28 September 2017 by CJ Hubbard, Vans Editor Last Updated: 02 Oct 2017

  • Electric van guide - the disadvantages
  • Electric van charging
  • Iveco Daily Electric
  • Iveco Daily Electric - electric van guide
  • Renault Kangoo ZE driving
  • LDV EV80 electric large van
  • Design sketch of 2018 Mercedes Sprinter - which will come as an all-electric version
  • Mercedes-Benz Vision Van concept - electric van guide
  • Nissan e-NV200 cabin with automatic style drive selector
  • Nissan e-NV200 driving - electric van guide
  • Electric van guide - Nissan e-NV200 in use
  • Nissan e-NV200 Harrods - electric van guide
  • Previous generation Ford Transit Connect electric on the road
  • Peugeot Partner Electric and Citroen Berlingo Electric - electric van guide
  • Renault Kangoo ZE - electric van guide
  • Renault Master ZE - electric van guide
  • Renault Twizy Cargo - electric van guide
  • EV in the snow - electric van guide
  • StreetScooter - electric van guide
  • StreetScooter Work XL - Ford Transit-based electric van for Deutsche Post DHL
  • Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid - electric van guide
  • Ford Deutsche Post electric van - StreetScooter Work XL
  • VW e-Crafter - electric van guide
  • VW e-Load Up - electric van guide
  • Electric van guide - zero emissions badge
  • Simple explanation of electric van pros and cons
  • Find out about current and future e-vans in the UK
  • What they’re like to drive, plus links to reviews

The Parkers Vans guide to the state of the electric van market – here’s what you need to know

Whether you like it or not, electric vans are going to play an increasingly important role in the UK van market as it evolves over the next few years.

Don’t get us wrong, electric vans represent a tiny fraction of overall sales right now, but as concern about environmental pollution grows – especially in city centres – businesses will come under increasing pressure to adopt e-mobility solutions.

For information about electric cars click here

Electric van charging

Beat ULEZs in an electric van

In fact, in some instances, such as where Ultra-Low Emissions Zones (ULEZs) are in force, an e-van might be the only way to carry goods without facing a financial penalty – consider the so-called 'T-Zone' plans that are already in place to exclude pre-Euro 4 vehicles from London, for example.

And of course, it’s not just vans – sales of electric vehicles (EVs) in general are set to rise dramatically in the coming years.

Several car brands, Nissan and Renault in particular, already have an established reputation in this area, success they are hoping to carry over into the light commercial vehicle world. But while the e-NV200 and Kangoo ZE currently dominate electric van sales, they are going to face increasing competition from this point on.

Harrods Nissan e-NV200 - electric van guide

What are the pros and cons of running an electric van?

We’ve built this page, packed with links to all the pertinent information on Parkers Vans, to help you find out – including details of workplace charging point grants, analysis from industry experts and details of current and future electric van models, including reviews.

Electric vans – advantages

Let’s keep things simple, these are the major advantages:

  • Eco-friendliness – electric vans produce no CO2 or NOx emissions as they drive around, meaning their widespread adoption has the potential to dramatically improve air quality, especially in urban areas.
  • Running costs – typically e-vans are considerably cheaper to run than diesel alternatives. Not only is the cost per mile of ‘fuel’ lower, there are fewer moving parts and they are less hard of their brakes due, reducing maintenance costs.
  • Buying incentives – also helping to lower running costs, these include the government plug-in van grant worth up to 20% off the list price (up to a maximum of £8,000), plus reduced tax burdens for both business and private use. There are even grants towards the cost of workplace chargers available now.
  • Other incentives – people driving electric vehicles are seen as brave souls, saving our planet, so local authorities like to encourage them. Such encouragement ranges from free parking in many areas, exemption from the London Congestion Charge, and even free charging in some places.
  • Silent running – electric vans are much quieter than diesel vans, to the extent that they are virtually silent (aside from a hum you’ll only hear at low speeds). This makes life more pleasant for the driver, but also opens up a whole host of opportunities for unsocial hours services, where a conventional van might otherwise bring complaints.
  • Easy-going performance – seems unlikely, but because electric motors deliver instant torque they get shifting smoothly and quickly. Outright response peters out at higher speeds, but around town they’re very nippy, especially as they universally ditch manual gearboxes for automatic.
  • Convenience – seems unlikely, but electric vans do have some convenience features not often seen elsewhere, including the ability on many to set the air-conditioning to your preferred temperature while charging. This also avoids waiting around for the van to defrost in the morning.
  • Image – want to give your business a squeaky-clean, socially conscious image? An electric van will certainly help… Hence high profile adoptees such as Harrods.

