In partnership with Renault Trucks, Kent County Council (Kent CC) is introducing its first electric minibus, a Renault Trucks Master Z.E. The vehicle will provide accessible transport services for disabled and vulnerable people.
The nine-seater wheelchair-accessible minibus, the first Renault Trucks Master Z.E. in the UK, will be operated by Compaid, the leading charity providing services to disabled people in the South East of England, and has been adapted for up to two wheelchair users by approved Renault Trucks converter, Minibus Options Limited of Whaley Bridge.
Joining Compaid’s 21 vehicle fleet, including 18 minibuses, the 100% electric Master Z.E. is the first pilot vehicle in Kent CC’s sustainable transport approach to assess the longer term financial and environmental benefits of electromobility.
The Master Z.E. will be put through its paces on Compaid’s community transport operation, taking disabled and vulnerable people from Tunbridge Wells and surrounding areas to the charity’s training centre in Paddock Wood to learn computer skills. Compaid will also use the vehicle to help local people access medical appointments and shopping trips.
Kent CC Cabinet Member for Transport Mike Whiting said: “It’s fantastic that we have been able to secure this partnership with Renault Trucks in trialling a fully accessible Renault Master minibus.”
He continues: “The vehicle will be operated by Compaid for local and disabled services in and around Paddock Wood. This trial will help us prove the ability of electric vehicles not only for public transport provision, but also for other commercial operations.”
“Kent CC is committed to continuing to show its green credentials and we have been developing an electric vehicle action plan and are currently out to consultation on our Energy and Low Emissions Strategy.”
Stephen Elsden, CEO Compaid, comments: “As a provider of community transport services, electromobility is a key part of our sustainable transport solution which is now in reach as the cost of electric vehicles falls and battery range improves, and we are delighted to be the first organisation in Kent to put it to the test with the Renault Trucks Master Z.E. minibus.”
Stephen adds: “We operate door to door, stop-start – it’s the kind of work that will drain a poor battery fast, so the Master Z.E.’s proven real world range is fit for the job in hand. Following what we expect to be a highly successful trial, we hope to bring in more electric vehicles as we update our fleet.”
Offering a range of up to 120km real world autonomy, the L2H2 Renault Trucks Master is powered by a 57kW Z.E. 100% electric engine, with 33kWh Lithium-ion battery mounted under the floor, so there is no intrusion into the loadspace. The minibus is equipped with an electro-hydraulic tail lift to the rear entrance, which is charged on a separate battery. Its flexible seating allowance is multifunctional, accommodating nine seated passengers, seven seated passengers and one wheelchair user, or three seated passengers and two wheelchair users.
As well as zero tailpipe emissions, the quietness of the electric motor, especially compared to internal combustion engines, offers a further key benefit, as Stephen explains: “We pick up and drop off in residential areas, so reducing noise pollution in local streets is important, however it is equally valued by our passengers inside the minibus, who see the journey as an integral part of their experience, an opportunity to chat with friends. A quiet vehicle is a real asset for conversations, rather than having to try to talk over the noise of the engine.”
Grahame Neagus, Head of LCV, Renault Trucks, says: “Electric minibuses like the efficient Master Z.E. are the less intrusive, cleaner and more cost effective solution for community transport, so it is particularly pleasing that the first Renault Trucks Master Z.E. in the UK is helping to improve the vital service that Compaid provides for the people of Kent.”
Local dealer, Renault Trucks Essex in Thurrock will undertake all maintenance of the Master Z.E. minibus, with work scheduled out-of-hours to maximise uptime.
To support electromobility across the county, Kent CC is expanding its network of electric vehicle charging points, to help reduce congestion, noise and air quality issues.