On average, a business van in the UK drives just 35 miles. With existing electric models able to cover well over 100 miles on a single charge, could your next company van be an electric one?

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Electric vans often receive a bad rap for their lack of practicality. But with many models now able to cover well over 100 miles on a single charge, have they become a feasible van alternative for SMEs?

In this article, we take electric vans for a test drive to show business owners that they may in fact be a great choice for your next company van. 

Could you use an electric van?

There are many benefits to owning an electric business van, such as being exempt from low emissions zone charges and paying a reduced tax rate. 

But whether your SME could benefit from one depends on several factors:

  • Do they have the range to cover the distances which you need to drive?
  • Are there charge points in your locality as well as the areas you would drive in? 
  • What are the upfront and running costs, and how do they compare to those of conventional fuel vans?
  • Are there electric van models which meet your size and functionality requirements? 

Range

39 percent of UK business vans travel less than 15 miles from their base on a typical day, and only18 percent travel further than 50 miles away.

And of the 2.3 million vans registered to UK businesses, the average daily mileage is just 35 miles. 

Based on the official WLTP ranges of the following popular small, medium and large-sized models, it looks like electric vans can already cover the daily mileage of most UK business vans without the need to stop and recharge:

But what about recharging during longer journeys? The infrastructure for electric vehicles is rapidly growing with over 25,000 charge devices in over 16,000 UK locations — Zap-Map will help you find charge points around the country.

Upfront costs 

The biggest cost is the van itself. Below are the prices of the popular electric van models mentioned before compared to their diesel counterparts.

Electric Van VS Petrol/Diesel Van Price
Electric modelPriceDiesel modelPrice
Renault Kangoo E-Tech£28,200Renault Kangoo£17,650
Volkswagen ABT e-Transporter 6.1£50,400Volkswagen Transporter 6.1£29,556
Mercedes-Benz eSprinter£64,212Mercedes-Benz Sprinter£41,000

At current prices, an electric van will cost more to buy. But, government financial help is available

A grant covering 35 percent of the cost of a small or large electric van, up to £3000 and £6000 respectively will be automatically deducted when buying a vehicle, requiring no action on your part.

The purchase and installation of a home or workplace charge point is the second upfront cost. It’s an optional cost, but being able to charge your van at your premises makes things more convenient. 

Along with convenience, a home/workplace charge point gives you the opportunity to make a profit by charging others to use it.

Average Cost Of Home Electric Vehicle Charging Unit
SpeedPowerCostCharge time (hours) 0 – 100 % battery life

van battery size 33kWh | 37kWh | 55kWh
Slow3.6kW£799 (hours)
11 | 12 | 18
Fast7kW / 22kW£879(hours)
4.5 / 1.5 | 5 / 1.5 | 8 / 2.5
Rapid50kW£1,519(hours)
0.6 | 0.7 | 1
Source: RAC

Two different government grants are available for chargers:

  • Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS)
    • Covers 75%, up to £350 of the cost of installing a single charge point socket on residential premises.
    • Applications for a second grant may be accepted if the applicant owns a second qualifying vehicle.
  • The Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS)
    • Covers 75%, up to £350 per socket, of purchase and installation fees for up to 40 sockets across all premises of a business.
    • All businesses are eligible so long as they possess a qualifying vehicle.
    • Grants are issued in the form of tokens which need to be redeemed within four months of issue.

When purchasing an electric van it’s important to shop around as some retailers, such as Mercedes-Benz, will provide a free home charger and installation with the vehicle.

Image source: Unsplash

Running costs 

The upfront costs of electric vans are greater, but it’s the long-term savings on running costs which make them a good choice financially.

A running cost which electric van drivers won’t incur is for entering Clean Air Zones (CAZ). Several cities around the UK have these zones in place, with more planning on introducing them over the coming years.

London is the most costly of all. Its Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charges non-compliant van drivers £12.50 per day to enter. The city’s wider-reaching Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) is much steeper for non-compliant large vans, costing £100 per day. 

Here’s the full list of driving charges within London along with vehicle emissions standards.

The cost of charging an electric van differs between private and public charge points. and depends on the size of the vehicle’s battery as well as the speed of the charger.

Of the two options, home charging can be up to 47 percent cheaper!

Average Cost Of Public VS Home Charging Estimates
Battery sizeSlow charger
3kW

Public | Home
Fast charger
7kW & 22kW

Public | Home
Rapid charger
50kW+

Public | Home
Time to full charge (hours)
0 – 100 % battery life

Charger speed
3kW | 7kW / 22kW | 50kW+
Small 
33kW
£7.26 | £4.62£8.58 | £4.62£8.58 | £4.6211 | 4.5 / 1.5 | 0.6
Medium
37kW
£8.14 | £5.18£9.62 | £5.18£9.62 | £5.1812 | 5 / 1.5 | 0.7
Large
55kW
£12.10 | £7.70£14.30 | £7.70£14.30 | £7.7018 | 8 / 2.5 | 1
*Charge times calculated using battery size of previously mentioned popular electric van models.
*Home charge prices calculated using 2021 average cost per kWh electricity £0.14.
*Public charge prices source: Electric Brighton.

