27.5.2021Toyota Proace Electric first drive
There have been a large number of new electric vehicles launched in the last year or so, with many manufacturers new to the market. Toyota is now one of them. Having previously offered a wide selection of hybrid models and a couple of PHEVs, the Japanese film has now launched it’s first pure-EV. The first EV from Toyota comes as a bit of a surprise because it’s the LCV market where it’s gone full-EV first, with the Proace Electric.
Review by Chris Lilly
TOYOTA PROACE ELECTRIC: PERFORMANCE
There is a very good reason why Toyota has entered the pure-EV market with a van. It’s because the Proace is almost identical - apart from badging and design details - to the Vauxhall Vivaro-e, Peugeot e-Expert, and Citroen e-Dispatch. As such, the platform and powertrain are all sorted thanks to Toyota’s partnership with the Stellantis Group brands. Because of this, the Proace Electric uses a 100 kW electric motor, and is powered either by a 50 or 75 kWh battery. Performance times come in at 13.3 seconds for 0-62 mph with the larger battery model tested, or just over a second less for the 50 kWh model.
It pulls well, thanks largely to the 260 Nm of torque available, and the Proace Electric is ideally suited to urban work. The response available with maximum power means it is quick off the line and drives effortlessly - both the van and the person behind the wheel. It’s an easy vehicle to drive, particularly in Power mode. There are three modes available - Eco, Normal, and Power - and each has a different power setting. Power has the full 100 kW available to the driver, whilst Normal cuts that to 80 kW, which is plenty for most work. If struggling for range, Eco limits that further to 60 kW, which sees a noticeable drop in performance, but might help eke out those extra miles.
The low-slung battery - placed in the floor of the van - means the Proace handles well for an LCV. The steering has almost no feedback, but this makes driving a doddle - a good attribute for drivers that spend all day behind the wheel. It’s a good van to drive, and feels more like a car than many rivals in the same sector.
The ride couldn’t be fully tested, as most LCVs drive better when there’s a load in the back, but it helps smooth out road imperfections better than most diesel-powered vans - again, largely thanks to the large battery. It’s enjoyable to drive and nimble enough to be well suited for urban routes.
There is little that manufacturers can do in terms of styling for a mid-sized van. The load space is paramount after all, so it largely comes down to lights and grille to differentiate models. As such, the Proace Electric looks slightly different to the models it shares a platform with. It’s clearly a Toyota, but also clearly similar to the other vans.
Load area is unimpeded by the electric powertrain, with the motor up front where the engine usually would be, and the battery under the load space. Unlike the partner models, the Proace Electric is available in just one configuration in terms of space. It’s a mid-length model with one roof height, which offers 5.3 cubic meters of cargo area in the back. Payload is slightly less than the diesel model because of the weight of the battery, but it only loses 200 kg and that still means there’s a tonne available.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Proace Electric sits three up front, with limited leg space for anyone in the middle, but that’s normal for most vans in this class. One benefit is that the gear stick has been replaced by the drive selector, which sees a toggle switch pick between settings. Alongside this, there’s the drive mode switch and the button to shift into B mode for stronger brake energy recuperation. Other than that, there’s very little that’s different, with the dials altered to reflect the electric powertrain.
There are some useful features for drivers, including the work station that folds down from the middle seat back and numerous cubby holes. The infotainment system is a little small, but it’s compatible with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which makes life easier. There’s a decent amount of switchgear outside of the touchscreen system, which might not look as great as one large panel, but it’s considerably easier to operate various functions. The seats are comfortable, and drivers sit fairly high up, but all is fairly normal for this class of van.
TOYOTA PROACE ELECTRIC: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
Either electric Toyota will provide enough range for most users, with the official range of the 50 kWh model rated at 142 miles on a charge. Even accounting for real-world driving and a load in the rear, users will likely comfortably be able to achieve 100 miles or more on a charge. Considering rivals from the likes of Mercedes Benz and VW quote less than 100 miles of range on a charge, the Proace Electric will comfortably out-perform its non-platform sharing rivals.
That’s the shorter range model, and it is the 75 kWh version that was tested. Again, there wasn’t the ability to fully test the range thanks to a set route and no load in the rear, but the official range is 205 miles on a charge. Calculated range after almost 50 miles of driving saw less than 25% charge used, working out at around 195 miles on a charge, unladen. That’s after a mixture of roads and speeds, which represents a very good range - caveated by reductions for load, weather, and routes.
Charging the Toyota Proace Electric can be carried out at up to 100 kW DC, and 7.4 kW on AC points. There’s the option for 11 kW charging for those with regular access to three-phase charge points. Charging times for the 50 kWh battery come in at 32 minutes on 100 kW DC, and 48 minutes for the 75 kWh version.
There is also brake energy recuperation, with B-mode selectable on the centre console. This boosts the braking strength, but still not to a very strong level. Initially I thought this was because the van was effectively on 100% charge when starting, but even dropping to 80% and lower, the strength was still not strong compared to other EVs. There’s also the Eco mode for increased range potential.
Toyota has kept things simple for the Proace Electric, with a single trim level available. As such, the only real choice is in terms of battery size, and whether you pick the optional faster on-board charger - though there are a few other options. Fitted as standard are 16-inch steel wheels, twin sliding panel doors, 3.5-inch digital driver’s display, DAB radio with 7-inch Pro Touch multimedia system and smartphone connectivity, automatic wipers, and rear parking sensors.
TOYOTA PROACE ELECTRIC: MODEL SUMMARY
The Toyota Proace Electric is comfortable, easy to drive, has a very good driving range, and also comes with Toyota’s five-year warranty. It’s only available in one size, but the choice of batteries makes flexibility a strength. In fact, in the class, its only real competitors are those with which is shares a platform and powertrain. It also confirms that for many cases, an electric van makes far more sense than a diesel one, particularly when you consider the savings available in running costs.
Model tested: Toyota Proace Electric Icon 75 kWh
Body-style: Mid-sized LCV
Engine / CO2: 100 kW electric motor / 0 g/km
Trim grades: Just one
On-road price: From £34,630. Price as tested: £39,338
Warranty: Five Years / 100,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars