Are electric vans the horse that’s been flogged to death?

Based on a report commissioned by the Department of Transport, it seems that the ‘real’ price tag of electric vans, the out of pocket investment that van drivers are wiling to fork up, is disparate to the actual cost of what the the zero emission vehicles are being marketed at.

Even with low fuel costs and cheap van insurance, it is not enough to swing the deal, it seems.

Despite the government’s huge discounts for plug-in vans that meet all of the criteria set to entice the UK van driver to go green, there is still a gulf in the cost of ownership that is holding back the market, the report by Element Energy has found.

Admittedly, this doesn’t take into account the savings that could be made if the van driver was to be caught and fined in London’s Low Emission Zone, but as there are only 85,000 of the UK’s 3M registered commercial vehicles in the Greater London area the zone covers, it was ruled out as a real cost saving on the whole for the report.

Further guarantees are needed to instil confidence

The BVRLA is lobbying parliament, specifically the Department of Transport, to ensure that there are no more surprises along the way once the tradesman has invested in the green alternative transport mode.

The gist of the BVRLA push is that, okay it’s great that the government have marketed this incentive, but what happens when the three years that the offer stands is over?

Rather than rely purely on government’s making the specific vans an affordable option, the association would like to see some manufacturers’ guarantees that, once the vehicle is bought, servicing contrasts can be fixed and owners aren’t going to be subject to ‘specialist service centres’ that know they offer a niche service so therefore think that they can control the price for ongoing maintenance or that brokers can get away with not offering them the cheap van insurance their driving history deserves.

The projections of cost doesn’t improve with time

Even factoring in government fuel-price hikes over the next two decades the report estimates that the cost of an electric van, currently standing at 50% higher than its diesel equivalent, will still be 10% more expensive by the year 2030.

As the maximum van drivers have suggested they are willing to pay as a premium for ultra-low carbon emissions is 10% now, it is highly unlikely there will be mass demand for any model that falls outside the ‘seven dwarfs‘ chosen for the plug-in grant, if at all.

Green issues, greenhouse effect, greenback incentives

With the world being held to ransom with the threat of further economic meltdown, every businessman or -woman worth their salt are only spending what is necessary. The extra expense to save on a few emissions is not worth risking their business for. That seems to be the message from the potential EV market.

Real incentives in the long term, such as a buy-back option, as vehicle recycling companies handle for existing vans, is an avenue that could possibly see SMEs and sole traders make the switch to battery power. The need for further investment in top-up chargers has also been voiced, with installers so far behind target it is embarrassing and no wonder there is little confidence, yet.

The BVRLA are genuinely asking questions of the government on this issue, pushing for tax incentives as well as fuel savings and cheap van insurance to make the deal right for British business.

There seems to have been a lot of talk from prominent figures in government but, as BVRLA chief executive, John Lewis, puts it so succinctly, until they “put their money where their mouth is”, there’s an uphill struggle to get the EV market going and no one is sure if the van’s have got the juice to make it.


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