The 100kW electric motor has also been repurposed from the e-Golf. It delivers the same 134bhp and 214lb ft of instant torque as it did in the hatchback, but it has been given an extra round of testing and refinement to ensure it could cope with the e-Crafter’s heavier loads.
The powertrain is integrated into the vehicle underbody, with no impact on load width, height or cargo volume, meaning it can transport the same 10.7 cubic metres of stuff (or 10,700 litres, if you prefer). A maximum payload of between 970kg and 1.72 tonnes makes the e-Crafter every bit as practical as its diesel range-mate.
With that in mind, and with more cities issuing penalties for diesel vehicles using their roads, electric vans like this one will soon be a regular sight on our streets.
How does the e-Crafter differ from the standard van?
Before key meets ignition, almost exactly the same as a regular Crafter. The dimensions are the same, the fit and finish is identical, and only the smallest of differences reveal themselves in the cabin.
A rev counter borrowed from the e-Golf shows when the regenerative brakes are refilling the batteries, while the digital instrument cluster shows remaining charge instead of a fuel gauge — but that’s really about it.
That means the e-Crafter is still suitably van-like, with lots of hard-wearing plastics on the doors and dashboard that are built to withstand daily use and abuse. The rear-view mirror on our test car was redundant, with the optional bulkhead glass only giving a glance of whatever you happen to be lugging. Rear door glass will be an option, we’re told.
A lot of trim has been borrowed from VW’s consumer line-up, with air vents and switchgear that will be familiar to anyone who has driven a recent Golf. Standard specification is comprehensive, with a 7.0in infotainment screen, navigation, cruise control and climate control all included. For a commercial workhorse, there’s little to complain about.
Safety was a focal point for the engineers, too. The van won’t even start until every passenger has fastened their seatbelt; it refuses to move even with a foot flat to the floor. Automatic emergency braking, active lane-keeping assistance, a rear-view camera and park pilot are included at every trim level.
We drove the e-Crafter both with a payload and with an empty cargo bay, and both times the van impressed with its accelerative ability.
Top speed is restricted to 56mph, but it gets there at a mighty lick, with the smooth acceleration you expect from an electric powertrain. Van drivers aren’t going to be embarrassing Tesla Model S owners at traffic lights just yet, but the e-Crafter can certainly shame a family hatchback.
There’s no option to adjust how strong the regenerative braking is, but the effects are powerful enough that you can largely drive with one pedal.
The single-speed transmission, meanwhile, is much more preferable to rapidly shuffling through the gears in a diesel-powered van. Also, with no combustion engine groaning at you all the time, the driving experience is far more serene.
The ride can be a bit trashy with no payload in the rear, but things settle down once there’s some cargo on board. Steering is light and visibility is decent (rear view notwithstanding). The way it accelerates aside, this feels very much like a Crafter van. Which is entirely the point, and a sign that VW’s engineers are on the right track.