Want to do your bit for the environment and enjoy a few perks on the side? An electric van might be for you.
In July 2017 it was announced that van drivers would no longer need a new licence to operate electric or gas powered vehicles.
This law change has made it easier for van drivers to make the switch. Here are some of the pros and cons of electric vans, and what they’re like to drive.
The government plug-in van grant explained
The plug-in grant was introduced by the government to reduce the price of electric and hybrid vehicles.
These grants are usually given to car dealerships and will cover 20% of the purchase price up to a maximum of £8,000.
The great thing is you don’t have to apply for the grant yourself, it’s administered by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.
Not all electric or hybrid vehicles are eligible for a grant, it’s only ones that have been approved by the government.
These have CO2 emissions of less than 75g/km and travel at least 16km (10 miles) without any CO2 emissions at all.
Which vans are eligible for the plug-in grant?
Vans that are available through the government grant scheme include:
BD Otomotiv eTraffic
BD Otomotiv eDucato
Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial
Nissan e-NV200 (cargo van)
Renault Kangoo ZE
Renault Master ZE
LDV EV80 van
LDV EV80 chassis cab
Electric van advantages
There are significant savings to be made on running costs. For example, an electric van is entitled to a greener vehicle discount on the London congestion charge.
Also, because your electric van doesn’t have any emissions it’s exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty.
With this in mind, you could expect to save roughly £140 per year compared to a regular 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 2p-per-mile to charge, which is significantly cheaper than petrol or diesel costs.
And real-life testing suggests high quality traction batteries will probably have at least 80% of their initial capacity after seven to 10 years.
Compare cheap van insurance quotes
For companies, there are savings to be made when taxing your vans.
A van benefit charge is applied when an employee is provided with a van for private use.
This is a flat rate of £3,350 which is paid through the employee’s income tax and the employers national insurance. Zero emission-vans are currently only liable to pay just 40% of the full van benefit charge.
This will increase to £3,430 in April 2019, with zero-emission vans at 60% of this.
The van fuel benefit charge is applied when an employee is given a van and the company pays for the fuel. As electricity is not treated as fuel, no tax is required. However, this only applies if the vehicle is charged in the work place.
For more information on tax benefits, visit the government page on low emissions vehicle taxation.
Also, having a fleet of electric vehicles improves your company's green credentials. As well as reducing running costs in the long term, from an advertising perspective going green is great for publicity.
Electric van disadvantages
Buying an electric fleet can be an expensive venture. For example, a 2018 Nissan E-NV200 van costs around £20,000.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t include the battery, which is typically leased out 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, leasing could be a better option for your business. It also spreads the initial purchase price out and avoids the issue of depreciation.
Charging an electric van
Charging in general can be a worry for potential electric van customers.
At the moment, the Nissan E-NV200 claims to travel 106 miles when fully charged, and has three charging settings. It’s rapid charge mode takes 30 minutes, but the standard charge mode takes 10 hours to fully charge your vehicle.
Most other models range from 106 – 174 miles with a charging time of 10-15 hours. Again, most offer a rapid charge or faster charge mode.
This can vary depending on the load or the way you drive. So an awareness of charging points on your route would be vital on long journeys.
The Nissan e-NV200 offers a solution to this uncertainty however. Using an in-built monitor, the e-NV200 can tell you your charge levels, and where the nearest charging station is.
Also, the battery itself will deteriorate over time, and hold less charge. But batteries are generally covered by warranties and can last around eight years in some cases.
Do electric vans work in cold weather?
Your electric van will work in cold weather conditions, but it can affect the battery and therefore the mileage.
For example, the Renault Kangoo Z.E 33 will travel 124 miles in the summer months, whereas in winter the range can reduce to as little as 75 miles.
What are electric vans really like to drive?
A great thing about driving an electric van is that it’s silent, which can make for a more relaxing driving experience.
Reviews online mention that most electric vehicles are also very responsive and can accelerate or stop very quickly.
Tedious gearshifts in traffic jams will also be a thing of the past, as all electric vans are automatic.
And no clutch means no expensive clutch repairs. Which is the bane of every motorist’s life.
If buying an electric van isn't an option for you right now, why not convert your van to run on a low carbon-emitting fuel instead?
First published 4 October 2018