The RAC has become the first major breakdown recovery service to use an electric patrol van after starting a trial with the Renault Zoe Van. Although the hatchback-based vans cannot tow another vehicle – and the RAC says no electric vehicle is yet capable of that task – the small vans still carry tools to fix “four out of five breakdowns on the spot”.
The trial van, which is fitted with a 55 kWh battery, will mainly be tasked with attending the RAC’s most common breakdowns: battery issues and tyre problems. Together, those two issues account for almost half of callouts, so the RAC has kitted the Zoe out with up to six replacement 12-volt batteries, two tyres and a trolley jack, as well as a battery tester, the RAC’s RACScan diagnostic tool and a selection of other tools.
According to the company, the Zoe Van is one of the few electric vehicles capable of carrying the necessary equipment without compromising its 245-mile range. The van is to be deployed in a variety of settings – both urban and rural – to find out whether it’s suitable for the RAC’s operation.
“We are very excited to be putting our first electric zero-emission patrol van into service,” said the RAC group operations director Paul Coulton. “We have been assessing various electric vans for some time but have been frustrated by the fact there isn’t one on the market that can do what our diesel-powered patrol vans can do at the moment in terms of carrying 500 parts and tools and towing broken-down vehicles, with a range that’s even half what one of our standard vans can do on a full tank.
“While we continue to talk to manufacturers about our requirements, we’re confident we can put an electric RAC patrol van into effective use on the road by carefully deploying it to jobs that won’t require towing.
"We’re already leading the breakdown industry in terms of EV breakdown with our award-winning RAC EV Boost technology which can get flat or severely depleted electric cars going again without the need for heavy and bulky portable batteries, and our All-Wheels-Up rapid recovery system, which enables a standard patrol van to safely tow a stricken EV with all four wheels off the road, so this was a logical next step.
“This first RAC all-electric patrol van may be small, but it’s easily capable of successfully attending nearly half of the breakdowns we get called out to on a daily basis. We’re confident it will prove the old saying that good things really do come in small packages.”