Citroen e-Relay Electric Van Review
The e-Relay at a glance
As is the trend for van manufacturers, Citroen has “gone electric” with the e-Relay, converting a large diesel van into a fully electric model. At first glance, the Citroen looks impressive. The diesel Relay’s 2016 facelift is carried over onto the e-Relay and its smooth yet angular front grill makes what is a large, long-wheelbase van appear almost elegant and dainty.
At any good van sales company, the e-Relay is available at a single roof height (H2) but with three lengths (L2, L3, L4) as well as in dropside, tipper, Luton, and low-loader variants also. This gives you an excellent range of uses and can cover most, if not all, of a large van’s commercial needs.
Whilst adaptable, the e-Relay’s limited payload and driving range distance impose limitations on its potential as a commercial vehicle, rendering it most suitable for city and town driving. There are several well-thought-out technological and design features which redeem the Citroen and make it a very good vehicle, but it possesses drawbacks that hamper its potential.
The Citroen e-Relay replaces its 2.2-litre BlueHDI turbodiesel engine with a 90kW electric motor, producing what is the equivalent of 122hp. Whilst this is the same power output as the least powerful diesel Relay, the e-Relay lacks significantly in torque, providing only 260Nm, as opposed to the diesel’s 310Nm.
As electric motors have the capability to use all of their available from a standstill, the Citroen will still feel punchy and powerful at low speeds, perhaps in the context of driving around a city or town. However, this won’t be the case during longer, high-speed motorway and dual carriageway trips.
The Citroen’s issues continue with its payload which is only 1,150kg, even in its sturdier variants, and this payload is decreased to 1,070kg with the L2 model and 37kWh battery. This contradicts the size of the vehicle and further limits its usage.
The e-Relay has two lithium-ion battery pack options: 37kWh or 75kWh, the former offering 73 miles and the latter 154 miles of driving per charge. Whilst the 75kWh represents a very respectable driving range, the fact the entry-level battery pack can only lurch to a mere 73 miles shows something of a cynical cash-grab, whereby Citroen force the consumer’s hand into purchasing the more expensive versions.
The e-Relay is available in one standardised trim. This includes a 5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio and sat-nav, air-conditioning, and a perimetric alarm system. Effective city driving is helped by rear parking sensors with an integrated display on the rear-view mirror showing battery charge level and range.
Citroen’s e-Relay variants are all front-wheel drive and use single-speed transmission, meaning that they drive just like an automatic. A quirky design feature of the van is found in rather than using a traditional lever, you select Drive, Neutral or Reverse by pressing buttons on the centre console. This gives the high-tech electric vehicle a distinctly analogue feel, typical of Citroen’s distinctive boldness in design.
Even with a large, spacious trim with adequate storage facilities, the e-Relay clearly lacks the modern safety aids fitted on its rivals. For example, autonomous emergency braking and blindspot monitors are clearly amiss.
Good driving range with the 75 kWh battery pack
Excellent to drive around a city or town
Available in multiple variants
Very limited payload
Lack of torque complicates long-distance, high-speed driving
Bad driving range with entry-level, 37kWh battery pack
Overall, the Citroen e-Relay is a good-looking and versatile van, best suited for urban or municipally-rooted commercial uses. With multiple variants, its sleek design and the electric motor’s access to torque at low speeds make it very efficient and effective for city driving.
But the Citroen’s good amount of power and respectable driving range (when installed with a 70kWh battery pack) is unfortunately undermined by the fact that its limited torque is minimized at higher speeds and the entry-level battery pack only reaches 73 miles on one charge.
This limits the potential of what could be a versatile and adaptable commercial vehicle. The third-party handling of the Relay’s conversion by BEDEO has halted Citroen’s own focus on creative mechanical innovation, demonstrated by the lack of safety features and stock interior. This being said, at certain points, the Citroen rises above its drawbacks to be an ultimately good van for multiple commercial uses, especially city driving.