Making the case for electric van adoption in the world of commercial vehicle fleets

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May 20, 2024

Are electric vans right for my commercial vehicle fleet? Why making the transition is easier than you might think.

Making the case for electric van adoption in the world of commercial vehicle fleets

There are more than a million electric vehicles on UK roads today, and electric cars have seen strong fleet take-up. But in the world of commercial vehicle fleet management, electric van adoption is slower. We consider some of the key questions our customers ask us about the practicalities of decarbonising a light commercial fleet.

How many electric vans are there on the UK roads?

As of February 2024, there were 60,000 electric commercial vehicles (eLCVs) on the UK roads, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Just 5% of new van registrations year to date were electric, despite recent Geotab figures which found two thirds of UK light-duty vehicles (cars and vans) are ready to go electric. There’s clearly reticence in the market about transitioning to electric vans – so why make the move?

The benefits of moving to electric vans

Alongside the environmental benefits, running a green van fleet brings additional commercial advantages too:

  • Sustainability - supports the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda
  • Reduced servicing and maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts
  • Lower fuel costs compared to petrol or diesel, especially when charging at home or work
  • Less vehicle offroad time thanks to reduced maintenance requirements
  • Quieter driving experience – great for the driver and reducing noise pollution
  • Enables access to low emission zones (LEZs) ensuring your fleet can operate effectively in these areas

The practicalities of switching to electric vans

There are a number of important considerations to look at before you commence decarbonising a van fleet – here are some of the questions we get asked most often.

Electric vans are more expensive, how can I make that work for my business?

The initial cost of an electric van is typically higher than a petrol or diesel equivalent, but the whole-life costs are likely to be lower—thanks to lower maintenance and fuel costs. And if you’re concerned about battery life, it’s worth knowing that most electric vehicle manufacturers provide an 8-year or 100,000-mile battery warranty.

What electric van grants are available?

Some low-emission vans are eligible for a government grant, which the seller includes as a discount on the purchase price. The maximum discount available for certain small vans is £2,500, and £5,000 for large vans. The grant is confirmed until 31 March 2025 - full details are available on the Plug-in Vehicle Grant.

Will the range be sufficient to keep my van fleet moving?

Having enough range to ensure uptime is a key consideration. According to Gocompare, the average mileage for a van is around 12,500 miles a year, which equates to just 240 miles a week. On a single charge, typical eLCV range is around 150 to 200 miles which should be workable for many fleets. Most vans can charge up to 80% in around 30 minutes on a rapid charger.

Fleet operators should be aware that certain factors can decrease EV range and affect operational efficiency. Cold weather and load will reduce the manufacturers quoted range. The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) has recently called for clearer range labelling on electric vans to enable fleets to better understand actual range for different load levels.

Is the public charging infrastructure good enough for commercial vehicles?

March 2024 figures from Zapmap show a total of 59,590 EV UK charge points in 32,322 charging locations - a 47% uplift since March 2023. Zapmap data also shows 11,609 rapid or ultra-rapid charging devices across 5,261 UK locations.

However, there are reports of some public charging bays not being designed for larger vehicles – something operators of larger vans need to be aware of and include in route planning.

Are there any charging installation grants available?

The UK government has created The EV infrastructure grant for staff and fleets which provides small and medium-sized (SME) businesses with money off the cost of installing charge points and supporting infrastructure for staff and fleet vehicles. Full details are on the website but essentially the grant covers:

  • ✓ 75% of the cost of the work, up to a maximum of £15,000
  • ✓ Up to £350 per chargepoint socket installed
  • ✓ Up to £500 per parking space enabled with supporting infrastructure
  • ✓ Up to 5 grants across 5 different sites

What other charging options are there for fleet eLCVs?

Installing charge points at the driver’s home, workplace or depot are a great and convenient solution which we are seeing more of. The Gofor team is also hearing of more companies looking at sharing charge points on business parks. Paying for driver electricity at home, where home charging is an option, encourages cost effective charging behaviour.

Three top electric van picks

When it comes to selecting the best electric vans for your business, there’s a wide variety to choose from and the choice is growing. We’ve taken inspiration from AutoExpress’ Best electric vans 2024 to provide a flavour of some of the excellent vans available:

Large van – Ford e-Transit

About the van: Offers the same vehicle as the diesel version which means no compromise on load capability. It offers impressive power, range and onboard equipment. Great to drive with a choice of multiple body and height options. Won WhatVan Large Van of the Year 2023

Range: Up to 196 miles

Cargo volume: Up to 15.1 cubic metres

Maximum payload: 790kg-1,758kg dependent on van specification

Learn more: WhatCar Ford e-Transit review

Medium van – Volkswagen ID. Buzz Cargo

About the van: Super stylish van which doesn’t compromise on space or range – company graphics look pretty eye catching on these too. Won the AutoExpress 2023 Electric Van of the Year.

Range: Up to 256 miles

Cargo volume: Up to 3.9 cubic metres

Maximum payload: 607kg

Learn more: Autotrader: VW ID. Buzz Panel Van Electric Review

Small van – Citroen e-Berlingo

About the van: A practical choice and great to drive. The e-Berlingo is one of the Stellantis family of vans which includes the Peugeot e-Partner, Vauxhall Combo Electric and Toyota Proace City Electric – the Citroen sits at the cheaper end. It was awarded What Van electric van of the year 2022.

Range: Up to 171 miles

Cargo volume: Up to 3.8 cubic metres (dependent on specification)

Maximum payload: 800kg

Learn more: WhatCar: Citroen eBerlingo van review

Electric vans in practice

Gofor head of sales, Paul Gordon, attended the 2024 Commercial Vehicles Show, speaking to van fleet managers from all over the UK on the challenges they see on the front-line, and noted:

“My key takeaway from the event was the importance of enabling the electric van experience. Fleet decision-makers and drivers need to experience the benefits of electric vehicles firsthand to really drive the van transition forward. Not only do EVs reduce driver stress, but they also make motoring simpler.”

Making an informed decision

Every business will have unique needs of their LCV fleet, Gofor is here to help you assess whether going electric will work for your business. We provide whole life eLCV cost modelling as part of our fleet consultation to find the right solution for your fleet.

Contact us to arrange a fleet consultation

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