First Volkswagen electric van launched: VW eTransporter

VW already offers several electric cars but the eTransporter is its first electric van, offering no less load space than a diesel equivalent

Christofer Lloyd
Jul 31, 2020

The first all-electric VW van is now on sale in the UK - the new Volkswagen ABT eTransporter. If you're wondering what ABT refers to, it represents the role in the eTransporter's development played by ABT e-Line - the electric car wing of a prominent German tuning company that has been making cars go faster for more than 50 years.

The Transporter, meanwhile, is one of VW's heaviest-hitting vans, popular thanks to the fact it combines the drive and in-cabin quality of a car with the toughness needed in a medium van. This latest version, meanwhile, swaps a diesel engine for batteries and an electric motor.

The result of this is a zero-emission van - the not-so-catchily-titled ABT eTransporter 6.1 - that can travel up to 82 miles per charge with no reduction in load area compared with conventional Transporters. Prices start from £42,060 (ex. VAT). That compares with a starting price of £27,626 for the conventional Transporter panel van.

VW claims that this plug-in van blends several traits important in any medium size van - instant torque for lugging heavy loads without fuss, a high load capacity and a quiet and smooth drive. Helping to make the eTransporter a more realistic prospect for more drivers is compatibility with fast chargers, reducing the amount of time it needs to spend plugged in and not earning its living.

Volkswagen ABT eTransporter 6.1: Cargo volume and payload

Crucially, the cargo volume of the eTransporter is no different to that of a diesel model. That means you have 6.7m3 of volume to play with, as the compact battery slots underneath the load area to make sure it doesn't impede on space.

As for payload, the eTransporter offers the ability to lug up to 1,001kg. That compares with payloads of 713kg to 1,309kg with the conventional Transporter panel van.

Volkswagen ABT eTransporter 6.1: Electric range and charging times

One area where the electric van can't compete with the diesel model is in terms of range. Opt for the plug-in model and you'll be able to cover up to 82 miles per charge. That might not sound like much, but at least initially electric vans are likely to be used predominantly around towns, where they get around emissions charging - since they emit nothing when driving - and the distances travelled are lower. Consequently, this plug-in van should appeal to those who spend a lot of time in large cities - including London - where emissions charging mean that driving a diesel van can prove costly.

Helping to maximise how far the eTransporter can travel, is regenerative braking, which captures energy otherwise lost when braking. The driver is kept up to speed on what's going on with a battery status monitor in the instrument cluster, where there would normally be a rev counter.

The needle moves into the green zone when the battery is being charged through regenerative braking and goes into a blue area when driving at the most efficient speeds or accelerating efficiently, with a charge level indicator showing how much charge is left in the battery.

The eTransporter features a 'Combined Charging System' (CCS) socket, which offers the ability to charge from both AC and DC supplies. As a result, it can be charged from any device with a CCS (DC charging) or Type 2 (AC charging) plug type. A Type 2 cable comes with the van, though using rapid charging with a DC charger is the fastest way to top up.

The van supports up to 50kW DC charging using the CCS connector, which means that charging to 80% takes around 45 minutes. This is the type of charging likely to be used by eTransporter drivers who need to rack up a lot of miles every day.

Meanwhile, the van can also support AC charging up to 7.2kW - using a dedicated wallbox, for instance. Have one of these fitted somewhere you can regularly charge and you can expect recharging to take around five-and-a-half hours. That's not quick, but plug into one of these chargers when parking up for the night and you can expect to have a full battery by morning.

Volkswagen ABT eTransporter 6.1: Performance and efficiency

The eTransporter 6.1 offers 110hp - in-line with a mid-range diesel version. However, its acceleration aligns with the least powerful diesel Transporter with 90hp, taking 17.4 seconds to accelerate from a standstill to 62mph, compared with 17.5 seconds for the diesel. The 110hp diesel, meanwhile, requires just 14.3 seconds to hit the same speed.

As a result, when worked hard the equivalent diesel model is faster. However where the electric van is likely to excel is in how easy and responsive it is, with no gears to worry about and an instant response to the throttle. Electric motors are also silent and should require less maintenance than a diesel engine.

In normal circumstances the gearbox in the eTransporter feeds 75% of the motor's power to the wheels to maximise range. Floor the throttle, though, and you're able to access all the power.

Volkswagen ABT eTransporter 6.1: Technology

The eTransporter features a digital radio as standard as part of a 6.5-inch touchscreen media system with four speakers. This also includes an SD card slot, Bluetooth handsfree and two USB (type-C) interfaces. You can also mirror your phone's screen on the touchscreen.

Meanwhile, automatic emergency braking and rear parking sensors are included, as is Crosswind Assist. This system helps to keep the van heading straight through strong sidewinds, which would normally push a vehicle with tall, flat sides off course.

Volkswagen ABT eTransporter 6.1: Pricing and running costs

Prices for the eTransporter start at £42,060 (exc. VAT), with Advance trim available from £45,360 (exc. VAT). Meanwhile, kombi crew van and kombi crew van Advace models will set you back £46,375 (exc. VAT) and £49,985 (exc. VAT), respectively.

That premium for Advance trim provides you with 17-inch alloy wheels, electrically foldable door mirrors, automatic LED headlights and automatic wipers, a heated windscreen plus front and rear parking sensors.

As these vans are fully electric, they are exempt from VED road tax and have unrestricted access to the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Clean Air Zones.


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