TechnologyVehiclesChoosing an electric van for your business

Choosing an electric van for your business

Electric and hybrid vans for business use have become more popular as the range of models has increased and the prices have become more affordable for small business owners. In some cities, in the UK there are now additional charges for non-electric commercial vehicles, making it even more financially important to consider an electric or hybrid van for your business.

As concerns about sustainable business practices grow, consumers increasingly opt for eco-friendly products and regulators start to get more stringent on eco-based regulations,  choosing a low emissions van could be a great step forward for your business.

The good news for environmentally-conscious van users? There is a growing selection of completely electric vans that business users can choose from. Increasingly, manufacturers are making electric versions of their flagship van models, for example the Renault Kangoo ZE or Ford E-Transit.

The range of options you have available is only going to increase over the next few years, so now’s a great time to start looking at your options.

The slightly less good news is that electric van technology isn’t quite at the level of electric car technology yet. The average electric van range doesn’t stack up to the distances electric cars can travel, and might prove a stumbling block for anyone needing to travel long distances.

Your alternative, if you want to keep emissions low, is to opt for a hybrid van. These have both an electric motor and a petrol combustion engine, and switch to petrol whilst they run out of charge.

Here’s what to bear in mind whilst researching low emissions vans for your business.

What Do You Want to Use Your Electric or Hybrid Van For?

The first decision you need to make when choosing a van for your business is whether a fully electric model is viable or whether an electric/petrol hybrid is a better option.

Your choice here will largely depend on what you’re using your van for.

Size-wise, a number of larger electric vans have been released over the past few years alongside their smaller counterparts – so the need for a lot of cargo space doesn’t exclude you from going fully electric.

Generally, fully electric vans are designed with shorter urban routes in mind, particularly last- mile delivery services. Their major advantages include:

  • Being cheap to run (more below)
  • Having a positive effect on local air quality
  • Generally high reliability compared to petrol vans

The major disadvantage? The range.

The best range we can find on an electric van on the market right now is the Renault Kangoo ZE, with an impressive 176 miles. The soon-to-be-released Ford E-Transit claims that it will offer a range of 222 miles. Other than that, the standard range for electric vans is around 90-120 miles.

How Long Does It Take to Charge An Electric Van?

Charging times for electric vans vary between models, and will also depend on the method of charging you use.

For example, the Volkswagen eTransporter’s battery will charge from 0% to 100% in around five and a half hours when using a 7.2kW home wall box. Using a public DC rapid charging point, however, you can charge it to 80% in just 45 minutes.

This is a good benchmark to go off when planning your electric van purchase, but do check with individual manufacturers when you get down to selecting make and model.

What Are My Options for Hybrid Vans?

If you’re regularly going to be covering more than 90-120 miles in a day (if you do long range deliveries, or your business covers a wider area) and don’t want the hassle of daytime charging, a hybrid van might be a better option. There are two main types of hybrid van to choose from:

  • Plugin hybrid (requires charging from a charging point)
  • Self charging hybrid (motor charges itself as you drive)

Plugin hybrids tend to come with bigger batteries than standard or self charging hybrids. This means that you’ll likely have more range to play with and more power for accelerating, passing and merging. As plugins are emission free whilst driving using the electric motor, emissions are lower and you might qualify for more tax incentives than with a self charging hybrid.

On the other hand, buyers currently have limited options when it comes to plugin hybrid vans and you’ll still need to invest in installing home or workplace charging points. If you’re looking for a low emissions van but can’t afford a major outlay on infrastructure, self charging hybrids might be the way forward for you.

What Are The Costs of Running Electric and Hybrid Vans?

When selecting your electric or hybrid van, you’ll need to bear in mind:

  • Upfront purchase costs (or monthly leasing costs)
  • Upfront costs to install charging points at your home or place of work
  • Ongoing cost of electricity for charging
  • Maintenance costs (repairs, MOTs, etc)

Fully electric vehicles typically cost more than their petrol counterparts, whilst hybrid options tend to compare more favourably.

Typically, low emissions vans require a higher initial spend (particularly if you don’t have any chargers installed), but will save you money in the long run. This is because:

  • Electricity is a slightly cheaper fuel source than petrol or diesel, particularly if you take advantage of off-peak energy tariffs. Charging your van at home or your workplace will typically cost just over £10. Hybrids help you reduce fuel spend by increasing efficiency and using an electric motor some of the time.
  • Electric vans are very reliable, simply because an electric motor has fewer parts that could break or otherwise turn faulty. This leads to more drive time (and hence more productivity) whilst reducing maintenance costs.
  • Low emissions vans in general are eligible for a number of UK Government-backed incentives as the country tries to reduce its emissions.

What Government Incentives Are Available For Electric and Hybrid Van Buyers?

There are a number of financial incentives available for a business that’s switching to electric vehicles so here’s a quick summary of some of the savings available for your small business.

For an overview of what you could be entitled to, check this quick bullet point list:

  • Reduced road tax rates: the amount of road tax you pay is based on tailpipe emissions. Fully electric vans pay no road tax, as they produce no emissions. Hybrid vans will still make savings here compared to petrol vehicles, as emissions are still much lower.
  • Congestion charge exemption: electric vehicles are exempt from the £11.50 per day London Congestion Charge – and with clean air zones being created across the country, this could be one to watch in the near future.
  • Plugin grants: the UK Government will provide a grant of up to 35% of the vehicle price of a select group of models that meet key criteria (capped at £3,000 for small vans and £6,000 for large vans).
  • Cash grants for charger installation: the UK Government will cover part of the cost of installing home or workplace charging points via a grant.
  • Generous capital allowances: the amount you can claim for hybrids varies, but fully electric vehicles are eligible for 100% first year.
  • Savings on fuel duty: business users need to pay a 20% tax on electricity for charging vehicles (like you would do on fuel) but are exempt from fuel duty.

Written by

Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgson
Mark Hodgson is one of our expert writers. Mark is our lead researcher and editor who writes our main guides and expert topic coverage. He’s passionate about helping entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses with practical advice delivered clearly. Mark’s worked for a number of business magazines and titles and has started two small businesses himself, so has first-hand experience in setting up, managing and growing a small business and shares his expertise with our readers.

Latest articles

Related articles