While electric cars are getting a lot of attention, the market for electric light commercial vehicles has also been expanding. It’s becoming more common to see these silent vehicles cruising the streets of our cities, moving pollution-free from stop to stop.
As ranges have nudged upwards and with load capacities that equal their diesel cousins, are E-LCVs now a viable choice for a fleet?
We looked at what’s available today, their claimed capabilities and tried to identity how they could fit into the modern commercial fleet.
Real-world range is the biggest factor
Most of the published ranges for the vehicles we’ve seen are around 100 miles from a single charge. This isn’t surprising as battery space is being compromised by keeping the load volumes of their fossil fuel cousins.
Promises of sub one-hour fast charge times might seem like a way round this problem, but it’s worth remembering these can be limited to one charge per day by software to protect the battery. For the time being at least it seems distance will exclude E-LCVs from the mix.
Shorter journeys, such as moving to and from a single work site, or urban multi-drops, will suit E-LCVs more. Many of the models we found were being proactively pitched into this space. Lower running costs for owners and improved air quality for customers are undoubted benefits.
One consideration will be battery life. The batteries have a finite number of charging cycles before they degrade. A little like fuel economy falls as a van gets older, so the range will stretch less.
Running an EV from day-to-day
The E-LCVs we looked at were predominantly modelled on existing platforms. This should make it easier to incorporate them into fleets as loading profiles won’t vary. The shorter ranges will mean omitting them from longer journeys for the time being.
Overnight charging will require access to a charging point. While they can use a standard plug-and-socket, it’s usually better, faster and less expensive to have a dedicated station. Manufacturers can advise on this, while Drax, one of the UK’s largest energy companies, has services to help choose, manage and run EVs, including supply point installations and renewable energy for them.
Predicted running costs were lower than diesel. Not only are there negligible fuel costs, the maintenance costs are lower because of fewer moving parts and being easier on their brakes.
Choices on the market
We found a mix of small- and full-sized panel vans available (we’ve listed them below). However, we weren’t able to find an EV pickup.
Nissan, Renault, Peugeot, LDV and Mercedes all have EV options available today. The ubiquitous Ford Transit isn’t available in any EV form, although a “mild hybrid” is promised for later in 2019. VW is also expected to announce the launch of their E-LCVs later in the year.
Given their dominance in the Hybrid space, it surprised us we couldn’t find E-LCVs from Toyota.
The usual leasing and outright purchase options are available. There are government schemes to help with both purchasing and running Electric Vans, with manufacturers offering these as part of their pitches.
We couldn’t find enough second-hand Electric Vans on sale to determine whether buying second-hand was a viable option. As with any electric vehicle, many factors can determine the battery’s capacity and ability to recharge that don’t become fully known until after it’s been run for a while.
If a new van is on the horizon, start planning now. Understanding how the vehicle will be used and the real-world range required will help determine whether an EV is a good choice. Shorter, stop-start type journeys are more likely to lend themselves to an EV, while longer cruising will point towards a clean diesel.
We’ve listed the vehicles we’ve found below. We will update this list from time to time. Last update: 4th May 2019
Illustration by Ross A Hall