Behind the wheel of DHL's new electric milk float

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It’s the little things that excite him. Such as the fact that the StreetScooter’s figure-hugging driver’s seat is heated but the squab has no raised edge on the pavement side, so he can slide in and out easily. Or the way the vehicle locks automatically when he’s more than five metres away from it with the remote fob (there’s no key) in his pocket, and unlocks as he returns. And the way that if he forgets to put the handbrake on, parking pins shoot out automatically to lock the wheels. And the windscreen not only has washer jets but is also heated. “When we had the Beast from the East, temperatures were down to minus 15deg C but my windscreen was clear in a couple of minutes,” he says.

Behind the scenes at Britain’s ice-cream van HQ

He likes, too, that the StreetScooter is near silent. “The old floats made a high-pitched whine that woke dogs up,” he says. “Now I’m in and gone without them knowing.”

Ian’s employer, home delivery company Milk & More, says its new 200-strong fleet of StreetScooters, worth £6.5 million, is the first of its kind in the UK. In time the company plans to replace its remaining diesel- powered vans with the new vehicles, at least on urban rounds. And who would blame them when it’s seen a 90% reduction in operating fuel costs compared with the old oil-burners?

The StreetScooter has a maximum range of 75 miles. Ian reckons that by the time he’s completed his 30-mile round, the battery is reading around 65% charged. Compare that with his old electric float that could barely manage 25 miles before whining to a stop. The StreetScooter’s brake energy regen system helps, of course.

“It’s got KERS, just like Formula E,” says Ian, a keen racing fan.

The StreetScooter is one of the electric vehicle world’s major success stories. However, it’s made not by a traditional car or commercial vehicle manufacturer but by German delivery giant DHL. The company bought StreetScooter, the Aachen university-founded EV maker, in 2014 and started building bespoke, electrically powered delivery vehicles for its Deutsche Post subsidiary two years later because, it claimed, existing vehicle manufacturers weren’t interested in doing so.

Today, DP operates more than 6000 StreetScooters throughout Germany. Interest in the model from external operators such as Milk & More has prompted DHL to open a second manufacturing plant with the capacity to take combined annual production to 20,000 vehicles. Such has been the success of StreetScooter that DHL reckons its electric vehicle offshoot will be in profit by 2020.

However, perhaps with an eye on the development spend needed for the next generation of StreetScooters, the company has been making noises about selling off its production arm, or at least inviting partners on board to share costs.

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