Electric vans – are you ready to make the switch?
With the EU adopting ambitious targets to cut emissions by at least 55 per cent by 2030 – and country-specific environmental targets looming – businesses operating vehicle fleets are under increasing pressure to play their part and make the switch to electric.
But what happens if your fleet is mainly comprised of vans?
To date, the uptake of eLCVs (electric light commercial vehicles) has been slower than the electrification of the global car parc, but as environmental and regulatory demands on businesses grow, the decarbonising of commercial vehicles is sure to accelerate.
Choosing the right van for your fleet is a big step – get it right and the cost-efficiency benefits can have a big impact on business performance.
With eLCVs offering a relatively new option for fleet decision-makers, we have outlined seven top considerations to help you decide if the electric transition is right for you.
One of the main barriers to widespread EV adoption – across both vans and cars – is the initial cost.
As EV technology is still in its infancy, electric LCVs are substantially more expensive to purchase than equivalent ICE-powered vans.
Fleet operators, however, should not dismiss them based on the price tag alone. Considerable savings can be realised in other areas, and these must be taken into account.
In most cases, they are more affordable to run on a day-to-day basis than their petrol and diesel counterparts, with a lower cost per kilometre and reduced maintenance costs as a consequence of fewer moving parts. There’s no clutch to wear out, for example, and they benefit from regenerative braking – an action which takes the kinetic energy from the vehicle and uses it to slow it down, resulting in less wear and tear on brakes.
Insurance costs, meanwhile, may increase for eLCVs. The higher initial price, the cost of replacement parts and time taken to source them, along with a possible requirement for specialist mechanics are all factors that can lead to higher premiums.
Research suggests that TCO (total cost of ownership) currently favours smaller electric vans.
Maintenance of ICE vehicles is generally considered more demanding than their electric equivalents, with more components that can fail or that require regular upkeep. Less downtime for eLCVs means more time on the road, more completed jobs and better ROI.
However, when they are out of action as a result of electrical component faults, it tends to be for longer periods of time.
The roll-out of EV charging stations across Europe has been relatively slow, with around 224,000 public charging points available in 2020 according to latest figures.
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) claims Europe will need one million charging stations by 2024, and three million by 2029, to give people the confidence to switch to electric. Transport campaign group, Transport & Environment (T&E), also points out that the same number (three million) is needed by 2030 if the EU is to remain on course to become transport-neutral by 2050.
An inadequate charging infrastructure could hamper eLCV growth, with ‘charging blackspots’ in small towns and rural areas remaining a concern for many.
Businesses should consider the impact charging logistics may have on their productivity. eLCV drivers may not be able to take the quickest route to their next job, for example, due to an absence of chargers en route, or they may have to queue for an available charger. Charging time should also be taken into account – an eLCV can take anything from 30 minutes to more than half a day (depending on the power source).
European countries are looking to be make the necessary investments in EV infrastructure, with commercial and residential EV charging incentives available to help boost the number of charge points.
Germany, for example, has announced that it will provide €5.5 billion of funding for EV charging infrastructure, in addition to building the largest public fast-charging station in Europe. The French government, meanwhile, has deployed a €100-million scheme that will give funds to companies installing EV charging points on its national road network.
In Italy, businesses can receive a tax return of up to €3,000 for the purchase and installation costs of EV charging stations, while Spanish organisations can receive a grant that will cover between 30 and 40 per cent of the cost of private or public chargers.
eLCVs are the new kids on the block in the motoring world, meaning there are currently limited models to choose from, especially over 3.5 tonnes.
One of the biggest issues with eLCVs has always been the limited driving range compared to ICE vans – that is, they need recharging quicker than a petrol or diesel van would need to be refuelled.
For drivers covering longer distances, journey planning in an eLCV can prove problematic, especially when travelling to areas with a lack of charging facilities.
Range, however, is improving. The Fiat E-Ducato, for example, can offer up to 370km, and as more electric vans become available boasting increasingly advanced technology, the greater the distances drivers will be able to travel on a single charge.
Electric batteries remain relatively heavy, which leaves less capacity for payload and reduces the weight vans can legally carry within the 3.5 tonne limit.
Many European governments have, however, implemented an increased payload limit of 4.25 tonnes for eLCVs in a scheme called ‘alternative fuel payload derogation’. This accounts for the extra battery weight and means a battery-powered van is able to match a diesel van for carrying ability.
Sustainability not only sits at the top of government agendas, more and more consumers are also expecting green credentials from the businesses they deal with.
According to a report by IBM, 77 per cent of consumers cite the importance of brands demonstrating environmentally responsibility. Going green, it seems, isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also good for business.
Having an electric fleet helps highlight an organisation’s commitment to the environment, enhancing its reputation as a company that’s doing its bit to reduce its carbon footprint.