Product report STAR Capella Work Machine product report, by James de Havilland
Spring 2023

STAR Capella Work Machine

. minute read

James de Havilland is a technical freelance writer hailing from Banbury in Oxfordshire. A well-respected journalist, he has accrued over 30 years’ experience operating, testing and writing about turfcare machinery.

First impressions

Looking like a golf buggy with a load platform on the back, the Capella Work Machine is perhaps all too easy to overlook. Take a closer look at what it has to offer, however, and it is clear this not-so-little vehicle truly packs a punch. The load bed is well-sized and, with a 670kg capacity and a 520Kg tow capacity, well suited to tasks as varied as moving bulk materials through to ferrying people and goods across noise sensitive sites.

Noise sensitive? Ah yes, this is an electric vehicle but not one burdened with lead acid batteries. Instead, it has lithium-ion power for its electric motor, and this will deliver up to 60 miles per charge. That will be plenty for most. And an overnight charge from a three-pin plug will restore the battery to full with no need to hook into a dedicated charger.

The good news continues with the vehicle delivering sprightly performance and decent agility, its simple build being likely to endear it to maintenance staff too. Add low running costs into the equation and the Capella Work Machine will soon earn its keep.

On hard surfaces, the vehicle accelerates quickly up to its maximum and can easily handle an incline of up to 20 percent

Affordable to buy, even cheaper to run

The STAR Capella Work Machine has one significant advantage over traditionally powered light utilities: lithium-ion battery power as standard.

There’s nothing new in employing electric propulsion for basic utility vehicles, but many systems still rely upon ‘traditional’ lead acid battery packs that are both heavy and need maintenance attention to ensure decent power pack longevity.

The STAR Capella Work Machine looks like a golf buggy, but with a big boot, it’s a load lugger. Drawing power from a 210Ah lithium-ion battery, it claims a range of up to 60 miles, a 13amp plug connecting to the integral charger for ease of keeping the battery full. The load bed has electric tipping and a useful 670kg capacity, making this two-seater a useful addition to any utility vehicle fleet.

With a 210AH lithium-ion battery powering its 48V 5kW motor, the Capella Work Machine is immediately at an advantage. All in, the vehicle weighs just 770kg. This is a significant difference from lead acid battery powered ‘light’ utilities with that capacity – they’re more likely to tip the scales at well over 1,000kg.

But as a light utility vehicle, it’s clear the Work Machine is more golf cart than other small utility vehicles, but with one that has a healthy 670kg payload and a handy 1.40m by 1.17m rear platform with electric tipping as standard. It may not have the best ground clearance in its range at 120mm, but it’s more than capable on turf, tracks, gravel and hard surfaces, further enhanced by what could be a trump card or rather make that several cards.

First, it costs very little to run this handy carrier, an overnight charge restores a flat battery to full. Even at the current high prices, a full charge will cost a fraction of what it will to fill up with fuel. Second, the Work Machine runs near silently and has no ‘tailpipe’ or charging emissions. It’s ideal for moving people and goods around places such as a busy campus, training camp, hospital or even to ferry luggage and goods around holiday parks.

There is a third point. Affordability. Although a petrol-powered light utility offering similar capacity will cost less, few electric vehicles are as well-priced, more so when powered by a lithium as opposed to a lead acid battery. Then factor in the extremely low maintenance and service costs compare to combustion engines, and it becomes a clear winner.

The drive

Unladen, the machine is firmly sprung, and, over ruts and bumps, its ride can be politely described as unyielding. Those used to small utility vehicles will notice this off the bat. But comfort is easily enhanced by doing something simple: ease off the throttle pedal.

The Work Machine takes off briskly. The firm ride acting as a key to pegging the exuberance of the operator over lumpy ground. On a paved roadway or good track, the vehicle feels exactly like a golf cart, albeit one with a bit more pep if you decide to step on the ‘gas’.

Steering is extremely light, despite there being no power assistance, while the long wheelbase makes the claimed 5.5m turn radius seem more of a ‘best achieved’ thanks to needing nearly four and half turns of the steering wheel to achieve a lock-to-lock turn.

The bench seats, fitted with inertia lap belts, offer little support or grip, passengers tending to need to use the grab rails if they want to stay in place across sidling ground. Harsh criticism? Hardly. This little vehicle is all about easily accessible utility and it does exactly what it is intended to do, quietly and with a bit of pep in the way it goes. Simple in its build, it looks as if it can be easily fixed if something does go wrong and with its ability to just move ‘stuff’ without fuss will win it many friends.

With a ground clearance of just 120mm and a wheelbase pretty much the same as vehicles 3.4m in length rules out crossing very rough terrain, the all-terrain tyre tread also suggests this isn’t the tool for going cross-country.

When it comes to simply ferrying materials around, a light and simple utility vehicle like the Capella Work Machine is typically all you need.

Measuring a useful 1.4m in length and 1.17m across, the rear load platform has a useful 670kg capacity, with 0.35m high sides and electric tipping making it suitable for handling loose loads. There are no ‘dirt traps’ and the load bed has a smooth finish that should make a clean tip easier.

With a capacity of 210AH, the 48V lithium battery pack can store enough energy to propel the Work Machine for up to 60 miles. Even if real world mileage is less than this, most will find this ample for a working day.

It will take around nine hours to fully charge the battery from flat/empty. The Work Machine incorporates its own charger to enable it to be topped up from a conventional three-pin plug. The supplied cable is 5m long and the socket connector has its own unique fitting.

It makes a refreshing change to find a vehicle with a display that shows everything an operator needs to know, namely how much charge there is in the battery, how fast you are going and how far you have gone.

From left to right, the rocker switches are for body tip, hazard lights, driving lights and the selection of forward/reverse, with the ignition key turning the unit on or off. This is not needed on latest models. It’s on the console.

Applying the parking brake when the vehicle is off will stop it rolling. It also has a useful interlock on the park brake to avoid you driving off with the handbrake applied. But with an automatic ‘hill hold’ function prevents it rolling away even if the park brake is not applied – a great safety feature.

The 5kW AC motor has direct drive to the rear axle, with no differential. This simple drive layout will have minimal maintenance demands with the added bonus of having no fluids that can leak out onto valuable turf.

Live rear axle, leaf springs and drum brakes. This rugged set-up is a well proven design but unloaded the suspension is firm, making the vehicles top speed of around 25mph something you will only want to access in smooth going. The ride improves when there is a load in the platform.

In contrast to the rear, the front suspension boasts double wishbones with adjustable spring rate coils and dampers. Rack and pinion steering, which has no power assistance, is light but low geared, requiring around four and a half turns to go from lock to lock.

Few mechanics will moan about component access, with the drive motor accessible from under the load platform. The chassis rails are simple angle iron with a light dusting of paint. All in, the vehicle weighs 770kg – light weight and light build going hand in hand.

Halogen front and LED rear lights are not homologated for on-road use but are ideal for those working around public spaces.

However, the fully cabbed sister to the Work Machine is homologated to L7e and can be fully registered for the road.

To talk to someone about STAR technology and how the STAR range could suit your venue, call 01480 226800