Like the spelling of its name, Chanje’s first delivery vehicle is unconventional. The company is betting its electric delivery van will change the segment into a plug-friendly market.
The Los Angeles-based, Chinese-backed company’s first offering, the extended-length V8070 panel van, could do just that — if Chanje is successful in getting it into the hands of those potential buyers.
The company is entrusting that chore to rental giant Ryder System Inc., which took delivery in New York on Thursday of 25 of the upstart’s Class 5 vans. This is the first batch of an order totaling 125. The remaining vans in the order will continue to arrive incrementally until early next year.
Ryder will offer the trucks to delivery van leasing customers and intends to deploy the vehicles first in New York, Chicago and a number of California cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose. Ryder also is outfitting its maintenance facilities in those markets to handle the electric trucks, including the installation of charging stations.
All locales have air quality policies and available incentives that make electric trucks feasible despite their higher initial purchase cost.
As Chanje’s marketing channel, Ryder largely will be responsible for making the economic case to replace dependable gasoline and diesel vans with the battery-powered V8070. Once the electric vans are out there, however, drivers may become Chanje’s best salesmen.
Trucks.com recently drove one of the vans — without cargo — on a roughly 15-mile route in suburban Orange County, Calif. There was no freeway driving or mock delivery stops, so we can’t comment on how the nearly 27-foot-long van handles high-speed travel or how easy it is to load and unload.
But we did experience a variety of road surfaces, several decent hills and a lot of stop-and-go traffic, all part and parcel of every delivery driver’s day.
The V8070 provides a remarkably stable and comfortable ride. Despite its truckish origins, it drives more like the family minivan than the service vehicle it’s designed to be.
The 70 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack holds enough juice for a least 100 miles on a charge, which Chanje says is sufficient for most urban delivery work as industry statistics show a 70-mile daily driving average for commercial delivery vans.
Although the twin, axle-mounted electric motors deliver a modest 198 horsepower, they provide a hefty 564 pound-feet of torque. Chanje said the rear-wheel drive V8070 can cart a 3-ton load, even up a 30 percent grade. On our test drive, it handled a number of steep hills with no evident strain.
With no load, acceleration is quick enough to press the driver deep into the back of the nicely padded and bolstered seat. Top speed is given at 80 mph, although Chanje Chief Executive Bryan Hansel said he’s driven the van faster than that.
The empty van is a little bouncy over potholes and railroad crossings, but it’s reasonable to expect a few thousand pounds of cargo to smooth things out.
The V8070 doesn’t feel very large from the driver’s seat despite its nearly 9-foot height and 26.5- foot length, which is 42 inches longer than an extended-length Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The low-slung battery pack, mounted between the frame rails beneath the cargo floor, helps pin it to the road and gives it a low center of gravity.
There’s little body roll when cornering, and the power-steering and suspension make it maneuverable; the van’s powerful regenerative braking system means there’s often little need to apply the manual brakes, and when they are applied, stopping is quick and sure.
Rear visibility is quite good, thanks to power side mirrors and a rear back-up camera.
The single-speed transmission — a feature of most electric vehicles — relieves the driver of gear-changing chores. The electric drive system eliminates the roar and rumble of an internal combustion engine and makes for a quiet drive. That same electric drive eliminates tailpipe emissions.
The long, tall cargo bay — it holds 580 cubic feet — is fairly easy to step into and out of. It is accessed through wide-opening double rear doors, a passenger-side sliding door or by stepping between the driver and passenger seats.
The operator’s cabin, while not plush, is comfortable and well-equipped. The manually adjustable captain’s-chair style seating is cloth-upholstered and has supportive side bolsters and cushions. Each has a flip-up armrest. For durability, the dash and door panels are clad in hard commercial-grade plastic rather than the soft-touch plastics used in most passenger vehicles.
There are sufficient drink holders — one in the center stack and one in each of the door panels — and a non-slip cubby in the center stack to hold loose items such as change, keys or a cellphone. The van starts with the push of a button; side mirrors and windows are power-operated.
Instrumentation isn’t overwhelming, but there’s enough of it. Each screen and gauge is multi-function, with readouts the driver can scroll through using steering-wheel mounted controls.
Climate controls, the audio system and charging timer are controlled from a large 10.4-inch touchscreen mounted in the center of the dash. A smaller digital display screen is positioned in front of the driver between the speedometer, power use and range gauges.
Drivers will rarely have to worry about it, but the van’s 7.2-kilowatt charging system enables a fully depleted battery pack to recharge in 10 hours on a 240-volt, Level 2 system. Chanje vans built in 2018 and beyond will have DC fast-charging capability for quick 30-minute top ups on extended routes.
Overall, it appears that the V8070 — built in China to Chanje’s specifications for U.S. use — will be able to compete well in short-haul urban delivery and service van segments, once the economics are hashed out.
Chanje said the van should achieve the equivalent of 50 mpg versus a diesel Class 5 delivery van or truck— good enough for a 70 percent savings on fuel costs.
Maintenance costs also should be about 70 percent less, the company said, given that electric powertrains have far fewer moving parts than an internal combustion engine. An electric vehicle’s single-speed transmission also is much less complex compared with a standard manual or automatic transmission.