Electric van guide - everything you need to know

  • Simple explanation of electric van pros and cons
  • Find out about current and future e-vans in the UK
  • Learn what electric vans are like to drive and which are best

Welcome to the Parkers Vans and Pickups expert guide to electric vans, including details of what they're like to drive, with info on how much they cost to run, the available grants and advice from industry authorities. There are links to reviews of the latest models and details of new electric vans coming soon, too.

Whether you like it or not, battery electric vehicles (BEVs, also more simply known as EVs) are going to play an increasingly important role in the UK van market as it evolves over the next few years. More and more van makers will be introducing electric vans as a result.

While electric vans represent a tiny fraction of overall sales right now, as concern about environmental pollution grows – especially in city centres – businesses and private buyers will come under increasing pressure to adopt so called e-mobility solutions.

Renault Kangoo ZE charging - electric van guide (2019)

But don't fret too much – electric vans are getting better all the time, and while there are compromises, there can be major benefits as well.

There's a lot of information on this page so click on the links below to go quickly to the information that most interests you:

Alternatively, simply keep reading for everything you need to know about electric vans.

What are the bestselling electric vans?

The Renault Kangoo ZE and Nissan e-NV200 currently dominate electric van sales – and following updates in 2017 and 2018, they also have much longer driving ranges, making them more suitable for more businesses (we've details of the driving range of every current electric van below).

However, these are both aging models now, and they are going to face increasing competition from this point on, with plenty of new electric van models due in 2020 and beyond.

Nissan e-NV200 in Harrods livery - electric van guide (2019)

More significantly for many businesses, the number of large electric vans is set to increase substantially over the next few years, with Citroen, Fiat, Ford, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Volkswagen all set to launch new challengers to the established LDV EV80 and Renault Master ZE.

Before this, most electric vans had been small ones.

There are also a number of medium electric vans on the way, with Citroen, Maxus, Peugeot, Vauxhall and Volkswagen already promising interesting innovations in this area of the market, following Mercedes's launch of the eVito. Plus there's now a clever e-NV200 XL conversion that increases its load capacity to beyond medium van levels, too.

What are the pros and cons of electric vans?

We’ve built this page to help you find out.

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’ (electricity) lower, there are fewer moving parts and they are less hard on their brakes, 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 some 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 noise complaints.
  • > Easy-going performance – seems unlikely, but because electric motors deliver instant torque they get shifting smoothly and quickly. Outright response falls away at higher speeds, but around town they’re very nippy, especially as they universally ditch manual gearboxes for automatic transmissions.
  • > Convenience – also 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

There are also some significant disadvantages to electric vans – consider carefully before use 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 almost 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 around 40 minutes; home charging stations can complete a full recharge overnight; a normal three-pin plug may require an entire day.
  • > 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 filling up at 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. The government has attempted to counter this by increasing the GVW for electric vans from 3.5 tonnes to 4.25 tonnes to allow for the weight of the battery tech. More on this below.
  • > Range variance – as with 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 around 100 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 their 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.
  • > Residual values – at the moment, uncertainty in the used market about electric vans means that they often lose value faster than their diesel counterparts. Renault's model of leasing the battery pack separately from the van hasn't helped matters here. However, we have seen changes to this situation recently, with some used electric vans starting to go through trade auctions for more money than expected.

Where do electric vans work best?

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.

Nissan e-NV200 as a florists delivery van - electric van guide (2019)

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 ready for the next morning. And many EVs include timers that allow you to set them to charge when electricity is cheapest.

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 electric van 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.

Some even have clever apps now that can track your typical journeys and work out whether an electric van would work for you. These calculations can even be done across an entire fleet, helping big firms understand how many of their vehicles could be electric.

This kind of planning quickly moves beyond the van itself, into considering the infrastructure - such as when and where you will charge the van. Or vans.

