A Range-Extended Electric Van

The only thing limiting the range on any electric vehicle isn’t really battery technology, but cost. Customers don’t want to pay more money for an electric car or van that does essentially the same thing as one with an internal combustion engine. This in turn limits the amount of batteries manufacturers put in their cars. However, with enough money, and thus enough batteries, electric cars can get whatever range you want as [Muxsan] shows with his Nissan e-NV200 that gets over 400 miles kilometers on a single charge.

The Nissan e-NV200 is a battery electric vehicle (also available as a badge-engineered Chevrolet van in North America) with a drivetrain from the Nissan Leaf. This means that all of the components from the Leaf basically plug-and-play in this van. [Muxsan] took an extra 45 kWh of batteries and was able to splice them in to the existing battery pack, essentially tripling the capacity of the original 24 kWh pack. Some work was needed to the CAN bus as well, and the car’s firmware needed to be upgraded to reflect the new battery pack, but a relatively simple modification otherwise, all things considered.

While watching the video [Muxsan] also notes how much empty space there is all around the van, and Nissan could have easily upgraded the battery pack at any time to allow for more range. It also took the car 10 hours on a 6 kW charger to charge completely, but that’s not unreasonable for 430 miles of range. If your high voltage DC chops are up to snuff, it’s not impossible to find old Leaf batteries for other projects, too.

73 thoughts on “A Range-Extended Electric Van

  1. Pretty sure that the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation would disagree about the range being limited only by cost…current batteries simply can’t store as much energy as hydrocarbon fuels, so when extending range, you quickly reach the weight limit of what’s still considered a car (at least in EU)

    1. If you make the car bigger, you can add more batteries because the energy consumption doesn’t go up in the same proportion as vehicle mass. If you’re adding batteries to an existing vehicle, then you run into the curb weight limits.

      So ironically, if you want bigger batteries, you have to build electric SUVs and trucks, or indeed vans.

      1. The energy density of the Leaf prismatic cells is supposed to be 224 Wh/kg but the assembled modules have a final energy density of around 160 Wh/kg becuse of all the supporting materials, wiring, cooling and armoring.

        So adding 45 kWh to the battery adds 280 kg

        1. The e-NV200 maximum payload in cargo (no passenger seat) configuration is 703 kg. Including the meat in the front seats. So the added battery cuts the usable cargo capacity in half.

    1. That’s right, Nissan doesn’t sell the e-NV200 or the gas passenger NV200 in the US except for a small number as a pilot program for an NYC Taxi bid. The Chevy City Express was also only based on the regular NV200 and discontinued in 2018.

    1. A week? Yeah, that’s about my house eats too (two fridges, upright freezer, a half dozen computers & UPSs, 6 printers, and the always-on network to feed ’em all draws a lot). But 400 miles range would have covered the last three or four months of use on our car.

      1. That’s not a lot. The average US household uses about 11,000 kWh per year, plus another 10k for all the gas appliances and heating.

        The irony is that in places like California, people by state/federal subsidized solar panels and then install a gas water boiler, because using your own power to heat your own water is 2-3x more expensive than selling your power and burning gas instead.

          1. Water boiler temperature has to be kept above 55 C to keep legionella bacteria from growing in your pipes, but that’s already too hot for the solar panels. The panels that are meant for heat collection are vacuum insulated tubes that reach boiling temperatures.

            Heat off the back of solar panels could be used for space heating, except for most of the year in California there’s no reason for heating.

        1. In the future we might start seeing systems using one heat pump for heating and cooling, with reservoirs for each, that might start to get interesting for new houses and renovation. Even for boilers, at least to get the water halfway, up to where COP saves the day.

          1. There’s limited room for advanced heat collectors to get cheaper. I suspect it will mostly die as a technology, just use more PV everywhere, including vertical walls.

    2. Count your heating, cooking, and hot water as well. Pretty sure you’re running gas appliances if you manage a whole house with that.

      The average home in the UK uses about 16,000 kWh a year all included. That’s about 300 kWh a week.

    3. 400 miles out of 70kWh is actually really good from an energy usage standpoint. That’s the amount of energy in two gallons of gas, which will only get you like 60 miles.

    4. Not 400 miles, 400 kilometers according to the video so 250 miles, and when he ran a test drive with a load in a different video it looked more like a 300km range so under 200 miles if you are actually using it to haul stuff.

  2. I would argue that the ability to recharge at the same rate as you could fill a tank with liquid fuel is also a factor in electric vehicle acceptance. It’s great to be able to get more range, but you’re still limited to that range with a big gap in how fast you can continue driving.

