Innovations in Electric Van Technology: What’s Next?

Electric van technology is developing at a rapid pace, as we know at Maxus. Extensive research is being done to improve electric van (EV) batteries and make charging more efficient. Batteries dictate an electric van fleet’s range before recharging is required and increasing efficiency is crucial for lowering business energy costs

Maxus is also investing in the future by, amongst other initiatives, expanding our Training Academy. It provides cutting-edge Electric Van training for technicians within our group and our extensive dealership network. We intend to stay ahead of new technology trends and advancements to better serve our customers’ fleets. In this article, we discuss some of the latest innovations in electric van technology.

Fast-Charging Infrastructure

Fast-charging infrastructure for rapid or ultra-rapid recharging of electric cars and vans  is increasingly available throughout the UK. Zapmap EV charging statistics, as of the end of March 2024, state there were 59,590 electric vehicle charging points across the UK, of which 11,609 were rapid or ultra-rapid charging devices. 

The total number of charging devices around the UK has increased by 47% since March 2023 and is expected to continue its rapid expansion rate as more businesses convert to electric vans. For fleet owners, fast-charging infrastructure is critical. It minimises the downtime associated with recharging, regardless of whether vans operate within city limits or embark on long journeys. This focus on rapid charging directly addresses a key concern for businesses considering the adoption of electric fleets. 

Solid-State Batteries

Today’s electric vehicles use lithium-ion batteries. They are heavy and use critical minerals such as cobalt, copper, nickel, and lithium, which impact their sustainability credentials. EV battery research is ongoing in the UK, including the use of solid-state batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have electrolytes in a liquid form, while the electrolytes in solid-state batteries are solid. 

What benefits would solid-state batteries offer? They are smaller and lighter, allowing vehicles to travel longer distances before recharging. Safety is always the first consideration for electric van fleets, and the battery’s solid nature makes it safer. These batteries can tolerate higher temperatures and have higher thermal stability.  

Vehicle-To-Grid (V2G) Technology

In a previous article, we discussed how bidirectional Electric Van charging or vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology is one of the trends shaping EV charging infrastructure’s future. It allows you to use the energy stored in EV batteries for a home (V2H) or business (V2B) and even sell it back to the grid (V2G). 

Vehicle-To-Grid (V2G) technology is a leading example of V2X, according to the UK Government’s Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Plan published in January 2023. The challenge lies in commercialising vehicle-to-grid technology, as very few electric vehicles or EV chargers are currently designed to export electricity back into the system

Autonomous Driving Features

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International, in collaboration with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), refined the SAE Levels of Driving Automation™ as they relate to electric vans and how they operate on roadways. 

Modern vehicles such as the Maxus eDeliver 9 already have autonomous driving features, including an automatic emergency braking system, lane change assist, and lane departure warning (Level 2). Future electric vans will take over from the driver during rush hour (SAE Level 3), for example, and ultimately move around without a driver in the vehicle (SAE Level 5).
On 7 November 2023, the government introduced the Automated Vehicles Bill. The Bill intends to regulate vehicle automation and the use of automated vehicles on roads.

Lightweight Composite Materials

Lightweight composite materials are driving innovation in electric vans. Unlike traditional materials like steel, composites offer a powerful one-two punch: incredible strength to haul cargo and significant weight reduction to improve driving range. These materials are formed by combining two key players: a super-strong reinforcement that provides the muscle and a binding matrix that acts like glue, holding everything together. This innovative combination allows engineers to design electric vans that are both powerful and highly efficient.

At Maxus, we use a large number of lightweight composite materials, such as polymer and aluminium, in our Maxus eDeliver 3, eDeliver 7, and eDeliver 9 electric vans. Combine these materials with our aerodynamic designs, and our customers receive an electric van that is light, yet strong enough to carry its payload safely. Driver comfort, reliability, and safety are our priority for all Maxus vehicles.  

Wireless EV Charging

Wireless charging technology is rapidly evolving, and several companies are developing innovative solutions specifically for electric vehicles. This holds immense potential for electric vans. As the technology matures, imagine a world where electric vans can be charged automatically simply by parking over designated spots in depots or along designated routes. This would eliminate the need for manual plug-in connections, streamlining operations and saving valuable time for businesses and fleets.  

Furthermore, with an expanding infrastructure of wireless charging stations, electric vans could potentially top up their batteries throughout the day during deliveries or pickups, reducing range anxiety and maximising operational efficiency. This shift towards a more convenient and automated charging system could revolutionise the way electric vans are powered, making them a more attractive and practical option for businesses of all sizes.

Telematics and Fleet Management Solutions

Imagine having a real-time window into your entire fleet’s operations. Telematics and fleet management solutions make this possible, offering a powerful combination of technology and data analysis to optimise your electric fleet’s performance.
MAXUS Intelligence Onboard delivers this by tracking your vehicles in real-time, analysing everything from location and driving behaviour to energy consumption. This translates into actionable insights for fleet managers. See exactly how your EVs are performing – monitor speed, location, and any critical events. Intelligence Onboard goes a step further by providing in-depth information on battery health, energy usage, and driving range. This empowers you to make smarter decisions about your EV fleet, like optimising charging schedules and maximising range.

The Future of Electric Van Design

The future of electric van design is all about improving efficiency and functionality. Aerodynamic improvements, like streamlined shapes and innovative materials, can significantly reduce wind resistance – a major hurdle for electric vehicle range. This translates to electric vans travelling further on a single charge, making them more competitive and appealing to businesses.

Additionally, modular cargo space configurations can be a game-changer. Imagine customising the interior layout based on the type and size of cargo you’re carrying. This optimises interior space utilisation, ensuring every inch is put to good use.

Range Optimisation

Range anxiety – the fear of running out of power before reaching a charging station – remains a hurdle for some EV drivers. Fortunately, Maxus are tackling this issue head-on with several innovative strategies that optimise range and reduce range anxiety.

  • Regenerative Braking Systems: Traditional brakes waste energy by converting it into heat during braking. Regenerative braking systems capture this energy, converting it back into electricity to recharge the battery and extend the driving range. This technology is constantly evolving, with some systems offering adjustable regeneration levels for a personalised driving experience.
  • Electric Motor Efficiency and Thermal Management: Just like any engine, electric motors have some energy loss. Manufacturers are continuously improving motor design and materials to minimise energy loss and maximise efficiency. Thermal management also plays a key role. By keeping the motor operating in its ideal temperature range, efficiency is further improved, allowing you to travel further on a single charge.

These advancements, along with the continued development of battery and charging technology, are pushing the boundaries of electric vehicle range. As these strategies are further refined and implemented, EVs will become a more viable and attractive option for a wider range of consumers.
Maxus uses cutting-edge manufacturing processes to ensure our vehicles deliver for our customers now and into the future. Contact Maxus today to discuss how our electric fleet technology can help your company.

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