27 Mar 21

Why electric van sales are set to soar

Rapidly rising demand for zero emission deliveries in city centres is acting as a catalyst for a significant increase in the numbers of electric light commercial vehicles, according to Dataforce.

The fleet and automotive data specialist has recorded an increase in the market share of e-LCVs in the last five years, although their overall penetration is low. This year Dataforce forecasts that battery-powered vans will account for 2.3% of LCV sales in Europe, compared to 2% last year and only 0.6% in 2016.

These figures are still well below the penetration of electric cars, which enjoyed a 5.9% market share last year, and Dataforce argues that the environment would be better served by more focus on zero emission vans than cars.  

“With the predominant road occupation transport during the daytime in cities comprising of commercial vehicles you could argue that more focus should or could be put in commercial vehicles. The net impact of an electrical commercial vehicle could well be more than that of a passenger car, which is standing still most of the day,” said a spokesman for Dataforce.

Fleets transition to e-LCVs

Momentum is clearly building; earlier this year the Climate Group celebrated breaking the 100 threshold in the number of major companies joining its EV100 initiative to transition their fleets to electric by 2030, if not sooner, including Sky, which has started the changeover of its 5,700 vehicles with the addition of the first Renault Kangoo ZE to its fleet, and Coca Cola European Partners, which runs vans and trucks in Germany and Belgium.

Obstacles to electric vans

There are, however, practical reasons (beyond subsidies) which explain why sales of electric cars have outstripped electric vans. E-LCVs require a lot of energy to move a heavy load, which demands a lot of batteries, and this in turn inflates the cost of the vehicle in a price-sensitive market.

Secondly, many commercial vehicles are driven all day, which makes either their range or recharging time an issue, given the need for fleet operators to minimise vehicle downtime.

And thirdly, there is still a distinct shortage of choice of makes and models of e-LCVs available, with Dataforce counting about 20 options for fleets, dominated by small vans best-suited to city centre operations, compared to more than 50 electric cars.

Market primed for competition

As a result, the market shares of the three leading electric vans are impressive, with the Renault Kangoo accounting for 26% of all e-LCV sales, followed by the Nissan e-NV200 with 17% of registrations, well ahead of the third best-selling model, the Mercedes-Benz e-Vito with 6% of the market. In 2019, StreetScooter produced the third best-seller, but DHL/Deutsche Post have ceased its production. The lack of available electric van options is opening the door to new competitors, such as Maxus, which has already achieved a 4.5% market share of electric van sales in the first few months of 2021, and Arrival, which listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange last week for about $13billion and already has a 10,000 vehicle order from logistics firm UPS. The manufacturer was only set up in 2015 and will start public trials of its electric van this summer, with sales due to start in the third quarter of 2022.

Avinash Ruguboor, president and chief strategy officer of Arrival, said: “We believe that the rapid growth of e-commerce has led to a much higher demand for light commercial transport in cities, increasing both congestion and air pollution. We are in the midst of an important market transition as more and more fleet managers adopt cleaner and more sustainable methods and cities adopt stricter air quality measures, we are looking to accelerate that transition with a best-in-class solution that has clear benefits, at a purchase price and TCO that makes the transition the best possible commercial decision too.”

Images: Shutterstock, Dataforce, Arrival

Authored by: Jonathan Manning