    1. Except he can plug it in at night and wake up the following morning with a full charge.

      Does your car refill itself at night while you sleep? How far do you travel in a day, if less than 300 miles a day (100 mile reserve) do you need more range?

      And last but not least, how much does it cost to travel 400 miles using gas vs electricity?

      1. Personally, I frequently go on long trips, requiring the need for fast fill-ups. At about 10 minutes to fill-up, I can do it before or after sleep. Cost becomes a non-factor when the need for convenience takes precedence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for electric vehicles, I’m only pointing out that one of the obstacles is still the convenience of refueling in a timely fashion.

      2. If the power goes out during the night, or somebody forgets to plug the car in, my car will still go in the morning.

        The chargers don’t automatically resume from a power failure, because they can’t know whether the failure was caused by a frayed cable or a bad contact, which would cause them to start an electric fire.

      3. >how much does it cost to travel 400 miles using gas vs electricity?

        That calculation must include all sorts of factors, such as the cost of the car, the depreciation in value, the expected lifespan of the battery…

        Generally speaking, the cost of the battery will buy you enough fuel to drive as far as the battery will last, which is about half the lifespan of a typical ICE car.

        1. Yea…. ev has app 200 moving parts, versus a gas with over 2000 moving parts…. ev.. no antifreeze, no water pump, no carbon monoxide, no servicing it every 4 months… no noise or smell, brakes last forever … Toyota is testing their Prius prime with solar cells…830 watts…. so parked it’s like someone filling your gas tank for free…. they are working on improving the efficiency of solar cells…. is so… no real need to recharge at night…… it is all coming,

          1. A lithium battery has a calendar life of 8-12 years, which also happens to be the average age of a car on the roads, so each EV basically needs to have two sets of batteries to reach the common lifespan of 20 years.

            >”no atifreeze, no water pump”

            They do have those. There’s liquid cooling/heating for the battery. Certain EVs don’t, but they suffer from thermal management issues with over/underheating. (Nissan Leaf and VW eGolf)

            >” Toyota is testing their Prius prime with solar cells…830 watts….”

            You know that was a marketing hoax, right? They “extrapolated” the solar panel power out of supplier datasheets.

            >” no servicing it every 4 months…”

            Yet cars like Teslas come with a mandatory yearly maintenance schedule to keep your warranty, and it costs you $600 a year the last time I checked.

            >”brakes last forever …”

            If you feather the brakes all the time, they collect rust and gunk and eventually start dragging.

            >”like someone filling your gas tank for free….”

            Don’t forget to purchase your Level 2 charger for your garage (you do own a garage, if not, buy one), or you’ll literally be waiting all day and night. Also, do you assume you can just go around stealing other people’s electricity wherever you park and not pay?

          2. So who is building all the nuclear power stations to recharge all these EV’s that everyone is going to be forcably switched over to using?

            Or do you think that they probably wont get built and instead the cost per KWh of electric will sky rocket.

            Then of course when you charge them, your smart meter will know where the electric is going and will add on tax for use as a “road fuel” – certainly in the UK.

            Without a massive unequalled in history building of power stations, mass personal EV transport is simply not possible.
            There isn’t enough electricity for it in the timescale politicians are talking about.
            100 year switch over, maybe. But not the ten years some govts are suggesting. Ground should have been breaking on the new power stations last year or before to meet the target.

      4. Our car is used *mostly* for those infrequent but long trips. Even a 400 mile range vehicle (that takes hours to refuel) simply would not do the job, or would require costly changes to how we live and work.

        How much does 400 miles (in properly amortized battery cost) *really* cost? Trojan used to publish really good numbers for life-cycle cost for their (lead-acid) batteries. The cost of their batteries alone was $0.50/kWh (in their probably-optimistic claims). Add the $0.30/kWh of actual electricity cost (accounting for charger efficiency and battery in-out efficiency), and a modest cost-of-money allocation and battery maintenance, and it came to around a whole dollar per kWh. Assuming a Tesla’s (very good) efficiency of 32 kWh/100 miles, that’s around $0.32 per mile, about double what my gasoline-burner costs.

        I have not looked up what the actual amortized cost of modern lithium batteries are, but presumably they are much better than lead-acids, and their charge/discharge efficiencies are better, so at (say) $500/kWh capital cost, and 2000 cycles usage, it comes in at half the amortized cost. I’m sure people with real numbers have done this calculation to death, but it’s tough to find real numbers un-tinged by EV religious fervor.