But how do charging costs compare to refuelling? — Important to note here is that real-world miles per gallon (mpg) / ranges are estimated to be 86 percent of what manufacturers officially claim.

  • For small, medium and large electric vans, charging at home creates significant weekly savings of roughly £16, £26 and £20 respectively when compared to weekly diesel costs. 
  • Recharging a small or medium electric van in public creates smaller weekly savings of roughly £10 and £13 respectively
  • But, depending on the model, recharging a large electric van in public will only cost around £1 less per week than refuelling a large diesel van.

*Above savings calculated using average business van daily mileage, average home/public electric vehicle charge cost, and average diesel price.

Cost Of Refuelling VS Charging
SizeDieselElectricReal-world mpgReal-world single charge rangeDiesel cost to drive
equivalent range
Full charge cost

Public | Home
SmallCitroën BerlingoRenault Kangoo E-Tech57 miles122 miles£12.84£7.26 – £8.58 | £4.62
MediumRenault TraficVolkswagen ABT e-Transporter 6.133 miles70 miles£12.70£8.14 – £9.62 | £5.18
LargeFord TransitMercedes-Benz eSprinter31 miles70 miles£13.50£12.10 – 14.30 | £7.70
*Electric vehicle ranges taken from previously mentioned popular van models

Size and functionality 

There are plenty of electric alternatives for the typical small, medium and large van models. 

But if your business needs a van that’s a little different in size and functionality you’re also covered, as there’s an electric alternative for all major van models:

Are electric vans good for deliveries?

When it comes to deliveries, range and payload are what matter. Will you deliver locally (within 15 miles from base), regionally (within 50 miles from base) or nationally (over 50 miles from base)? And, how many packages do you need to transport?

Local 

Electric vans of all sizes could be effective. As range isn’t a limitation here, the only factor to consider is the number of journeys per day. 

A busy day may require recharging, but with 22kW chargers able to take a medium-sized battery (37kWh) from 0 to 100 percent in less than two hours, this shouldn’t pose much of an issue. 

Regional

For regional journeys, if you need a larger van, then range becomes an issue. With the maximum range of the larger vans around 80 miles, there’s a good chance you’d need to stop and recharge. 

Smaller delivery vans, however, should be able to carry out a longer regional round trip on a single charge. 

National

Only smaller models, such as the Nissan e-NV200, boast a high enough real-world range to cover distances of over 100 miles on a single charge.

However, if you need a larger delivery van and stopping to recharge isn’t an option for you, then an electric vehicle could prove to be impractical.

In this case, a hybrid model would be a better alternative. You won’t save as much on running costs, but you’ll still benefit from the reduced fuel consumption and tax rate. 

Below we’ve summarised the electric models which we think would make the best delivery vans.

Electric Delivery Vans
SizeModelReal-world single charge maximum range Maximum payload
SmallCitroën e-Berlingo147 miles800kg
SmallNissan e-NV200142 miles705kg
MediumVauxhall Vivaro-e176 miles
*model dependent
1226 kg
*model dependent
MediumToyota Proace Electric176 miles1226kg
LargeFord E-Transit168 miles1758kg
LargeFiat e-Ducato191 miles
*model dependent
1900kg
*Range affected by payload
Image source: Pexels

How does Amazon use electric vans?

The world’s leading e-commerce platform, Amazon, has put its faith in electric vans. In partnership with manufacturers Rivian, they’ve designed a fleet of 100,000 electric vans to fulfill deliveries in the US, with the first vehicles becoming operational this year. 

Plans to create a similar fleet for the UK are in motion, with tires set to hit the tarmac in 2022. 

However, the retail company isn’t waiting around until next year. They’ve seen the benefit of electric and are already using Mercedes-Benz eSprinter and eVito electric vans in the UK.

The fact that one of the largest companies on the planet is moving towards an all-electric global fleet is a good example to SMEs of how practical electric vans really can be!

How to calculate your mileage

Manually calculating your mileage is simple. Next time you refuel, completely fill the tank and make a note of your mileage. 

On your next visit to the garage, check your new mileage and completely fill the tank again, this time making a note of how many gallons.

Now divide the difference in mileage by the gallons of fuel, and that’s your mileage.

If that’s too much hassle, here’s an app that’ll do it for you!

Conclusion 

Electric vans are most practical for businesses which carry out lots of short journeys on a regular basis, and it seems that only businesses which need to cover national distances might struggle to reap the benefits.

But for most SMEs, an electric van would do the job just as well as a diesel model, whilst being more cost-effective over the long run! 

Hopefully this article has made you think about how you use or plan on using a company vehicle, and that you’re more aware of how your business could benefit from an electric van.

Sources:

Alan Palazon
Author: Alan Palazon

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