Updated: Jun 17, 2020
The electric minibus is cleaner, greener and provides a greater driving experience than its carbon-fuelled counterparts. So who is developing them, and when will they be available?
Electric cars are the future. Manufacturers, at least, seem to believe so. Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot have announced they will have electric versions of every model in their lineup by 2022 and 2025 respectively. Other manufacturers are setting similarly ambitious plans for electrifying their lineups.
Why would you want an electric minibus?
There are many benefits to electric vehicles. Not only do they create zero emissions, they are also faster, quieter and can create great savings in fuel and maintenance. They also provide instant torque (application of force to the ground), which is especially beneficial in large vehicles like minibuses as it makes driving easier.
Minibuses are also often used for short-distance trips like the school run or sports team transport, where range – a major limitation of many current electric vehicles – is less of a concern. Governments around the world also recognise the benefits of electric vehicles to the environment and air quality.
Parliament has set out a plan to make at least half of new cars ultra low emission by 2030. Because of that, people purchasing an electric vehicle can receive a government grant covering up to 20% of the vehicle’s price. As electric minibus prices will initially be high due to the technology being so new, this grant will help many in buying their first electric vehicle.
Is an electric minibus already on the market?
While a couple of electric minibuses are already available, the options are somewhat limited, and major manufacturers have yet to release their models. There are, however, many new electric cars coming soon, including commercial vehicles. Most manufacturers are leading their electric commercial vehicle lineups with panel vans, but the electric minibus is not far behind.
Read on to find out what electric minibuses are available now, and which are expected to hit the market in the near future.
Mellor Coachcraft Orion E electric minibus
British company Mellor Coachcraft already has an electric bus for sale. Mellor unveiled the 16-seater Orion E minibus in 2017. However, the Orion E wasn’t built as electric from the ground up, rather it was built on the Fiat Ducato chassis and retrofitted with an electric drive.
The Orion E has a range of 100 miles, and a charging cycle length of three hours and 30 minutes. At 7.5m long and 2.2m wide, the Orion E is on the larger end of minibuses, and mainly is aimed at local authorities and stage carriage operators.
LDV EV80 electric minibus
LDV also has an electric minibus on the market. The electric version of the V80 van is available in minibus format with 15 seats. LDV claims the EV80 has a range of 120 miles and is fully charged in an impressive two hours.
The EV80 does have some downsides, with cost being the most prominent. While the diesel V80 starts at around £15,000, the electric version starts at £60,000.
That said, this expense will be reduced with the help of the government grant, and running costs will be much lower than on the diesel version. Unfortunately, the electric engine also struggles to give the heavy van momentum, with acceleration from 0 to 60 mph taking 24 seconds.
Iveco Daily electric minibus
Iveco released an electric version of its popular Daily van in 2018. A minibus version is already available in some markets, and is likely to be available soon in the UK as well. The minibus version of the Daily seats 16 to 22 people, has a range of 120 miles and recharges in just two hours.
The van version of the electric Daily range starts at about £60,000 for the single battery option with the shortest range. The double battery option costs about £80,000 and the triple battery version costs an eye-watering £100,000.
Tesla electric minibus
Tesla has been a front runner of electric cars ever since the Tesla Roadster was released in 2008.
The Tesla range has since expanded rapidly, and in 2016 Elon Musk confirmed that a Tesla electric minibus was in development. However, a year later he expressed doubts about the minibus programme, and little has been heard of the Tesla minibus since.
Luckily, the future of electric cars doesn’t rest entirely on Elon Musk’s shoulders, and while we’re keen to see what Tesla come up with, there are many other manufacturers coming out with electric minibuses soon.
Nissan electric minibus
The Nissan Leaf is the best selling electric car in the UK, so expectations have been high for further electric models from the company.
In 2018, Nissan released the Combi E-NV200, a family MPV that seats up to seven people. It seems that’s as close to an electric minibus as we’re going to get from Nissan for the time being, as electric versions of the larger NV300 and NV400 vans are yet to be announced.
Mercedes-Benz electric minibus
Mercedes has plans to make its entire lineup electric by 2022, and its first electric van has already been released.
The e-Vito, an electric version of the Vito van, was released in 2018, and an electric version of the larger Sprinter van is set for release in 2019. Minibus versions of the seven-seater Vito and the Sprinter 16-seater van will undoubtedly follow soon – or at least by 2022.
Volkswagen electric minibus
Like the other German car manufacturers, Volkswagen has ambitious plans for the production of new electric cars. The e-UP! and e-Golf are fully electric versions of existing models, with the e-Crafter, an electric version of the Crafter van, launching in 2020. A minibus version of the e-Crafter could follow soon after.
A fully electric successor to the classic VW campervan is also in development – the VW ID. Buzz microbus will be released in 2022. A VW electric minibus is also being developed for the Moia ride-sharing service that is part of the VW group. It’s unlikely, however, that the Moia vehicle will be available to purchase any time soon.
Renault electric minibus
Renault are investing heavily in future electric cars. In addition to the existing Zoe and Twizy electric models, Renault will soon have two electric vans for sale: the Kangoo ZE and Master ZE. While only panel-van versions of these models will be initially available, minibus versions are expected to follow soon after.
Like some of the other manufacturers, Renault does not make minibus versions of its vans directly, but works with local partners to offer minibus conversions instead. Because of this, it takes a while from when a new van model comes out to when minibus versions of it are available.
Peugeot electric minibus
Peugeot is releasing an electric version of their smallest van model, Partner, in 2019. But while Peugeot has said that they will offer electric versions of every vehicle in their lineup by 2025, it seems there may not be electric minibus versions of the Boxer and Expert on the market before that date.
What can we expect next?
While there are few options for electric minibuses on the market now, there are many more exciting models to choose from in upcoming electric cars.
Current electric minibuses, while being environmentally friendly and offering reduced maintenance and fuel costs, suffer from some major limitations.
The electric minibus of the future will undoubtedly improve on the short range, slow acceleration and high initial cost, and provide a great option for minibus drivers.