The prospect of catching a jitney service between hotel and travel terminal, only for it to give up the ghost causing you to miss a vital connection may be missing a point, in the case of Iain Robertson, but does highlight the fragility of the archetypal EV.
A few years ago, when car company promotional budgets were somewhat grander than they are today and there were fewer bloggers, vloggers and general hangers-on to satisfy on the transport demand front, Peugeot, the Gallic carmaker, supplied me with an unusual van-with-windows that was marketed under the handle of Peugeot Partner Tepee Outdoor 1.6HDi. I was not (initially) a willing recipient. Yet, after discovering that it shared its platform with the 308 hatchback and that its remarkable practicality ensured that I never ran out of loadspace, I grew to love it so much that I renamed it ‘Le Shed’…in some ways, the ultimate compliment.
In fact, in writing my regular running reports on ‘Le Shed’, I seldom exhausted its anecdotal 12 months life in my care. I knew that it should have been ‘La’ and not ‘Le’ but that was all part of the tongue-in-cheek fun of living with it, allied to my basic distrust of ‘les Grenouilles’. I gathered a mountain of memories and missed ‘Le Shed’, when it was returned to its maker, 15,000 miles older but still looking like a new example. Ironically, according to a local sales performance check carried out by Peugeot over the same period, no less than 28 satisfied van-with-windows owners had placed orders for their own ‘Le Sheds’, even asking for them by my gifted deviant nickname!
Powered by the ubiquitous 110bhp 1.6HDi turbodiesel engine mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox, it could be hustled to register almost 120mph on continental motorways, despite possessing barn door aerodynamics. Piloted with markedly more caution than an Air France pilot, around 55 miles could be coaxed from each gallon of the oily stuff, which made mid-France manageable from Lincolnshire on a summery jaunt, prior to requiring a fuel tank top-up. What’s more, it was comfortable and nary a complaint was voiced by the (then) memsahib, who had also warmed to ‘Le Shed’, despite her initial and understandable misgivings.
As the automotive equivalent of the ‘man drawer’ located within even the finest of fitted kitchens anywhere in the world, ‘Le Shed’ earned its stripes as a loyal and trusted member of the Robertson estate. It was no ‘looker’. Its light commercial leanings could never be disguised. Yet, it drove sweetly and uncomplainingly, thrashed to within a millimetre of its existence and not missing a single beat.
In many ways, I feel bad according a ‘Le Shed’ soubriquet to the latest electric version of the Peugeot Traveller van-with-windows, albeit with an ‘e-‘ prefix. It is easy to blame Boris for its existence, after all, he announced within nanoseconds of becoming the nation’s PM that no petrol, or diesel, powered vehicles would be sold here after 2035. It was a fairly grand statement of bravado, considering that his party had fronted and ‘won’ the EU-exit campaign, had no concept of what lay in store with the current pandemic and would be unlikely to survive ‘in power’ for a large chunk of the next 15 years.
Yet, with uncontrolled hordes of electrophiles promoting EVs with effervescently loony vigour for the past few years, there is no avoiding the fact that the imperfect science of electrification is slam-dunking us precariously on its precipice. Since Peugeot is now funded by the Peoples’ Republic of China, the sometime almost ‘broke’ car/vanmaker is going lecky-loopy. To be fair to e-Traveller, it is quite handsome for a light van and electrifying it creates a perfect hospital grounds mode of transport (far be it for me to provide Peugeot with a potential customer base!), with its relative silence and accommodation talents.
It is available in two body lengths (4.95m and 5.3m), with up to eight seats and 1,500-litres of luggage space (expandable to a remarkable 4,900-litres, if seat rows two and three are removed). As an ideal means of registered city transport, especially in London, since Chairman Khan went toll-crazy, the only issue that I can perceive for it lies in its meagre posted range of 143-miles. Factor in a cold start and an overactive right foot and that range will plummet to less than 100 in a trice, hence my earlier assertion that it will grind to an unhelpful insta-halt just when you need it not to. Come on, Peugeot, you can afford better than 250-miles, which would make more sense.
For what it’s worth, the e-Traveller also benefits from the Grip Control technology (a tricky, electronic differential but only two-wheel drive) that graces a smattering of Peugeot models. It might need it, should its near two tonnes of battery enhanced kerbweight get it stuck on moist grass. Typical of the breed, e-Traveller features a large mass of lithium-ion battery (50kWh) accommodated along its platform and it can be recharged domestically (taking an inordinate 31hrs, using a 3-pin plug), via 7.4, or 11kW chargers (7.5/5hrs), or a 100kW rapid charge facility (80% in 30min from flat).
It is not exactly the speediest of rechargers but, after hitting the 0-60mph target in around 12.8s and barrelling up to a top whack of 80mph, at least it has a mild performance bonus. Three driving modes are available but ease of driving, if the normal driver can escalate above the panic of a short range, is a key tenet of the e-Traveller. In all seriousness, ‘La Shed Electrique’ does have a viable place in the very short haul business community, although I would not recommend it for regular family requirements. Set for introduction later this year, you can reckon on a price tag in the order of £35k and possibly more.
Conclusion: Peugeot could have been a tad more circumspect in launching an electric van-with-windows, rather than introducing a market sop. It lacks range, which is its biggest failing that will restrict its potential.