Nissan North America next month will embark on a year–long commercial field test of a new electric cargo van, the e–NV200, to determine its viability for sale in the U.S. — beginning with a trial period by FedEx Corp., which will employ the vehicle for daily delivery rounds in the Washington, D.C. area.
Production of the e–NV200 for commercial sales in Japan and Europe will begin this Spring, but Nissan still hasn’t decided whether to bring it to the U.S. market, said Erik Gottfried, director of customer quality and dealer network development — and, until recently, director of electric vehicle (EV) sales and marketing — at Nissan North America in Franklin, Tenn.
The FedEx test will involve only one van and last for six to eight weeks. Afterward, a second e–NV200 will be imported and used in more field trials slated for the east and west coasts, in partnership with other companies, large and small, Gottfried said. One of those additional trials on the west coast may be with FedEx, although the other trial companies will be testing the vehicle in “various usage applications,” he said. Those additional partners have been selected but not announced.
Nissan is continuing its search for more partners to “round out the calendar later in the year,” Gottfried added. More of the vehicles may be added to the trial fleet, too. “We’ll evaluate what our needs are for the program as we go forward,” he said.
Because full–scale production of the e–NV200 hasn’t begun — and, in fact, final specifications for the vehicle haven’t even been announced yet — both of the initial two trial vans are prototypes. The first made its U.S. debut on January 22 at the Washington Auto Show (where it is on display through today).
This FedEx trial will be the first time the e–NV200 is utilized in a commercial environment in North America.
Earlier, Nissan and FedEx partnered on similar tests of the e–NV200 in Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Brazil. In fact, the second e–NV200 trial vehicle will be coming from Brazil, where FedEx is using it this month in a similar field test.
While the e–NV200 is a new vehicle for FedEx, it is not the shipping company’s first EV. Including the e–NV200 test vehicle in Brazil, FedEx already has 167 EVs and 365 hybrid electric vehicles in its global fleet, and uses them in the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Japan and China. The company plans to increase these numbers to 222 and 393, respectively, by the end of May.
The e–NV200 is based on Nissan’s NV200 small cargo vehicle. It is the second EV in Nissan’s product lineup, after the Leaf passenger car, and both models share the same lithium–ion battery (as well as have similar electric powertrains). The Leaf was launched in 2010 and last year tallied its best sales year ever, recording a 130 percent sales increase, Gottfried noted. More Leafs were sold in 2013 than in the prior three years combined, and currently there are more than 42,000 Leaf EVs on the road in the U.S., he said.