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Blog Post 11 March 2021 Updated 16 November 2023

Introducing electric vans into your fleet

In the UK, transport accounts for 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions, making up the largest share of all sectors, including energy generation, business, residential and agriculture. In an important step towards achieving net zero emissions, the UK Government confirmed that sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans would end by 2035.

While the 2035 deadline is driving fleet operators to accelerate their plans for transitioning to electric vehicles, some businesses are still considering how to take advantage of this opportunity.

In this blog, we’ll explain everything you need to know about making the switch to an electric van.

What is an electric van?

An electric van is a battery electric vehicle, powered only by electricity. The vehicle’s battery is charged from mains electricity using a chargepoint.

Electric vans use a process known as regenerative braking. When the accelerator is released, the electric motor generates electricity, which slows the vehicle and returns some energy to the battery, helping to extend driving range. This is similar to engine braking in a diesel van, but usually more effective, and it can also help reduce brake wear and maintenance costs.

Although electric vans are usually more expensive to purchase or lease than similar diesel models. Adopting them can save you money on fuel, tax and maintenance, which can make them cheaper to operate over the vehicle’s lifetime. They also significantly reduce your fleet’s carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions, as they produce zero tailpipe emissions.

As e-commerce continues to grow, electric vans have been particularly popular for last-mile deliveries and service engineers. They require very few supply chain changes for businesses and have the added benefit of running almost silently, meaning there is potential for wider delivery timeslots with minimal neighbourhood disruption.

What electric vans are available?

Interest in electric vans is growing rapidly. They are becoming an increasingly practical and cost-effective option for fleet operators, as the number of models and capabilities of the vehicles continue to improve.

Currently, there are more than 20 electric van models that are eligible for the UK Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) plug-in van grant. Small and medium sized vans are now available, with driving ranges approaching 200 miles. Larger vans up to 3.5 tonnes from established vehicle manufacturers are also coming to market, offering a range of panel vans, chassis cabs and other bespoke options.

Could an electric van work for me?

A key factor to consider when deciding whether an electric van is right for your business is your mileage. To assess the potential for a fleet of electric vans, you need a good understanding of the distances your vehicles travel every day. It’s a good idea to keep note of how many miles your vans cover per day by using a mileage log, mileage logging phone app or telematics system if the vehicle is equipped with one. Then compare your mileage to the battery range of the electric vans you are considering and whether you have downtime during the working day that could be utilised for top-up charging if necessary.

Our electric van widget tool offers an indication of whether an electric van could be suitable for you.

The business case for electric van fleets

It needs to make practical business sense for an organisation to adopt a fleet of electric vans. The good news is that electric vans can make financial sense for a business due to their lower running costs. Higher upfront costs can be recouped via significant savings on fuel and maintenance, and there are also tax incentives and government purchase grants available.

OZEV’s plug-in van grant funds 20% of the purchase price (up to a maximum of £8,000) for vans that produce CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and can travel at least 16km (10 miles) solely on battery power.

For a full list of vans that are eligible for the grant, visit out our electric vans page.

Fully electric vans are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), representing an annual saving of up to £265 compared to an equivalent diesel vehicle. It is worth noting that hybrid and plug-in hybrid vans are still subject to the annual £265 fee (rising to £275 for the 2021/22 financial year).

Other benefits include free parking in certain local authorities, 100% cleaner vehicle discount from London’s congestion charge, while some local authorities even offer free charging for electric vehicles. Read our guide on lowering van emissions and costs to find out more.

What about charging infrastructure?

Typically, recharging is carried out overnight, so vans that return to base each evening are straightforward to switch to electric as they can be recharged using a dedicated chargepoint on site. However, where vans are driven home by drivers, in most cases an electric van will only be practical if the driver has access to off-street parking and is able to install a home chargepoint or has a public chargepoint nearby.

A lack of public charging infrastructure can be one of the barriers to switching to electric vans or other electric vehicles. To combat this, the UK Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) is investing in electric charging infrastructure across the UK. Grants for electric charging infrastructure are also available through the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme and the Workplace Charging Scheme, which can help reduce the costs of installing chargepoints.

If you decide to install your own chargepoints, it’s a good idea to engage with your local distribution network operator (DNO) at the early stage of installation. Your chargepoint installer will be able to help with this; early engagement can help you understand any costs that may be required to increase electricity capacity on your premises.

Are there any other benefits?

One of the great things about driving an electric van is that they are quiet, which makes for a more relaxing driving experience.

Electric vans do not have a conventional gearbox, so there are no gears to shift or clutch to operate. Instead, they use just a single gear and a reverse. This makes them much simpler to drive and can help reduce stress for drivers, particularly when stuck in traffic.

There’s also the environmental benefit. By switching to electric vans that emit zero tailpipe emissions, you can contribute to improving local air quality and creating a healthier environment for everyone. Making the switch to electric can also bolster your reputation with customers and clients by demonstrating an awareness of environmental issues.

To find out more about electric vans, visit our advice page for best practice guides, FAQs and more.

We can give you expert decarbonisation advice for your fleet and operation, helping you to reduce energy use and emissions through our fleet advice and consultancy.

Last updated: 16 November 2023