile logistics, local councils, construction and infrastructure support, for which this vehicle is best suited. We recently trialled a T5 EV to see how it stacks up as an alternative to diesel.

Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 7/10

The T5 EV cab-chassis comes equipped with a single electric motor and 81.14kWh battery capacity for MSRP of $139,450 plus GST. 

Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels (dual rears) with 205/75R16 LT tyres and a full-size spare, seating for three, remote central-locking and height/reach adjustable steering wheel.

There’s also a reversing radar and camera, cabin roof air-deflector, lower rear and side guards, 24-volt dash socket and basic multimedia including radio, Bluetooth and MP3/MP5 connectivity.

The T5 Pantech has a MSRP of $139,450 plus GST (Image: Mark Oastler) The T5 Pantech has a MSRP of $139,450 plus GST (Image: Mark Oastler)

Design – Is there anything interesting about its design? 8/10

The T5 EV has a 3360mm wheelbase and steel ladder-frame chassis, with a leaf-spring solid front axle, leaf-spring rear axle and rear-wheel drive. Braking is by front discs and rear drums.

Its 81.14kWh of energy capacity is provided by two 60Ah lithium-ion batteries, one on each side, mounted in long parallel cradles. Drivetrain maintenance items, including motor and battery cooling systems, are accessed by unlocking and tilting the hinged cab forward.

The cab offers sufficient head, shoulder and legroom for up to three occupants, including tall people in the often-compromised centre seat. However, the centre seat is only equipped with a lap-belt.

The cab offers sufficient room for three occupants (Image: Mark Oastler) The cab offers sufficient room for three occupants (Image: Mark Oastler)

Practicality – How practical is its space and tech inside? 8/10

With a maximum claimed kerb weight of 2500kg, the T5 EV has a 2000kg payload rating for car licence operation and up to 3500kg for drivers with a Light Rigid truck licence (these payloads include the weight of service bodies).

Its 8000kg GCM (how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) means car licence drivers can tow up to 3500kg of braked trailer while carrying its maximum payload. For Light Rigid drivers, the maximum trailer weight drops to 2000kg, given the larger payload allowance.

Pantech body pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Pantech body pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)

The Pantech body fitted to our test vehicle has twin rear doors, with 270-degree opening and sturdy hooks on the body sides to hold them in place.

Cabin storage includes narrow bins but no bottle-holders in the doors, an overhead storage shelf on the driver’s side, a small compartment with spring-loaded lid in the dash and a single glovebox.

The centre console only offers a single bottle-holder. However, the centre seat backrest folds forward and flat to reveal a small desk on the back of it, complete with a hidden storage compartment and two cup/bottle-holders.

Cabin door pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Cabin door pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)

Under the bonnet – What are the key stats for its motor? 8/10

The T5 EV’s single electric motor has a peak power output of 115kW and maximum torque of 300Nm. It also offers two drive modes: ‘Eco’ which minimises energy use with a top speed of 73km/h and ‘Power’ which uses more battery charge but increases top speed to 94km/h (both speeds achieved during our test).

  • Drivetrain ancillaries with cab tilted pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Drivetrain ancillaries with cab tilted pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)
  • Battery and cradle pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Battery and cradle pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)

Efficiency – What is its driving range? What is its charging time? 7/10

Foton does not publish an official kWh/100km consumption figure, but claims a fully loaded driving range of 180km from its 81.14kWh battery capacity.

According to the dash readouts at the end of our test, which we did on a single charge, we drove 142km with 38km of estimated range remaining. Our displayed average consumption was 51.3kWh/100km, so based on that figure you could expect a driving range of around 160km, which is less than the dash estimate.

Our testing was conducted without a load (see Driving) but it did include considerable freeway travel required to collect and return the vehicle, so regenerative braking was minimal. And we had to use Power mode to maintain freeway speeds.

Foton claims that DC fast-charging allows for a full recharge in 1.5 hours, while the 11kW onboard AC charger takes 7.2 hours which is suitable to overnight turnarounds.

Instrument display pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Instrument display pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)

Driving - what’s it like to drive? 8/10

There are large handles on the windscreen pillars to assist climbing aboard and the driving position offers adequate comfort, with its steering wheel adjustments and left footrest. However, some rake adjustment in the flat base cushion would be welcome, as it can feel like you're sliding forward at times.

The drive selector dial on the console has three settings (Reverse, Neutral, Drive) marked by the letters R-D-N, so it’s simple to use. Because of its near-silent operation at low speeds, the T5 EV is equipped with an audible pedestrian warning system. This activates at speeds below 30km/h and makes a unique sound that defies description.

We drove in Eco mode when not on the freeway and found that its quiet and smooth surge of acceleration was more than adequate for a vehicle weighing more than 2.5 tonnes. We did briefly try the Power mode but did not detect a significant boost in performance.

  • Front alloy wheel pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Front alloy wheel pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)
  • Rear dual alloy wheel pictured (Image: Mark Oastler) Rear dual alloy wheel pictured (Image: Mark Oastler)

It has good steering feel (with electric power assistance) and its noticeable lightness at low speeds is appreciated when manoeuvring in tight spots. The brake pedal provides vigorous response and a strong regenerative effect (as displayed on the energy gauge) that optimises battery range.

The instrument display shows drive mode, estimated driving range, battery charge and temperature, energy use, average energy consumption and other useful data relating to drivetrain operation. Useful enhancements would be speed-sign recognition and a clearer image for the reversing camera.

Although almost silent under 60km/h, increased noise at freeway speeds includes some faint drivetrain hum and wind-buffeting around the large door mirrors, which compensate by offering excellent rear vision.

We didn’t get to do our usual GVM test, due to a software glitch in the public charging facilities we arranged to use on the day. Back-to-base operations with in-house charging would avoid these issues.

The T5 EV has a 3360mm wheelbase (Image: Mark Oastler) The T5 EV has a 3360mm wheelbase (Image: Mark Oastler)

Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What is its safety rating? 8/10

Includes driver and passenger airbags plus AEB, lane departure warning, hill-start assist, traction control and other active safety features. There’s also the low-speed pedestrian warning system, reversing camera/radar/buzzer, fire extinguisher, unlocked cab warning and more. The lap-belt for the centre passenger seat, though, needs upgrading to a full lap-sash type.

Ownership – What warranty is offered? What are its service intervals? What are its running costs? 7/10

The T5 EV would be best suited to short-haul city and suburban tasks, with daily back-to-base operations ensuring the convenient and dependable charging infrastructure required (compared to the lottery of public charging). Given Foton’s claim of upfront and operational cost reductions, the T5 EV could be what some commercial fleet managers are looking for. 

$139,450

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Tradies score

3.8/5
Price Guide

$139,450

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data
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