Electric vans – disadvantages

It isn’t all good news, of course.

Electric van guide - the disadvantages

There are also some significant disadvantages to electric vans – which at the very least need careful consideration before purchase, to make sure an e-van will suit your needs:

  • Range anxiety – this is the obvious big issue. While driving range is improving all the time, electric vans will not travel as far on a single charge as conventional vans will on a single tank of fuel. This not only means you will have to stop more often (and for longer; see below), it also makes them entirely impractical for long-distance use.
  • Charging time – this varies, depending on the power of the charging system, but even in the best-case scenario it will take longer to recharge an e-van than to refuel a regular van. DC rapid chargers can give you an 80% charge in 40 minutes; a regular three-pin plug will likely need at least eight hours to completely fill the batteries.
  • Charging convenience – not only does it take a long time to charge an electric van, you’ve got to find somewhere to do the charging, too. Certainly not as convenient as a filling a fuel station. Yet.
  • Purchase cost – electro-mobility technology is still in its infancy, and is also made from individually expensive components (the very material that the batteries are built out of, for example), so it’s no wonder electric vans are so expensive. They are usually cheaper to run, though (see above).
  • Weight – e-mobility tech is also heavy. The current crop of small electric vans are able to manage this through increased homologated gross vehicle weight (GVW), allowing them to retain the same level of payload capacity as non-electric equivalents. But as electrification moves into the large, 3.5-tonne van category, this will start to impact payload as there’s no GVW headroom to exploit, reducing vehicle efficiency.
  • Range variance – like all vans, you need to take the efficiency of an electric van as quoted by the manufacturer with a pinch of salt. Most claim they will go 106 miles between charges, but the reality is that you’ll be lucky to see more than 80 miles in practice. To be fair to them, every electric van manufacturer acknowledges this. Perhaps more significant, therefore, is just how dramatically that range can be impacted by other factors, including not only payload weight and driving style but also the weather conditions. EVs do not like the cold!
  • Batteries lose performance over time – an unavoidable reality of all electric vehicles is that there batteries deteriorate over time, meaning they gradually begin to hold less charge. This, however, is why most battery packs are covered by extended warranties (up to eight years in some cases), ensuring they see out the working life of the van.

Best use of electric vans

Taking all of the above into account, you’d expect the best use for electric vans to be in urban areas – so towns and cities – where you’re never far away from a plug.

Electric van guide - Nissan e-NV200 in use

While this is certainly true, it doesn’t automatically rule out other uses – particularly if you have a set route or known distance that you rarely exceed that falls within an e-van’s real-world driving range.

Most current operators simply plug their electric vans in overnight, use them within their limits during the day, and then set them to recharge again. And most EVs include timers that allow you to set them to charge when electricity is cheapest.

What are electric vans like to drive?

Generally speaking, very pleasant. We’ve tried every model presently available in the UK and although there are subtle differences, there are a few universal truths as well.

Previous generation Ford Transit Connect electric on the road

Most prominent of these is the refinement. Electric vans are quiet at all speeds, with none of the diesel rattle you’re probably used to – and while that can result in wind and road noise becoming more noticeable, overall it’s a far more refined and relaxing driving experience.

Electric motors also remove the need for a conventional gearbox, so you simply select Drive or Reverse, and go, when driving an electric van. No tiring out your left leg with the clutch during traffic jams here. No clutch also means reduced running costs, too.

Nissan e-NV200 cabin with automatic style drive selector

Similarly, you’ll find you need to use the regular brakes less in an e-van. This is because whenever you lift off the accelerator, the electric motor turns into a generator – a process that not only recovers energy to top up the batteries but also acts to slow down the van.

On most electric vans, this action is quite pronounced – promoting what’s known as ‘one pedal’ driving. Watch the road well enough, and you’ll find you can often drive for long periods without needing to use the conventional brakes at all, reducing wear (and costs).

Renault Kangoo ZE driving

Electric vans are also usually quite sprightly to drive, with instant torque giving responsive acceleration around town, while the position of the heavy batteries and other components low down in the chassis reduces body roll and increases road holding in the turns.

But do take a test drive, because this sprightliness isn’t universal. The Iveco Daily Electric, for example, is very slow…

What’s the range of an electric van?

Until 2017, almost every e-van on sale in the UK offered a 106-mile official range – which in reality is more like 60-80 miles, depending on how you drive, and how cold it is outside.

However, the Renault Kangoo ZE has been upgraded to 170 miles on paper, which should equate to up 124 miles in real life. We've driven this new Kangoo ZE 33 model, and it impressed us so much we awarded it a runer up spot in the Best Van category of the Parkers New Car Awards 2018.

