Car-derived vans are big business in Europe. Pick a subcompact at random and chances are there will be a light delivery van variant. Usually fitted with economical diesel engines, the small size and high economy suits small businesses down to the ground.
Electric delivery vehicles have been available in all shapes and sizes in Europe for some time now, from the tiny Daihatsu Hijet-based Piaggio Porter EV to larger vehicles converted by companies like Smith Electric Vehicles. THINK is the latest company to join the fray with the 2011 THINK City N1, based on the familiar electric city car.
Making use of a space not occupied by passenger seats anyway (until the recent City 2+2 announcement), the area aft of the two front seats sees a flat floor installed with a half solid, half mesh bulkhead to protect the driver and passenger from their cargo. The rear side windows are replaced with panels, but otherwise the car is identical to the regular THINK City. The result is just under 25 cubic feet of load space and a payload of 522 pounds - plenty for delivering flowers or as THINK illustrates, coffee.
THINK has also announced the THINK Compact van, but the only image we have so far is a little teaser shot of the rear cargo space. Volume increases to just under 32 cubic feet and payload could increase too. THINK even says that an even greater range of vans is "actively under consideration".
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Candidate number one would surely be a van variant of the upcoming Honda Fit EV. The Fit's cabin is already just about cavernous enough to make any conversations you have with passengers echo, so surely a version with a flat floor and robust rear panels would be the perfect compact EV van? Size-wise it would make a nice compromise between the Connect EV and the THINK.
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Flippancy aside, the benefits of small electric delivery vans are clear - small businesses tend to be fairly localized so a typical 100-mile range is more than sufficient. Compact vans also tend to be nippy (and electric vehicles even more so) and easy to park, whilst still providing sufficient storage space for lighter goods. of course, they prove very inexpensive to run, too.
There's no word as yet on whether the THINK City N1 or the THINK Compact van are due for U.S. release, though since the City has been homologated for U.S. sale it wouldn't take much effort to bring the van over if demand was sufficient. Whether it would be priced competitively is another matter...