        At the end of the day, how can it possibly make sense to haul around a third of your car’s mass in dead weight everywhere, demanding a beefier suspension (and more mass) and/or cutting into your cargo capacity?

        1. Instantaneous cost is one factor, amortized cost is another.
          Environmental cost is a third, and without getting all greeny about the environment for the environments sake, if we just talk actual dollars for a moment… you are going to have to run your air-conditioner for longer, and if you live in New Orleans or Florida (and other places too), you might as well add in the cost of a new house. Nobody will want to buy your old house either because nobody wants to live in a swamp, so you’re gonna have to pony up for the full amount!

          But I certainly agree that weight is a *really* big problem. That and refill time is what is killing EVs. The saviour for ICE is a lot of the “weight” comes out of the atmosphere – ie: you don’t have to lug around an oxygen tank!

          1. >does not include the cost for the environment.

            Well, it would, but the state claims common/public ownership for the environment and then refuses to punish the private enterprises that pollute and destroy it – except on the point of collecting some form of pollution tax as a “punishment” for it. That’s how crony capitalism works – you pay a bit of protection money to the state and you’re off the hook.

            In a pure capitalist system, everything would be owned by someone – so if you poison your patch of the river and it flows downstream to someone else’s patch, you have to pay for that.

          1. No.
            My – and most other peoples – lifestyle developed for good reason. The right mix of comfort and sports, work and leisure, etc. is a delicate balance.
            That’s the main reason I hate all this environmentalists and greenies which want to make up the believe into human causes of climate changes into a new religion. And want me to change my lifestyle as a religious sacrifice.

            I am not religious.

          2. Change your philosophy. Why should the people and the society become boxed in to some limited and static “sustainable” state that merely rations whatever resources there are?

            That’s a horrible fate for humanity – like one of those closed ecosystems in a demijohn bottle – existence merely for the sake of existence.

          3. Energy/Entropy.. I would believe for our local existence we want to do better so the aquarium comment while apt does not do justice that we would be a whole lot happier spending *NO* time in traffic. I also recommend overtime after 32 hours as an armchair method to balance our lives. Back to entropy we need to comprehend more than our impact to the planet. Green, Blue and the dark of space will we enjoy the future or always be on the quibble?

        2. Don’t forget that you won’t actually get the full use cycles out of the battery unless you really drive a lot.

          For the average person doing 40 miles a day, that’s about 15,000 per year, and 150,000 per 10 years. At that point, the battery has only gone through about 375 full cycles but the battery is toasted anyways because you hit the calendar life. This is why Tesla could and still can get away with using cheaper laptop grade cells that were never actually designed to handle a lot of cycling.

          It means, even for a low cost of $100/kWh you are still paying 27 cents a kWh on top of the power price.

          1. Those cells Tesla uses are hardly laptop-grade, they’re one of the best NCR cells you can buy today. (actually you probably could not buy them, you need huge orders to get the good stuff)

            Laptop-grade cells was a thing when then made the Roadster. A cell from even a model S can survive a 0V discharge with no damage, still not a common trait among cheap lithium chem cells…

          2. >”A cell from even a model S can survive a 0V discharge with no damage”

            Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I haven’t seen a single lithium battery chemistry that survives deep discharge safely.

            >”Those cells Tesla uses are hardly laptop-grade”

            Yep. They could even be worse, as there’s really no stress on the number of cycles that they must survive. It’s just about what you define as “laptop grade” – whether by cycle life, or calendar life, or both. Tesla is pushing their cells pretty hard, charging them up to high voltages and pulling “ludicurous” currents in and out of them, because they have much bigger batteries than all the other manufacturers: one stress cycle on the battery means about double the miles on the car. An EV with a huge battery is much easier on the discharge cycles than a laptop, and all they really have to care about is the calendar life of the cells.

      1. In a different video He took it on a 227km trip with it loaded up and only had 70ish km range left at the end, so nowhere near 400 miles, From the description on his other video “average consumption was approx. 23kWh/100km, meaning usable capacity is around 65kWh.” and “I expect average range to be approx. 350-380km and best-case range to go well over 400.” he seems to be very optimistic.

    1. possibly, but people who don’t want to pay “the man” for everything are often attracted to EVs as well. There’s nothing like gathering your own energy and driving around using it. You could build two and drive one while the other charges from your solar panels or bird-shredding windmills. :-)

  3. Great! A van you can only fill with feathers or styrofoam because with that battery you’re edging on 3500kG limit for B category driving license. Anything heavier and you must do a truck (category C) license with perioding medical exams, mandatory tachograph device installed, higher insurance etc.