Beat ULEZs in an electric van

In some instances in the not-too-distant future, such as where Ultra-Low Emissions Zones (ULEZs) are in force, an electric van might be the only way to carry goods without facing a financial penalty.

Ford Transit Connect Electric driving - electric van guide (2019)

For example, London's new ULEZ came into force on 8 April 2019, and already penalises all pre-Euro 6 diesel vans (and pre-Euro 4 petrol vans) by charging them a fee to enter the city.

Other cities are alrerady proposing even tougher measures - Bristol, for example, has plans to ban all diesel vehicles 2021. This includes diesel vans.

How much is the government plug-in van grant?

The government plug-in grant discount for electric vans is worth 20% of the asking price, up to a total saving of £8,000.

The discount applies to light commercial vehicles with a plug, including both hybrid and full-electric vans as long as they meet a number of rules, including having official CO2 emissions of no more than 75g/m (fully electric vehicles emit 0g/km CO2).

Other rules cover minimum top speed (50mph), minimum electric driving range (60 miles for a pure electric van, 10 miles for a hybrid), and minimum warranty length (three years / 60,000 for the base vehicle but with additional requirements for the batteries).

The van must also have been built or converted to electric power prior to first registration, so aftermarket conversions do not qualify for the grant.

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

What are electric vans like to drive?

Generally speaking, electric vans are very pleasant to drive. We’ve tried every mainstream model presently available in the UK (plus some that aren't on sale yet) and although there are subtle differences, there are a few universal truths as well.

VW e-Crafter driving, front view - electric van guide (2019)

Most prominent of these is the refinement. Electric vans are quieter 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. No tiring out your left leg with the clutch during traffic jams here. No clutch also means reduced whole-life running costs.

Nissan e-NV200 cab interior - electric van guide (2019)

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 Master ZE driving, rear view - electric van guide (2019)

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

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

What’s the driving 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, in mid-2017 the Renault Kangoo ZE was upgraded to 170 miles of driving range on paper, based on the old NEDC testing standard (now reduced to 143 miles WLTP - more on this below). According to Renault, this should equate up to around 124 miles in real life.

This new Kangoo ZE 33 model remains a solid benchmark to measure others against.

Renault Kangoo ZE 33 charging - electric van guide (2019)

Following on from that, in October 2017 Nissan announced an upgrade to the e-NV200 to a claimed a 174-mile NEDC driving range. We drove this 40kWh version in January 2018, and with a real-world range similar to the latest Kangoo, it shows progress in the electric van sector is moving quickly.

You'll see that under the newer WLTP testing regime, the official range for the e-NV200 has fallen to 124 miles, less than the Kangoo ZE when it was previously more. This is likely due to the way that WLTP calculations take the aerodynamics of the van into account.

In large and medium e-vans, the range generally depends on how many battery packs you opt to have fitted - a decision that may come down to cost, the driving range you need or the payload you need. Batteries are expensive and heavy.

While progress in the large and medium electric van sectors has been slow so far, in 2020 it's set to start moving much faster, as more and more models begin competing for your cash.

Comparison of official electric van driving range:

