Low emission vans – the pros and cons

low emission vans

Are you considering upgrading to an electric or hybrid van? Read on for the pros and cons of going green.

As countries around the world act to reduce global warming, reducing carbon emissions from commercial vehicles has become a focus for governments and manufacturers.

In the UK, from 2030, the sale of new petrol and diesel vans will be banned as part of the aim to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050.

Ultra-low emission zone vans are being introduced by manufacturers who are supporting the initiative and responding as these types of vehicles become mainstream.

Before purchasing an electric or hybrid van, it is important to consider the Ultra-Low Emission Zone when travelling. The zone covers all areas within the North and South Circular roads, however, the North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205) roads are not included within the zone. Low emission zone programmes have also been introduced in Europe in countries such as Belgium, Denmark and Germany, to name a few.

Emission standards have been set for both small and large vans based on the declared emissions of a vehicle. Charges will be incurred for a vehicle that does not meet these standards.

The Advantages

Low emission vans have many benefits, ranging from cost reduction for the owner to obviously having a minimal environmental impact.

Cheaper Maintenance

Maintenance costs are minimised due to fewer moving parts. Lower tax can also be expected too – always a bonus! These lower running costs are bound to make these newer models attractive to small business owners who, understandably, are always trying to find ways to reduce overheads.

Reducing Your Environmental Impact

Low emission vans can improve air quality due to a reduction in harmful CO2 emissions, and some cities have introduced Clean Air Zones to improve air quality. If you are a business or fleet owner, ultra-low emission zone vans can help you avoid being charged for travelling in these areas.

According to Transport & Environment, Europe’s leading clean transport campaign group, vans today represent 14% of NOx emissions from vehicles in cities*, so van drivers can have a positive impact by switching to hybrid or full electric. (*source www.transportenvironment.org)

Reduced Running Costs

Going green with your van can also lower running costs although obviously the extent to which this is true depends on a number of factors, not least the price of electricity! In addition, ultra-low emission zone vans are exempt from congestion charges in London, making these vehicles more cost-effective.

Positive Brand Perception

The introduction of environmentally friendly vehicles within your fleet positively impacts your brand’s perception. Customers can be aware that you are environmentally conscious and see that you are taking active steps to contribute to the solution.

In the future, more and more customers will consider the environmental impact of their suppliers and make choices based on the company’s commitment to tackling the climate challenge.

Ease of Driving

Electric vehicles are automatics, so with no need to change gear, electric vans are much simpler to drive. Having to worry only about the accelerator and the brake and the instant torque, the driver can feel more at ease and even more so when driving in stop-start traffic.

The Disadvantages

Although the advantages are extensive, there are also a range of disadvantages that make access to these vehicles unattainable for some people.

Charging and battery lifetime efficiency and short supply

Charging a fully electric vehicle can be quite time-consuming. Many businesses rely on time efficiency and want their fleet to be in constant action. There are around 20,000 charging points across the UK, with an increased number of homes and businesses acquiring their own. This number continues to increase steadily. However, there are still noticeable gaps in the UK, particularly in rural areas. In locations such as motorway services, you are not guaranteed a charging space, and of these, there are only around 1,000 rapid chargers which can provide a nearly full charge for some vans in less than 1 hour.

Front Loaded Expenses

High initial costs are almost inevitable when purchasing low emission vans. For the convenience of charging, you must consider the cost of buying a home or workplace charger. The up-front costs also tend to be higher in comparison to diesel and petrol alternatives.

You also need to know your numbers. For example, when travelling within the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, charges can be incurred when the vehicle does not meet the required standards.

Limited Range

Van drivers refer to ‘range anxiety’ which describes the concern drivers feel when travelling for long trips in an electric vehicle. This is due to the fear of battery life running out before a charging point is reached.

Some electric vans are more suitable for local businesses as these vehicles will be travelling for shorter distances. Although, there is an estimation that around a third of vans never exceed a distance of more than 80 miles per day, making electric vans a practical solution.

How sustainable?

Hybrid and particularly electric vehicles are undoubtedly kinder to our planet than petrol and diesel alternatives. However, there is an argument regarding the energy used to charge electric vehicles as the electricity is produced from coal, gas and nuclear power stations. The positive impact on the environment is measurable, but critics have questioned if there is a way that we can power these vehicles in an even more sustainable way.

Reduced Value

Every vehicle depreciates the minute it is driven. Low emission vans are a relatively new concept and technology, so it is hard to predict precisely how much they could depreciate.

As the deadline to phase out diesel and petrol vehicles gets ever closer, we expect the acquisition cost of the vehicles to fall. However, with increased accessibility comes a necessary higher investment in charging infrastructure and battery technologies so prices will fluctuate as we transition into a new, greener future.

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