Sales of low-emissions vans in the UK have increased by more than a fifth in the last year.
Research by small business finance website Funding Options revealed that 1,523 low-emissions vans were sold in the year to 30 September, compared with 1,254 the previous year.
A low-emissions vehicle is one that has carbon dioxide emissions of less than 75g/km – which would mean it was either fully electric or a hybrid. No petrol or diesel engine can achieve such low emissions. The company suggested several factors could be behind the increase: small businesses wanting to be seen to be using eco-friendly vans as a selling point to both customers and employees; a desire to cut costs; and the availability of government grants.
It’s important to remember, when looking at the environmental impact of electric vehicles, that unless the electricity comes from renewable sources, they’re still contributing just as much to carbon dioxide levels as petrol or diesel cars, as the energy still has to be produced from fossil fuels. It’s just that those nasty emissions are being chucked out somewhere that’s not your backyard.
However, the government believes electric vehicles are the next big thing (and if we invest properly in renewable energy, they could be), so offers various financial incentives to encourage take-up. It offers a grant called the plug-in grant to help with the cost of buying low-emissions vehicles. Ten vans are eligible for this grant, which covers 20 percent of the price, up to a maximum of £8,000. They are:
BD Otomotiv eTraffic
BD Otomotiv eDucato
Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial
Nissan e-NV200 cargo van
Renault Kangoo ZE
Renault Master ZE
LDV EV80 van
LDV EV80 chassis cab
Other advantages of electric vans include exemption from the London congestion charge (for all low-emissions vehicles), reduced fuel costs, and reduced maintenance costs. No matter how good your petrol or diesel van's fuel economy, electric vehicles beat even the most fuel-efficient vans hands down. Electric engines have fewer moving parts than internal combustion engines, so there's less to go wrong, and electric vans are also less hard on their brakes than diesel vans. They also sometimes get free parking or free charging.
As well as the plug-in van grant, there’s also the electric vehicle home charge scheme, which provides up to £500 towards the cost of installing a charging point at your home, and the workplace charging scheme, which provides workplaces with up to £10,000 to help cover the cost of installing charging points (up to £500 per charging point, for up to 20 points).
Another benefit is that electric vans are much quieter than diesel vans – virtually silent in some cases. This isn’t just nicer for the driver but removes the problem of noise if businesses want to make deliveries at unsociable hours. (And of course, if this reduces traffic congestion in the day, then that does have a positive effect on emissions.)