Following on from that, October 2017 has seen an upgrade to the Nissan e-NV200, which now claims a 174-mile driving range. We're yet to drive it, and real-world range hasn't been confirmed, but you can read more about this even longer-lasting electric van by clicking here. It arrives in early 2018.

In large e-vans such as the Iveco Daily Electric, the range generally depends on how many battery packs you can afford to pay for. In the Iveco's case it comes with one as standard at around £60,000, and you can option up to two more, each at a cost of around £20,000…

Renault Kangoo ZE 33 electric van review

Why don’t electric vans like the cold?

It’s not just vans, but all EVs, and has to do with chemical composition of the batteries – as well as the extra demand on them from drivers in cold weather.

Need to run a heater? Then that’s going to dramatically reduce your driving range; some vans now use heat pump technology to reduce this disruption.

EV in the snow - electric van guide

It’s a similar story with the air-conditioning – switch it on and you’ll see an immediate reduction in the driving range shown by the on-board computer, simply because of the energy that needs to be diverted from driving the wheels to powering the air-con.

This isn’t quite as pronounced in the summer as it is in the winter, however, as the cold weather really does reduce battery efficiency as well.

What can be done about the payload issue?

While the added weight of electric van tech isn’t really an issue for small vans, when it comes to large vans it is likely to become a problem.

This is because the legal maximum GVW for a standard UK driving licence is 3.5 tonnes – meaning that the additional e-mobility weight will have to come out of the payload capacity.

Iveco Daily Electric

Reduced payload means fewer goods on-board, which might result in a company needing to send two electric vans to carry what would legally fit into a single diesel. Which isn’t really progress.

One solution for this – touted, by among others, Iveco – would be to raise the standard driving licence GVW for alternative fuel to compensate for the additional heft of the technology that enables them. Iveco’s suggestion for this 'payload bonus' is 4.25 tonnes.

The UK government has now started a consulation on this issue, and we should have further information in October 2017.

Government starts consultation on increased payload for electric and other alternative fuel vans

Electric vans on sale in the UK now

There aren’t a huge number of electric vans on sale at the moment, but they did outsell petrol vans in the UK in 2017, so their popularity is rising fast. This means we will be seeing more of them.

For now, though, these are your choices:

Nissan e-NV200

Nissan e-NV200 driving - electric van guide

The best-selling electric van in Europe in 2016 – and the UK is its biggest market. The electric version of the NV200 small van benefits from Nissan’s heavy association with electric cars (via the Leaf), but it also has the largest load volume of any small van, boosting its efficiency.

What's more, Nissan has just announced a new battery pack, which will increase the e-NV200's driving range to 174 miles.

2018 Nissan e-NV200 gets 60% increase in driving range (October 2017)

Read a Nissan eNV200 review on Parkers Vans (May 2017)

Renault Kangoo ZE

Renault Kangoo ZE - electric van guide

Nissan’s alliance partner Renault also builds a convincing small electric van – in fact, it was Europe’s best-seller until 2016. Renault also has an interesting battery rental model, meaning you’ll never be lumbered with a defective battery pack as long as you’re prepared to pay a monthly fee.

Now upgraded with a longer driving range for 2017, the new Kangoo ZE 33's impressive 124-mile real-world range makes it the default choice in this growing sector.

Read a Renault Kangoo ZE review on Parkers Vans (February 2017)

Read a Renault Kangoo ZE 33 review on Parkers Vans (July 2017)

Citroen Berlingo Electric / Peugeot Partner Electric

Peugeot Partner Electric and Citroen Berlingo Electric - electric van guide

The same van with different badges. Good value, including DC rapid charging capability as standard, and available in two different body lengths: L1 and L2. A distant third place to the Nissan and Renault in terms of sales, but Peugeot-Citroen is looking to rectify this so could be worth approaching for a deal.

Read a Peugeot Partner L2 Electric review on Parkers Vans (June 2017)

Iveco Daily Electric

Iveco Daily Electric - electric van guide

Ponderously slow, but if you want a large electric van this is your only choice right now. Be prepared to pay for it though – Iveco doesn’t publish an official price list (you negotiate at dealer level) but it’s approximately £60k for the single battery pack version, £80k for two battery packs and £100k for three. The technology feels far from the cutting edge here; we’d wait for some of the new contenders coming soon…

Read the full Iveco Daily review on Parkers Vans

LDV EV80

LDV EV80 electric large van

A surprise option if you're looking for a large electric van on a budget, this is based on the LDV V80 diesel, and is on sale in the UK from November 2017. At around £60k it's still not exactly cheap, but this includes enough battery power for a claimed 127-mile range, and the driving experience is nicer than in the conventional alternative.

