New van in town: The DFSK EC35 by Innovation Automotive

The market for electric vans is growing, with an increasing number of businesses across the UK looking to transition their fleets over to electric. But until only recently, you could only get a decent, reliable electric van from one of the main manufacturers, such as Nissan, Vauxhall, Peugeot and other OEMs. But in 2022, there’s a new player in the e-Van market, that goes by the name of Innovation Automotive.

Billing itself as the UK’s first multi-brand electric vehicle company, Innovation Automotive unveiled the DFSK EC35 all-electric van back in March this year, with the aim of bringing practical, capable and affordable electric van to market.

So, will the new van in town be able to compete with the growing list of electric vans being released by the major OEMs? EV Powered’s Charlie Atkinson got behind the wheel to find out.

What does it look like?

Well, pretty much like every other white, electric van, really. There’s not a great deal to shout about when it comes to the DFSK EC35, other than specific features like its halogen headlights and 14” steel wheels. Other than that, it just looks like your average white van.

Thankfully, when it comes to vans, it’s not a beauty contest, and whilst there are certainly flashier models out there, the focus is instead on practicality, sturdiness and, especially with this being an electric van, range, charging and cost.

The important bits

With the DFSK EC35 being sold as an affordable alternative to its competitors, let’s start with cost. Excluding VAT, the basic price for the EC35 is £25,444, but with the government’s plug-in van grant (which has recently been extended for another two years) you will save £5,000 on the purchase of this van, bringing an on-the-road price to £20,999, once delivery and First Reg Fees (FRF) have been added on. Including VAT, the on-the-road price comes in at £26,188.

For the price, Innovation Automotive will also throw in a five year or 75,000 mile warranty, and an eight year or 100,000 mile warranty for the traction battery. All new EC35 vans come with three years roadside assistance from the AA, too.

Including VAT, the DFSK EC35 is only marginally cheaper than the likes of the Citroen e-Dispatch, Peugeot e-Expert, Vauxhall Vivaro-e and the Toyota Proace Electric, which all come in at £26,450. So, how does it compare to its rivals in terms of range?

The EC35 has a WLTP combined range of 166 miles, which is tested with a 300kg payload. The estimated range does increase to 205 miles for driving in the city. This range is about the same as a Citroen e-Berlingo, a Peugeot e-Boxer or a Vauxhall Movano-e, whereas other models, such as the Fiat e-Ducato, will offer combined ranges of over 200 miles, although these are generally more expensive.

On the inside

Whilst it might not lose any points in terms of range, the EC35 does fall short when it comes to storage and cargo volume. Compared to other electric vans available, the cargo volume on the EC35 is a little small with only 4.8 cubic meters available. For reference, the similarly sized Citroen e-Dispatch has a cargo volume of up to 6.6 cubic meters.

But still, you’ve got two sliding doors for easy access and a rear tailgate, and you’ll still be able to carry up to 1,015kg. It might not be able to compete with the bigger, more expensive electric vans, but for vans of this size and at this price, it’s a decent, practical amount of storage.

Up front, the EC35 is pretty kitted out with reversing sensors, Bluetooth, DAB, air conditioning and a 6.8” infotainment unit with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so it’s got pretty much everything you want.

On the road

Unfortunately for Innovation Automotive, the EC35’s performance on the road really lets it down.

The ride is uncomfortable, with an unforgiving suspension that drastically rattles the entire van over even the smallest of bumps. The flimsy-feel of the van’s structure results in a lot of road and wind noise, with sound of the battery winding up as you accelerate also loud and clear.

It also falls short on its claimed range. With 75% charge reading on the drivers display, a 12-mile journey saw the range fall to 52%. At this rate, the EC35 would only offer a 52-mile range, which is a significant drop-off from the 166-mile combined range advertised. This is with an empty load and on a journey around a town centre, with a short journey on a dual carriageway.

On the positive side, the van offers a good, high driving position, and it retains the essence of an electric vehicle with sharp, responsive acceleration. Other than that, however, it is a bleak report for the EC35, and struggles to compete with the reliability of some of the other electric vans produced by the major OEMs.

The final verdict

Unfortunately, Innovation Automotive’s DFSK EC35 electric van is far from perfect. The positive aspects, such as the fully-kitted out interior, reasonable load volume and cost, are hamstrung by significant flaws in performance and range.

Although it enters the market as one of the most affordable options, the old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ rings true, and anyone looking for a new e-van is better off paying slightly more for one of the many reliable and trusted electric vans available on the market today.