Plan to get van fleet decarbonisation on track

Catherine Bowen, BVRLA senior policy advisor

Vans are of huge importance to the UK economy as a broad range of industries are reliant on their use, from engineering and construction for critical national infrastructure through to emergency and rescue services.

The van parc is growing exponentially at a rate double that of cars, given the rise in self-employment and online retail. Vans are also essential tools for transporting equipment, supplies and people to support small enterprise, aid healthcare provision and lay critical national infrastructure, such as broadband, to facilitate wider economic activity.

Electric van technology lags significantly behind electric cars. While the car market is already seeing its third and fourth generation electric vehicles, very few electric vans are capable of delivering longer ranges or towing. Given the growth and economic importance of vans, a special focus on vans is needed if this sector is to achieve parity with the more developed car market. This segmented approach must consider the challenges of supply, demand and infrastructure for the electric van market and develop policies to resolve them well before 2030.

The van sector faces unique challenges when it comes to making the transition to zero emission motoring. Vans that are either depot based or rental will require firms to install hugely expensive charging infrastructure on site. Where vehicles are home-based many drivers won't be able to plug-in at home if they do not have a home driveway or this is used by the main family vehicle. Centrica has predicted that 65% of their engineers cannot charge at home.

Homebased vans will be heavily reliant on public charging infrastructure and van drivers being able to charge between jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, most public charging infrastructure has not been designed with vans in mind. Bays are often too small for vans, there may be limited room to turn the vehicle and charger cables may not be long enough to reach charge ports. This could pose a danger to the driver and other road users if drivers are forced to manoeuvre awkwardly into positions where they can charge.

Currently, many commercial vehicle operators just cannot get the business case to stack up, the average zero-emission van is far more expensive than its diesel equivalent and often with reduced functionality that will lead to other costs.

The rewards for electrifying vans are greater than those for cars. Van users need greater consideration and targeted support to ensure the sector can meet Government’s ambitious 2030 ICE phase out date.

Drop the exclusion of rented and leased vans from the ‘super deduction’ – this is the strongest route for fleets to be able to afford zero emission van options.

Catherine Bowen

BVRLA, senior policy advisor

The BVRLA has published a Van Plan setting out some clear, practical measures that the Government should consider if it wants to get van fleet decarbonisation on track. Recommendations within the Van Plan include:

Ringfence funding for the van sector – this is due to a concern that as we get more functional electric vans i.e., capable of longer ranges, all the grant money will have been swallowed up, therefore the van grant needs to be retained for longer.

Introduce new van charging grants and funding – the current workplace charging grant is not enough for those who have multiple sites which they want to electrify. The costs associated with limited grid capacity and the necessary groundworks mean more support is needed in the form of site grants. Also, more rapid charging is needed in residential areas which is suitable for vans for sole traders and tradespeople to charge.

Develop van specific targets and requirements for charge point provision - van charging bay design guidelines need to be created that are for all those installing charging infrastructure. There should be a requirement for charge point networks to provide a certain percentage of charge points as van accessible and potentially priority access. These requirements should be included in consideration of planning permission for new charging locations.

Encourage UK supply chain to cater for vans – vans should receive ringfenced research and development funding for projects across the supply chain to incentivise battery manufacturers to include the van market. Work must be done with van users to attract zero emission van manufacturing to the UK.

Drop the exclusion of rented and leased vans from the ‘super deduction’ – this powerful piece of policy, announced in the March 2021 Budget, needs to be reviewed as it is the strongest route for fleets to be able to afford zero emission van options.

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