best green van citroen berlingo electric l1 635 lx
best green van citroen berlingo electric l1 635 lx
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CAN an electric van cut the cost of running your business?

In some cases yes, but it depends on your business and if it’s last mile deliveries then electric is definitely the way to go.

Electric vans are definitely on the rise although there is still plenty of room for diesel for long distance work. Manufacturers are making available more e-vans all the time – and that includes hybrids if you want a halfway house.

When operating a business, running costs are a key factor so electric is a good thing, right? Not necessarily so as EVs are restricted by their range, so are generally only really suitable for short trips.

Access to a charging point is an essential requirement so if neither if these are an issue then an electric van could be a great showcase for your company and allow you to display your environmental credentials.

So what do you need to look out for?

Range. It’s obviously the biggest deal and improving all the time. There are small delivery vans on the market that can stretch to just over 100 miles. There are still issues such as cold weather and payload which can affect range.

However, there are cars starting to features a range of almost 300 miles so that could be a massive game-changer for the vans business.

You will need to have the ability to charge your electric van or fleet so that will certainly mean access to a charging point, whether it’s in a garage or an off-street parking space near an electricity supply.

The best way to charge is by using a wall box, as this can deliver a faster charge than if plugged into a conventional household socket. Do this overnight and your van is ready and waiting in the morning.

Rapid chargers are increasingly being installed at locations such as dealerships, motorway service stations and some commercial sites. These can deliver up to an 80% charge in half an hour.

On a charging point at home or on business premises, then these can recharge the batteries in 4-8 hours, depending on how powerful the wallbox.

Worst case, a fully flat battery can be recharged from a conventional three-pin plug socket in 12 hours.

Adding weight can have a negative effect on battery charge but an electric van will still perform as well as a diesel when carrying a heavy load.

This will be a drain, however, as more power is required to get moving, so the van’s range will be shortened.

The other business case is price and one thing in the electric van’s favour is that the Government’s Plug-in Van Grant is bigger than it is for electric cars.

It’s possible to get £8,000 off the list price of an electric or hybrid van that is able to travel at least 10 miles on zero emissions electric power alone.

Overall running costs? While you won’t be buying diesel, electricity is not free but then an overnight charge will set you back around £1.50 – weigh that against the amount of diesel required to cover 100 miles.

Servicing should be relatively cheap for an electric van because there is no engine and fewer parts to inspect and replace on an annual basis. Manufacturers offer maintenance plans according to the number of miles covered annually.

Some manufacturers allow you to buy the van at a lower price and hire the batteries under a separate contract. Prices for battery hire range from about £33 to £78, depending on how long the contract is and mileage.

What’s the benefit of this? As well as a cheaper price for the van, the batteries are guaranteed up to 75% of their capacity, after which they can be replaced. However, that does narrow the margin between running an electric van and a conventional diesel.


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Chris Wright
Chris Wright has been covering the automotive industry nationally and internationally for 30 years. Following spells with consumer titles he became News Editor of Automotive Management (AM), Editor of Automotive International, International Editor for Detroit-based Automotive News, and Editor of Dealer Update. He has also co-authored several FT Management Reports and contributes regularly to Justauto.com

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