    1. The e-NV200 is actually slightly lighter than its gasoline-powered brother, depending on trim package (surprisingly), though with markedly poorer performance.

      The maximum gross vehicle weight is less than 2200 kg, so no fears of needing to be fit enough to qualify for a better licence…

      1. Therein exactly lies the rub with this vehicle.

        “Ready to drive” weight of the vehicle is registered as 1570 kg (That’s before modifications, in the Netherlands it’s calculated as empty vehicle weight (1470 kg) +100 kg, of which 75 kg is assumed to be the driver)

        With a max vehicle gross weight of 2220 kg, that means it can transport 2220-1570=650 kg of stuff (that’s about 7 adults and some groceries). Now if you add 390 kg of batteries. Ready to drive weight goes up to 1570+390=1960. Meaning, you can now transport only a whopping 260 kg. That’s not much useful at all.

        So no, you’re not edging on what is allowed with a class B drivers license, you ARE edging on what the vehicle is mechanically allowed to carry (going over also carries some rather hefty fines if caught, plus you are technically not insured if you load over the vehicle max gross weight)

        A practical vehicle is definitely NOT how I would describe this mod.

          1. Do your homework. A 20 cm ball of pure 241-Am will produce only about 6 kW of heat. Hardly enough to provide motive power to more than a moped. There won’t be any detonation, no significant plasma. X-ray flux would be significant, but fairly low energy and not difficult to shield with just a few mm of lead. Mechanically, though, the sphere will probably not hold together very well due to changing atomic structure and all those energetic alphas tearing bonds up.

  4. “Customers don’t want to pay more money for an electric car or van that does essentially the same thing as one with an internal combustion engine. ”
    batteries weight is also a factor
    and volume
    and the available power to recharge them.
    and the amount of power needed to recharge huge batteries in a reasonable time. anyone who want to witness up close a 1MW connector failing?
    i am rotten sick of the lies, fabrications and nonsense of the EV peddlers. an EV will NEVER do what a conventional ICE vehicle does. the very EV concept is BS. wanna stop using fossil fuels? synthetize the damn fuels, period.

    1. Having worked in both ICE and EV powertrains its clear that an engine is a pathetic attempt to a motion generation machine. Can’t start by itself, can’t turn backwards, producces on-site emissions, torque ripple, narrow peak power,, higher wear and maintenance, way lower control bandwidth.
      The only downside of the system is the battery, which is under continuous improvement, just like the grid. EV tech will get there sooner or later

      1. what do you mean it can’t turn backwards? Sure it can, it just has to be designed for it…
        2-strokes no problem without any changes, 4-strokes would need either a severe valve timing adjustment or independantly actuated valves.

        there are actual vehicles (well, more like something between a mobility scooter and a bike) that reverse by stopping the engine and starting it backwards.

        1. Except governments have made fuel cells “illegal” by imposing emission standards. If it emits CO2, it’s subject to regulations that limit CO2/km, which means they’re legally limited on power and energy output – and the regulations keep getting tighter every other year, forcing any CO2 emitting vehicle off the market.

          That’s why fuel cell research is so fixated on using hydrogen as the fuel. What they really want is to use methane, or ethanol, butanol, etc. liquid fuels, but they all emit CO2 at the point of use so it’s a regulatory dead end.

          Trouble is that hydrogen is also a dead end, because it’s such a difficult fuel.

          1. I am talking about hydrogen fuel cell. The China government is putting 5 figure money incentive per each fuel cell car produced and sold. In Europe (and else i believe) some companies are delivering this technology, test systems ecc, as there is a peak development for their market. But I am referring only to hydrogen based ones. For other types, I don’t know.

  5. I just want to say from owning a Tesla for 3 years all I have spent on my car is tires. I only supercharge (free) my car and I have never done any service on it(Tesla has NOT voided from warranty because of this). Car has 70k miles and is on original brakes, 85kw battery is at 256 miles range which is more than everyone assumed it would be for someone who ONLY supercharges his car. I’m the real test guinea pig for Tesla on this aspect and it seems to be doing pretty good. I also own an AMG and my AMG for which I love cost A LOT more per year in gas and maintenance like oil change and brakes (every 10k miles). Just my $0.02 here for yall. AMG has also depreciated more than my Tesla. I dont think all cars should be electric as I love the sound my AMG makes which can’t be duplicated on a Tesla (even if the Tesla is faster it doesnt matter)

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