As the workhorse of modern Britain, the light commercial vehicle (LCV) sector is critical to a functioning society and economy – reflected by seven consecutive months of rising van registrations this year. SMMT’s latest LCV market figures show that registrations grew by a huge 44.2% to 26,990 units in July, underpinned by demand for the largest-sized vans as fleet operators continue to pick models that provide the greatest payload efficiencies. It is particularly positive that uptake of battery electric van (BEV) models is also on the rise, soaring by 94.6% to 1,489 units and now representing a 5.5% market share.
It is a noteworthy achievement that the BEV share has risen by 1.4 percentage points in the last year, which is testament to the investments of manufacturers and operators amid challenging business conditions in recent times. The broad selection of electric van models now available in the UK continues to grow, with some notable recent launches, as does the number of van buyers that are opting for the benefits of zero emission mobility. The trend will need to accelerate, however, with the introduction of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate requiring each manufacturer to ensure that a minimum proportion of their new vehicle sales are zero emission – which relies not just on having the choice of models available, but also encouraging the market to make the switch in greater numbers.
Operators particularly with larger fleets have committed to the transition but there is still a sizable number that have not started their journey, with key barriers including access to charging the BEVs either on the public network, back at base or overnight at a driver’s home. With the ZEV Mandate due to come into effect from 2024, a successful transition requires every stakeholder to pull every lever to ensure that the transition is smooth and sustainable, especially given the crucial importance of the van sector to all areas of the British economy and society.
The value of more timely action by all stakeholders cannot be understated as businesses need confidence to decarbonise their fleets. While many can already have the confidence in the latest BEV technology to meet their needs, from first mile through to last mile, more supportive measures are needed in the immediate term. In particular, van-suitable public charging infrastructure must be delivered at pace, while better incentives for depot infrastructure will bring significant benefits for van operators. The time to act is now.