Electric vans: Everything you need to know
Want to do your bit for the environment and enjoy a few perks on the side? An electric van might be for you.
If you have a category B licence (for car and light vehicles), you can drive an alternatively-fuelled van after just five hours of extra training.
This has made it easier for van drivers to do their bit for the environment and make the switch to electric.
But it's still a legal requirement to have van insurance.
So if this has made you consider switching, check out our guide to driving an electric van.
What’s the government plug-in van grant?
The plug-in grant was introduced by the government to make greener electric and hybrid vehicles more affordable.
These grants cover 35% of the purchase price, up to £3,000 for small electric vans (up to 2,500kg) or £6,000 for larger electric vans (up to 3,500kg).
You don’t need to apply for the grant yourself. Instead, the discount should be applied automatically by the dealer.
However, not all electric or hybrid vehicles are eligible for a gran. It’s only ones that have been approved by the government.
These should have CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and travel at least 96km (60 miles) without any CO2 emissions.
Which vans are eligible for the plug-in grant?
Some of the small electric vans included in the scheme are:
- Citroen e-Berlingo
- Nissan e-NV200 (cargo van)
- Nissan Voltia
- Peugeot ePartner
- Renault Kangoo ZE
- Renault Zoe Van
Some of the large electric vans included in the scheme are:
- BD Auto e-Traffic
- Citroen e-Dispatch
- Maxus e-Deliver 3 and 9
- Mercedes eSprinter
- Peugeot eExpert
- Renault Trucks Master ZE
- Toyota Proace Electric
- LDV EV80
You can find the full list of electric vans available on GOV.UK.
Also check out our guide to the best electric vans.
What are the advantages of an electric van?
One of the main advantages of driving an electric van is that the running costs tend to be lower.
As your electric van doesn’t have any emissions it’s exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty (tax).
With this in mind, you could expect to save roughly £140 per year on an electric van compared to a petrol or diesel van.
There are also minimal fuel costs, with electricity being cheaper per mile than diesel or petrol.
According to Nissan, the E-NV200 costs just 2p-per-mile.
And real-life testing suggests high-quality traction batteries should probably have at least 80% of their initial capacity after seven to 10 years.
An added benefit for drivers in London is a 100% discount on the congestion charge.
Are there any company benefits if you make your fleet electric?
If your company turns your fleet electric, you could save on tax.
A van benefit charge is applied when an employee is given a van for private use.
This is a flat rate of £3,500 and is considered a ‘benefit in kind’ which employees are taxed on at their own rate of income tax.
However, drivers of zero-emission vans are now exempt from this charge.
You should also save on fuel benefits.
The van fuel benefit charge, currently £669, works in a similar way to the van benefit charge.
It’s applied when an employee is given a van and the company pays for the fuel.
As electricity isn’t treated as fuel, this charge won’t be applied on electric vans.
However, this only applies if the vehicle is charged in the workplace.
For more information on tax benefits, visit the government page on low emissions vehicle taxation.
In addition to reducing running costs, going green and using a fleet of electric vans could also have a positive impact on the business’s overall green credentials.
What are the disadvantages of electric vans?
Some van drivers might find charging an electric van a hassle and suffer a degree of ‘range anxiety’.
Organisation is required to make sure you have the time to charge your electric van and to ensure you have access to a charging point when it’s needed.
It’s not as easy as stopping off at a petrol station.
This could mean electric vans are better suited to urban driving where access to charging points is likely to be easier than for drivers in rural areas.
Buying an electric fleet could also be expensive. For example, prices for a new Nissan E-NV200 van start at around £23,300.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t include the battery, which is typically leased separately.
Make sure you ask about this before jumping to any decisions.
And of course, if you’re wishing to sell your electric van, there’s some ambiguity about resale value.
With new models being developed quickly, the depreciation on electric vehicles could be high.
So, with the expensive outlay, van leasing could be an option for your business. It also spreads the initial purchase price out and avoids the issue of depreciation.
How far can I travel on one charge?
Charging and range are a worry for electric van considerers. But big steps have been made into improving these.
Let's take a look at some popular models, their cost and distance in one charge:
You can typically expect a range from 90-120 miles.
However, this is improving with newer models from Renault, Peugeot, Vauxhall and Citroen boasting ranges north of 200 miles.
Range will of course vary depending on the load or the way you drive.
Put the heating or air-conditioning on and your van’s range could reduce dramatically.
So, knowing where the charging points are on your route might be vital on long journeys.
The Nissan E-NV200 offers a solution to this uncertainty.
Using an in-built monitor, the E-NV200 can tell you your charge levels, and where the nearest charging station is.
Batteries could take up to 12 hours to charge using a charging point at your home or workplace, however public charging points may be faster.
Again, most offer a rapid charge or faster charge mode.
Also, drivers should be aware that batteries likely deteriorate over time, and hold less charge over time.
But batteries are generally covered by warranties and could last around eight years in some cases.
Do electric vans work in cold weather?
Your electric van should work in cold weather conditions, but it could affect the battery and therefore the mileage.
For example, the Renault Kangoo Z.E 33 travels 124 miles in the summer months, whereas in winter the range could reduce to as little as 75 miles.
What are electric vans really like to drive?
One thing about driving an electric van is that it’s silent, which could make for a more relaxing driving experience.
Online reviews of electric vans mention that most electric vehicles are also responsive and can accelerate and brake or stop quickly.
Tedious gearshifts in traffic jams should also be a thing of the past, as all electric vans are automatic.
And no clutch means no expensive clutch repairs, which could be a serious headache.
If buying an electric van isn't an option for you right now, why not consider converting your van to run on a low carbon-emitting fuel instead?