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Modec Introduces Electric Light Commercial Van

The Modec in van configuration.

Modec, a UK company, introduced an all-electric light commercial van, the Modec van, at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, UK, this week. On a single charge, the Modec van offers a range of more than 100 miles and a top speed of 50 mph carrying a load of up to two tonnes. The 70kW motor (102hp) develops 300Nm of torque.

Twin parallel-wired 288-volt Zebra sodium-nickel-chloride battery packs have a life span of around four years (1,000 full charging cycles.) Regenerative braking recharges the batteries in addition to grid charging, which takes 8 hours for a complete charge.

The battery pack sits amidships in a drop-down mounting which can be swapped out to avoid downtime while recharging.

The Sodium Nickel Chloride battery pack has an average life span of around four years (1,000 full charging cycles.) Larger and smaller Lithium-Ion packs will be available next year.

The Zytek Electric motor sits under the floor, just ahead of the rear axle. The motor sits transversely, driving the back axle through a reduction gear set. Hub reduction gears down motor speed even farther.

The Modec van is the first of its kind. It is comparable to other vans currently on the market but supersedes them all by producing no CO2 emissions. It also is 100% clean in terms of local air quality and is virtually silent, spelling the end to noisy night deliveries in urban areas. Road tax is free and it is also exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

With carbon emissions and climate change being a topic of growing concern we are confident that the Modec van will soon be the van of choice for large fleet operators who are conscious of the cost savings as well as the savings to the environment that using the Modec van will deliver.

—Jamie Borwick, Chairman of Modec

The Modec van started life as the LTI (London Taxis International) Electric Mercury. The e-Mercury, introduced in 2004, was developed by LTI in conjunction with Azure Dynamics and MSX International.

Jamie Borwick, former Chairman of Manganese Bronze, purchased the e-Mercury project from LTI (part of Manganese Bronze) during 2005. Many of the Modec team, including Jamie (Chairman and owner), Jevon Thorpe (CEO), Colin Smith (Engineering Director), David Godfrey (Technical Director), Bill Gillespie and Trevor Power (non-exec directors) were part of the team at LTI who were responsible for developing the iconic TX1 taxi.

Pricing for the Modec van costs starts at £23,000 (US$41,100).

(A hat-tip to Trevor Power!)



Perfect for in city deliveries.

Sanitation vehicles, Postal vehicles and the like need this as well (Fed-ex, UPS, USPS, etc).

Electric vehicles would work great in commercial applications where the recycling of batteries could be monitored better and the vehicles do lots of stop and go driving with often idling.


Most interesting.

I don't know how this price would compare to a diesel vehicle. It doesn't seem that bad though.


It would be useful to see some cost comparisons between swapping versus faster recharging batteries. Factored into the cost would be the difference in personnel costs between someone who knows how to plug in the vehicle to charge LiPo batteries versus someone able to swap fresh Sodium batteries for discharged ones and recharge the discharge set.

In either case dispatchers would have to re-devise delivery patterns to allow for more frequent return for fresh charge.

Until energy storage (battery and / or ultra capacitor) prices of electric drives become more competitive, I would think that fleet managers will opt for parallel hybrids, which take advantage of the high torque and regenerative braking afforded by an electric drive, combined with a small efficient piston engine operating within its optimal power range to keep the vehicle at speed and drive a generator to extend the range of the electric drive.


This is not the first of its kind. Electric Vehicles International (http://www.evi-usa.com/trucks.htm) has a line of EV (also available with range extender APU) trucks that are pretty close in execution to the Modec vans.

Rafael Seidl

What's the cost of replacing the zebra batteries every four years or so?


It depends how many zebras you can skin in an hour.


I would guess sost of 2 - Z12 batteries are in the region of £ 25000,- / £ 30000

Will be interesting to see how other battery technology will compare. Great looking vehicule with some fantastic features

Trevor Power

I'm from the manufacturer and can clarify a couple of points...

We're not aware of any other zero emission vehicles that have an equivalent performance (50mph/100+ miles, up to 2 tonnes payload). Different manufacturers may chose different tradeoffs between speed, range and load, but overall performance fundamentally depends on how much energy your batteries will store. Ours will take 85 kWh.

We have some other battery technologies in development, which will probably result in both higher and lower range variants being introduced in due course.

We don't plan to sell batteries, but to rent them. The fuel equivalent cost of operating these vehicles is more battery amortisation than electricity and we have a deal with GE Capital Solutions to offer a range of financial products and services to customers. The logic is that you wouldn't buy 5 years worth of fuel to go with your new gas or diesel truck, so why would you want to buy the battery up front? This also addresses the issue of what to do when the battery eventually wears out - we'll swap it for a new one.

Trevor Power

I'm from the manufacturer and would comment on jcwinnie's point about hybrids...

Hybrids can be more efficient than regular gas/diesel vehicles, but at the cost of higher complexity. To the extent they use less fuel than a conventionally powered vehicle they create fewer local emissions, but the effect is relatively minor. Battery vehicles on the other hand create zero local emissions. Our Chairman has offered to demonstrate the point by driving one of our vans on a rolling road in a sealed box for an hour and challenges the manufacturers of any equivalent conventional gas/diesel or hybrid trucks to do the same. Strangely, he's had no takers.

Battery vehicles are inherently simpler, which helps to make them robust and reliable. They're not suitable for all duties, but for depot based operations of up to 100-120 miles per day they make good economic sense.

Most sophisticated fleet operators analyse whole life costs on a pence (or cents) per mile basis and depending on the individual duty cycle, we're able to show savings of 5-20% against comparable diesel vehicles in the UK.


Not only Modec trucks are a wonderful new possibility for many in-city+/- applications, but they are also beautifully styled and definitely more appealing than any other truck out there. I wonder when/if they are going to be available in the USA?
Maybe Mr. Power can tell us...


Fred Sands, PhD


I wonder how long it'll be before someone knocks up a solar power bolt on (or maybe plugin) kit a la the Solatec one for the Prius...

Trevor Power

I'm from the manufacturer and would comment...

Thanks Fred, you're clearly a man of great taste and education.

Yes, we do intend to bring them to the States, but not for another 18-24 months. I plan to look for North American manufacturing partners in the second half of 2007.


Can you hook up a solar grid to the roof to assist in powering the vehicle? What is the cargo length? Can't wait to see them in the states!

Jerry Roane

There is a solution to energy independence. It is a combination of ending the waste in poor vehicle design and switching to energy that we have in abundance in the US. Going to electric propulsion combined with lower rolling and aero drag can result in over 200 mpg equivalent energy use. It will take change but the results will be worth it. If you are curious go to TriTrack.net Texas Department of Transportation will be doing a year long study of dual mode cars starting September 2006. It not only saves energy but it saves time wasted sitting in traffic.


I would love to see, one of the above Vans, is there an agent, in this airea (RH11----)UK


Hello Trevor,

I read with interest your "sealed Box" challenge to demonstrate your zero emissions (battery to wheel), you omit to mention emissions generated at the power station in producing the charge for your battery (Well to Wheel).
This form of emission comparison is ridiculous and there should be legislation to ensure a realistic calculation be made obligatory from manufacturers.

I also read an interesting study that stated if today all drivers of oil base fuelled vehicles swapped to electrically propelled vehicles, the world supply of copper would be exhausted in 16 years!

Electric Cell selection is also an important Safety / Environmental factor that need to be carefully considered.

Don't get me wrong, what you are attempting is exemplary, but we still have a long way to go before "CO2" pollution will be significantly reduced by E-vehicles and the problem of Battery safety in Crash must be resolved.

I personally feel that a Hydrogen drive is the way forward.

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