1 May 19

Strong fleet interest in electric vans at Commercial Vehicle Show

New electric and hybrid light commercial vehicles (LCVs) stole the limelight at the Commercial Vehicle Show this week in Birmingham, UK, as fleet operators seek solutions to address the mounting environmental issues related to last mile deliveries.

Last month London introduced a daily toll for entering its Ultra Low Emission Zone, charging diesel-powered LCVs £12.50 (€14.50) per day. Only Euro 6 diesel, hybrid and electric vehicles escape the fee.

Added to the capital’s daily congestion charge of £11.50 (€13.40) per day, non compliant vehicles face serious additional costs of €28 per day, enough to make the TCO of electric vehicles cheaper than Euro 5 diesel.

Fleets consider quitting urban areas

The impact of these charges is so serious that a majority of fleets would consider abandoning city-based customers, according to a new report. Asset Alliance Group’s Industry Monitor 2019 found that 59% of fleet decision makers could stop serving clients if the cost of clean air zones and low emission zones mean the contracts will no longer be cost effective. These companies are already feeling the detrimental cost of doing business in environmentally-sensitive areas. In the UK, the cities of Birmingham and Leeds will follow London’s lead in 2020.

Willie Paterson, CEO, Asset Alliance Group, said: “The road transport sector works with low margins, and the introduction of more stringent environmental legislation is tough. The fact that more than half of fleets may walk away from existing customers because of rising costs puts the challenges we are facing into stark reality. Walking away from custom isn’t what anyone in business wants to do.”

For vehicle manufacturers, the answer lies in vehicles capable of zero emission driving, using both pure battery and hybrid engine technology.

Iker Lazzari, fleet director, Nissan Motor (GB), said, “It has never made more commercial sense for van and fleet owners to go electric.”

Promoting the Nissan LEAF and the e-NV200 van, he said the zero emission vehicles could, “deliver significant cost savings to businesses, while also helping to clean up London’s air in line with the ambitions of the ULEZ charge.”

Other new electric LCVs are in the pipeline for the UK and Europe, but many are not yet on sale.

New PSA Group electric vans

The PSA Group, for example, gave world debuts to two new battery-powered vans, the Peugeot Boxer Electric (pictured above) and the Citroen Relay Electric (Citroën Jumper in continental Europe) at the CV Show, but a spokesman said neither will be available until the end of this year and prices have not been published. The panel vans will have a range of either 225km and 270km depending on their size. 

Maintaining its electric momentum, next year PSA will deliver battery-powered versions of  the Peugeot Expert/Traveller, Citroën Dispatch/Jumpy and SpaceTourer, and Vauxhall Vivaro and Vivaro Life.

Volkswagen displays three e-LCVs

The end of this year will see Volkswagen bring its first electric van to the UK market, the battery-powered Caddy (pictured above), with the e-Transporter to follow in 2020 and the e-Crafter in 2021. The first two vehicles have been developed by ABT, the FIA Formula E championship winners, while the e-Crafter will use VW Group technology. Prices have yet to be published, but a VW spokesman said the lower fuel and maintenance costs of battery technology, allied to savings in low emission zone charges, could offset the vans’ higher anticipated acquisition costs.

In advance of these zero emission vehicle launches, Volkswagen Financial Services has developed an online tool that lets companies input their fleet and telematics data to identify the optimum powertrain for each operational function.

Ford launches hybrid LCV

The UK’s largest LCV manufacturer, Ford, has also committed to have electrified options of all its future vehicles, including its market-leading Transit from 2021. Bridging the gap to a zero emission future, Ford will launch a plug-in hybrid version of the Transit Custom (pictured above) at the end of this year, which will be zero emission capable in cities. 

The van combines a battery-powered electric motor with a petrol-powered range extender that recharges the battery unit (the wheels are never driven by petrol). The Transit Custom PHEV has a 1 tonne payload and a range of 500km per tank of fuel. Sample prices suggest it will be expensive compared to diesel variants, with the PHEV range starting from about £39,145 (€45,000) plus VAT, compared to £22,295 for the basic diesel-powered Transit Custom.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial

Mitsubishi is another manufacturer pursuing the hybrid route, offering the Outlander PHEV Commercial (pictured above). The electric-petrol LCV has zero emission capabilities for fleets operating in sensitive urban areas, with a battery range of 45km, yet has no range restrictions thanks to its internal combustion engine. The vehicle can be configured to avoid using its battery until it reaches a low emission zone, and can also re-charge itself while running on petrol.

Zero emission fridge units

In areas where zero emissions are mandatory, it’s not simply the vehicle engine that potentially causes problems for fleets. The growth of online grocery shopping has seen a rapid increase in demand for refrigerated LCVs, many of which rely in an internal combustion engine to power the chiller unit. 

To solve this problem Thermo King has developed an all-electric refrigerated unit specifically for vans of under 3.5 tonnes. Its E-200 fridge (pictured above) runs independently of the vehicle on battery power.

Paneltex: clean and quiet home delivery

Continuing this theme, LCV converter Paneltex displayed a zero emission BD Auto electric van (pictured above) designed specifically for the home delivery market. The EV has a payload of 1,100kg, and despite weighing 4.25 tonnes takes advantage of a change in UK legislation that allows drivers with a normal car licence to drive it. Under standard rules, car drivers are restricted to 3.5 tonne vehicles, but extra allowance is permitted if the increase in weight is due to battery technology.

Diesel still dominates

Research by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, published at the CV Show, has revealed that only 0.3% of new vans registered in 2018 were electrified, although this figure did represent a 20.8% increase on 2017. Range and payload anxiety are holding back demand, according to the study.

Mike Hawes, chief executive, SMMT said: “Manufacturers are bringing an exciting range of ultra low and zero emission vans to market. However, while industry can develop new technology, it can’t determine the rate of uptake. Alternatively fuelled vans accounted for only 0.3% of registrations last year, underlining the challenges

to business in adopting electrified LCVs. If demand is to increase, we need to promote the benefits of this technology, address range and payload anxiety and tackle this sectors’ specific charging infrastructure requirements. Above all, we we need policies and incentives that encourage businesses to renew their fleets with the latest, cleanest technology that best suits their needs.”


Authored by: Jonathan Manning