Should you be buying an electric van?

  • With diesel under attack, LCV drivers may need another solution
  • Electric vans are already here, but are they a realistic proposition?
  • We sit down with Nissan Europe’s EV boss to get his take 

With diesel continuing to receive a bashing in the mainstream media following the Volkswagen “Dieselgate” scandal, many van buyers may be left wondering what to do. After all, the overwhelming majority of commercial vehicles are powered by what Jeremy Clarkson once dubbed “the devil’s fuel.”

One increasingly promising alternative is electricity, as using an electric motor and battery pack in place of a diesel engine and fuel tank can provide plenty of performance, zero emissions in motion and potentially attractive running costs. Even electric car giant Tesla is planning to get in on the act, confirming an electric pickup is in the pipeline and hinting at an electric van.

Amongst those at the forefront of electric vehicle technology is Nissan, so to find out more about why it might make sense for your next van to have a plug in place of a filler cap, we sat down with the firm’s European Director of Electric Vehicles, Gareth Dunsmore. And it turns out there’s more to it than saving the environment.

Read more about Tesla's plans to build an electric pickup - and maybe a van - by clicking here

EV telematics can improve your turnover

Nissan is one of a number of companies that already sells electric LCVs: the e-NV200 van and e-NV200 Evalia passenger carrier. Both come fitted as standard with a telematics system. Forget the notion of Big Brother looking over your shoulder – if you run a business, telematics can quickly pay, because it puts you in far greater control of how you use your vans.

“One of the interesting bits of information we got from a German fleet manager was that he is now more efficient at delivering his goods and services because he can plan better,” says Dunsmore.

“When he bought into it he did it for sustainable reasons, but he’s actually become more efficient and as a result is managing to service more customers thanks to the route-planning capability in the e-NV200.“

Read Parkers' expert review of the Nissan e-NV200 electric van

Furthermore, if you’re delivering in central London you can expect another boon – a saving of up to £230 per month. Dunsmore explains: “We have delivery companies delivering biofoods into London taking advantage of  the fact there’s no Congestion Charge [for EVs].”

Running an electric van is a good look

Image is important to most large companies, but it’s no less so for sole traders and smaller enterprises. And running an electric van is a clear way to send a message about your operation’s world view.  “More and more small businesses in the UK are turning to the e-NV200 because it gives them a differentiation for their business,” according to Dunsmore.

“It’s the best sustainable business case on the planet – the Leaf [Nissan’s electric car] and the e-NV200 – because it shows they’re acting on a particular message. So for companies wanting to showcase all of the good things they do as a business, moving goods or services or moving their teams around, doing that with an electric vehicle is a good way to demonstrate with facts that they’re making a difference.”

Don't want to buy new? Find used electric vans for sale by clicking here

People-movers prosper too

But it isn’t just those moving goods that can benefit. There’s potential for private hire operators and chauffeur firms, too.

Nissan e-NV200 Evalia electric passenger carrier

“On the taxi side of things the Leaf and the e-NV200 Evalia [above] are gaining traction on a Europe-wide scale,” claims Dunsmore. “There’s an interesting deal with the Barcelona taxi companies so when you land in Barca, chances are you’ll be taken into the city in an e-NV200 Evalia. [They use] set routes, so it’s the perfect opportunity.

"The operators are saving money because there are very low maintenance costs compared with a conventional combustion-engined vehicle, and at the same time the customers are getting a smoother and cheaper ride. It’s a win/win situation. You start having one or two of those stories apparent and it soon begins the snowball effect for fleets as people begin to see the benefits."

A final thought from Parkers

It’s clear electric vehicles are going to play a huge part in motoring over the coming years. A small amount of planning can eradicate both range anxiety and the extended downtime needed for recharging versus refuelling, and manufacturers are constantly moving the game along, improving performance and packaging while adding extra tech into the bargain.

While the van industry has some way to go before diesel is really under threat from electric vehicles, particularly for long-distance journeys, the early adoption of an EV could pay dividends for many locally-focused operators right now. It’s certainly worth crunching the numbers – you might be surprised at what you find.

Read Parkers' road test review of the Nissan e-NV200

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