This morning, RAC announced that it will be providing an electric patrol van to assist customers with car breakdowns.

In a UK first trial, the roadside assistance company added an electric Renault Zoe van pure to its 1,600-strong fleet. This was to test how UK breakdown service providers can operate in the future after diesel and petrol vans cease to be sold.

There are however limitations with its ability to be used as a recovery vehicle. Not least, it cannot tow cars that have been damaged from the roadside.

Recover-E: The RAC - one of the nation's biggest breakdown providers - has added an electric Renault Zoe to its fleet of 1,600 recovery vehicles

Recover-E – The RAC – one of the largest national breakdown providers – has added an electrical Renault Zoe to their 1,600 vehicle fleet.

Some – though not all – electric cars are unable to tow due to the extra weight putting too much strain on components like the brakes but also potentially damaging the electric powertrain itself.

This is due to the fact that EVs use regenerative system when they slow down. Additional bulk in another vehicle adds lots of kinetic energie when it tries decelerate. It can overload the electrical system.

While the zero-emission Zoe is unable to hitch a broken down motor, the RAC says it can can carry all the equipment that’s needed to fix four out of five breakdowns on the spot.

The vehicle will be used mainly to fix problems with the batteries and tires, which are two of most frequent breakdowns that motorists experience in Britain.

This modified version can now carry six 12 volt batteries and two tires, as well as a trolley jack, battery tester, and standard patrol tools. 

RAC attends approximately 7,000 random events every day. RAC bosses stated that van needed to have a range greater than 200 miles so it could reach customers quickly. 

The Zoe Van E-Tech chosen – which starts from £26,450 (excluding VAT) – has an official 245-mile range based on laboratory measurements; that means it is likely closer (or less than) 200 miles in the real work, especially when laden with heavy batteries, tyres and tools.

The UK-first trial is to better understand how electric vehicles can be used by breakdown providers after petrol and diesel vans are banned from sale in 2030

This UK-first study aims to understand the use of electric vehicles by breakdown service providers following the ban on petrol and diesel vans in 2030

The electric Zoe recovery vehicle will mostly be deployed to attend two of the most common breakdowns experienced by motorists in Britain - problems with batteries and tyres

Most commonly, the electric Zoe will be used to fix two common problems that motorists face in Britain: issues with batteries or tyres.

A second issue to be noticed is Zoe’s poor crash test performance.

Euro NCAP (the official body that examines the safety levels of new cars) awarded the electric Zoe passenger vehicle a zero crash rating. This was after it became apparent that Renault had taken out a critical seat-mounted head protection airbag in a recent upgrade. 

A side-pole collision test simulates the car sliding into a lamppost or tree. The assessment showed that a sale object could penetrate deeply enough to cause serious or fatal injuries.

This car was only the third vehicle to achieve the lowest possible rating in all 25 years.

Many patrols find themselves in difficult positions and are forced to take over to help vehicles that are not safe.

To assess the effectiveness of its patrol vehicle function, it will be only operating in rural and urban areas. This means that motorists who have to pull over on motorways will not see the van coming up to them to assist them. 

While the zero-emission Zoe is unable to tow a broken down motor, the RAC says it can carry all the equipment that's needed to fix four out of five breakdowns on the spot

The zero-emission Zoe cannot tow a motor that has broken down, but the RAC claims it can transport all of the necessary equipment to repair four out five such breakdowns.

The Zoe van can carry up to six replacement 12-volt car batteries, two tyres, a trolley jack, a battery tester, the 'RACScan' diagnostic tool and a host of standard patrol tools

You can transport six 12-volt replacement car batteries and two tyres in the Zoe van. There is also a trolley jack, a tester for battery voltage, the “RACScan” diagnostic tool, as well as a variety of other standard tools such as a range of patrol tools.

Paul Coulton from RAC said it was crucial for these trials to be conducted now that the ban has been lifted on the sale of new vans with internal combustion engines at the close of the decade. This will allow fleet managers who have to regularly replace their motors no other choice than to move to vehicles powered by batteries or electric motors.

“This is the first RAC all electric patrol van. It may not be large, but it can easily attend to nearly half of our breakdowns on a daily basis.

We have spent a lot of time evaluating electric vans, but were frustrated to find one that could do the same as our diesel-powered patrol vans. It can carry 500 parts and tow broken down vehicles. The range is even less than that of one of our standard vans.

“While we are still in contact with manufacturers regarding our needs, we feel confident that we can make an electric RAC Patrol van work effectively on the roads by properly deploying it for jobs that don’t need to be towable. 


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