Read an LDV EV80 review on Parkers Vans

Electric vans coming to the UK soon

These are the forthcoming electric vans on the horizon:

Renault Master ZE (2017)

Renault Master ZE - electric van guide

All-electric version of the Renault Master large van, this was announced early in 2017, and should be in production and on sale by the end of the same year. Claimed range is 124 miles – so probably around 90 miles in reality, depending on load – and it’ll come in three variants, carrying up to 1,100kg.

Read more about the Renault Master ZE on Parkers Vans

Volkswagen e-Crafter (2017)

VW e-Crafter - electric van guide

VW committed to building an electric version of the all-new Crafter almost as soon as it was launched, and the first examples should be going into real-world trials any moment now.

As yet there’s no official date for arrival in the UK, but since we’re one of the largest van markets in the world, Volkswagen acknowledges it would be crazy to ignore us for long.

Read more about the VW e-Crafter on Parkers Vans

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter electric (2018-2019)

Design sketch of 2018 Mercedes Sprinter - which will come as an all-electric version

Mercedes Vans has dabbled with e-mobility before with the Vito E-Cell, but in 2016 boss Volker Mornhinweg announced a new electric model was on the way. This has now been confirmed as a variant of the next Sprinter, due in 2018, and promises a 1,250kg payload and (minimum) range of 68 miles. Expect it to look vaguely similar to the Vision Van concept pictured above.

Mercedes-Benz announces new electric van

New Mercedes-Benz electric van will be based on 2018 Sprinter

Any other electric vans we should know about?

Well, Ford has announced a partnership with Deutsche Post that will production start on a bespoke Deutsche Post and DHL electric delivery van in 2017. Called the StreetScooter Work XL, this is based on the Transit chassis.

StreetScooter Work XL - Ford Transit-based electric van for Deutsche Post DHL

Astonishingly, they plan to have 2,500 examples in service by the end of 2018. Which would amount to a record number of electric vans in the large van category. We've got all the details in our seperate story:

Read more about the Ford and Deutsche Post electric van on Parkers Vans

StreetScooter is actually an existing subsidiary of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, and builds bespoke small electric vans for urban delivery services.

StreetScooter - electric van guide

There are 2,500 of these already, with plans to increase production to 20,000 a year.

Neither of these DHL ventures is set to appear in the UK at this stage, but we wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in time.

Renault Twizy Cargo - electric van guide

In adition to this, there are cargo versions of the Renault Twizy (above) and the VW e-Up (called the e-Load Up, below). You can get the former in the UK, but its carrying capacity is tiny.

VW e-Load Up - electric van guide

Does anyone make a hybrid van?

Ford is building one based on the Transit Custom. It’s currently in the development – in the UK – and trials will start – in the UK – later in 2017, using a range-extender plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain.

Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid - electric van guide

This means it has a battery pack big enough to delivery several miles of electric only driving, assuming you’ve charged it before setting off; once the batteries run out the petrol engine comes on, not to drive the wheels but to provide more energy for the electric motor. This should make it eco-friendly, while also providing the flexibility to travel longer-distances when required.

We have all the latest details in our stand-alone Ford Transit Custom PHEV story, which you can read by clicking here.

Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid electric van – all the latest news

What about an electric pickup truck?

None of the manufacturers that currently sell pickups in the UK have made any noises about producing an electric production model, although a few have shown concepts.

However, electric car gamechanger Tesla – maker of the Model S and Model X – has announced plans to build an electric pickup for sale in the USA.

We wouldn’t rule out this making an appearance in Europe in time, but don’t expect it before 2019.

Read the Parkers Vans pickup group test

How do I know if an electric van is right for me?

If you’re still unsure, the best thing to do will be to speak to your local dealer. They should be able to arrange for you to test one in a manner suitable for you to decide whether it will work for your business.

They should also be able to show you a specific cost comparison between electric and conventional fuel, based on your business needs.

Tell me more about the government plug-in van grant

This is exactly what it sounds like - a government-funded discount on light commercial vehicles with a plug, including both hybrid and full electric vans.

The discount is worth 20% of the asking price, up to a total saving of £8,000.

You can find out more about eligibility on the official plug-in van grant webpage.

Also read:

Should you be buying an electric van? Nissan Europe’s electric vehicle boss Gareth Dunsmore gives us the lowdown

Study finds electric van range ‘almost halves’ with full payload – comparison testing suggests weight is particularly hard on e-vans

Government to invest £7.5m in workplace chargers for electric vehicles

What the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone means for van drivers

The cheapest electric cars you can buy right now