January 16th, 2020 at 10:52 am
The main focus, certainly in the media, for the new EV sector, is pushed heavily towards the private motorist but there is a thriving marketplace in electric vans for business. If you run a niche city or urban business where environmental issues are at the heart of what you do, then an EV is ideal to really promote your green credentials.
For many people of a certain age, this is all about reinventing the wheel. In the 1960s and 70s, city streets were woken to the early morning hum of the electric milk float devised totally to facilitate crack of dawn delivery without waking the residents. These vehicles were immortalised in the famous song about Ernie, played by the comedian, Benny Hill who legend reports, ‘drove the fastest milk cart in the west’. These milk floats have achieved a cult status which no-one could have foreseen. Their demise was more driven by the change in the way milk was supplied with the rise of the big supermarkets rather than any drawbacks with the technology.
Now the German manufacturer, DHL, brings to the market the StreetScooter which is the 21st-century version of Unigate’s whining float of the last century. As a variation on a theme, this is a great piece of kit and already in use by milkmen in the UK. Interestingly, this vehicle is not made by a standard German car manufacturer but by a well-known delivery organisation. StreetScooter was originally a privately owned research initiative by a group of people at the University of Aachen. DHL bought the group in 2014.
Large businesses have traditionally never been that interested in electric technology as it simply was not sustainable for a fleet operation particularly with time spent off-road at a recharging point. But for a small city business (like a dairy) or a sole-trader, an EV could be a smart way to reduce your business motoring costs.
What could an Electric Van do for your business on a daily basis?
Telematics which is a type of software can automatically tell you where you can charge which allows you to optimise your route to seamlessly fit recharging in with your work. Battery capacities are much larger now than even a couple of years ago.
Batteries are stored under the floor so users will not experience any reduction in van storage capacity for equipment or items for delivery. Electric vans do not produce any CO2 or NOx emissions so if you can source your electricity from a renewable source – solar panels or a small wind turbine at your business premises – then you really are completely green. Your business running costs will take a huge tumble plus you can take advantage of incentives to get you on the road in the first place. Maintenance costs are minimal as EV engines have fewer moving parts so less to replace or repair. Brake pads last longer because of technology such as regenerative braking which utilises the energy that would normally dissipate when you take your foot off the accelerator.
External running costs
Fully electrical vehicles get perks in city and town centres, this might include preferential parking even free parking and the freedom to use bus lanes although this won’t last forever as more EVs get on the road.
One of the biggest savings comes in the form of VED or Vehicle Excise Duty which is zero on EVs. Also, if you are in central London then you will be exempt from the Congestion Charge
Recharging your EV
Probably the cheapest way is to install your own charging point at your home or business premises. A full charge will probably take between six to eight hours and there are grants available for money off installing your own charging point. You can sign up for charging schemes which you can use whilst you are out and about. This is cheaper than just relying on finding somewhere random if you get stuck. But if your mileage and business routes are quite predictable then you can charge overnight at the best price.
Purchasing an EV for your business
EVs are much more expensive than the standard diesel transit but you may not mind about that if the cost is going through the business. There is also a scheme called the Plug-In Van Grant which is being run by the government which can knock 20% off the retail price up to a ceiling of £8,000.
You could take advantage of PCH – Personal Contract Hire – and lose the VAT as well. You pay a fixed amount each month for a set period, usually, anywhere up to 48 months and at the end of the term, hand the vehicle back and either walk away or start a new contract. A lot of private motorists like this form of finance as it means you are not stuck with an out of date vehicle but can upgrade relatively frequently. It also means your motoring costs are set for the duration making budgeting easier.
The Electric Van market is still emerging as manufacturers seemed to focus more on the domestic car market at first. There are models on the market from Nissan, Renault, Peugeot, Citroen and Mercedes with other makers jumping on the bandwagon to increase choice. Ford is lurking a little in the shadows with their transit PHEV which is not wholly electric. Some of this is in response to local authorities clamping down on polluting vehicles in town and city centres introducing regulations which will impact sufficiently to persuade the driver to look at alternative types of vehicle.
Small electric vans were the first ones to come to market, ideal for multi-drop town deliveries or very local urban motoring. Now the available range is extending to include larger Transit vans which can travel further distances without requiring a recharge. There is plenty of choice now in terms of technology, maker and van specification but this is a rapidly changing market so perhaps the most important decision is how you finance your van and how long you want to keep it.