Van name Van type / size Official driving range
Renault Kangoo ZE 33 Small van 143 miles WLTP
Nissan e-NV200 40kWh Small van 124 miles WLTP
Citroen Berlingo Electric (old) Small van 106 miles NEDC
Peugeot Partner Electric (old) Small van 106 miles NEDC
Maxus e Deliver 3 (2020) Small van Up to 150 miles WLTP
(depending on van and battery size)
VW e-Caddy (cancelled for UK) Small van 160 miles NEDC
Citroen e-Berlingo (2021) Small van To be confirmed
Peugeot e-Partner (2021) Small van To be confirmed
Toyota Proace City electric (2021) Small van To be confirmed
Vauxhall Combo-e (2021) Small van To be confirmed
Mercedes eVito (2019/2020) Medium van 92 miles WLTP
VW eTransporter (2020) Medium van 82 miles WLTP
Vauxhall Vivaro-e electric (2020) Medium van 143-205 miles WLTP
(depending on van and battery size)
Citroen Dispatch electric (2020) Medium van 143-205 miles WLTP
(depending on van and battery size)
Peugeot e-Expert (2020) Medium van 143-205 miles WLTP
(depending on van and battery size)
Toyota Proace electric (2020) Medium van 143-205 miles WLTP - TBC
(depending on van and battery size)
Sokon / DFSK EC35 (2020) Medium van 138 miles
Morris Commercial JE (2020) Medium van 200 miles (untested claim)
VW ID Buzz Cargo (2022) Medium van To be confirmed
Renault Master ZE Large van 120 miles NEDC
LDV EV80 Large van 127 miles NEDC
Mercedes eSprinter (2020) Large van 71-93 miles (depending on battery packs)
VW e-Crafter (2021) Large van 68-71 miles WLTP
MAN eTGE (2021) Large van 68-71 miles WLTP
Ford Transit electric (2021) Large van To be confirmed
Iveco Daily Electric Large van Varies with number of battery packs
Citroen e-Relay (2021) Large van 99-140 miles
Peugeot e-Boxer (2021) Large van 99-140 miles
Fiat Ducato Electric (2020) Large van 136-223 miles
Maxus e Deliver 9 (2021) Large van To be confirmed

The difference between NEDC and WLTP electric van driving range figures

The official driving range that is given by the manufacturer, based on a mandated testing procedure. Previously this was the NEDC test, but in September 2019 a new WLTP testing procedure came into force, and as you can see above, some electric vans makers are starting to give driving range estimates based on this.

WLTP is tougher, and supposed to better reflect real-world driving. However, you may still see some electric van makers continue to give a further real-world range estimate of the distance you should be able to do in actual driving, which will be different again.

Some electric car makers, such as Renault, even give a different real-world range for summer and winter driving, in an effort to ensure you completely understand whether an electric vehicle can cover the distance you need it to between charges.

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; the Kangoo ZE now uses heat pump technology to reduce this disruption.

Electric car covered in show - electric van guide (2019)

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.

Hence most electric vans come with a 'pre-conditioning' system that allows you to set the cabin temperature while the van is plugged in to charge, saving driving time and energy.

Are there payload issues with electric vans?

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

This is because the legal maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) for a standard UK driving licence is 3.5 tonnes, and a lot of large vans already use every kilogram of this allowance. Since the basic weight of battery-powered electric vehicles is typically more than that of a vehicle powered by a diesel engine, this leaves less capacity for payload and reduces the amount of stuff that they can legally carry with that 3.5t limit.

Iveco Daily Electric driving - electric van guide (2019)

The government has countered this by allowing standard car licence holders to drive electric vans weighing up to 4.25 tonnes, a process that has been labelled the alternative fuel payload derogation.

This extra weight allowance compensates for the extra heft of the electric technology, so a battery van should be able to match a diesel equivalent for carrying ability.

This could have benefits for an electric van's range in the future, too, as it could potentially allow manufacturers use the weight allowance to increase the number of batteries on board.

Are electric vans more expensive to service than diesel vans?

The results of a survey by behavioural research firm BVA BDRC suggests that although potential electric van owners and operators understand that daily running costs are lower for electric vans, a lot of them believe that servicing costs for electric vans will actually be higher than for traditional diesel models.

This is presumably down to the perceived complexity of the electric drivetrain components.

In fact, electric vans should be cheaper to maintain than diesel vans, as they have fewer moving parts. There are no pistons pumping up and down here, no oil to change, and no clutch in the gearbox to wear out.

You should even find that your brake pads and discs last longer due to the powerful braking effective of the motor - since the motor is also used to recover energy whenever you let up the accelerator.

What electric vans are on sale in the UK now?

It's not a huge list, but a lot more electric vans coming to the UK soon. For now though, these are the electric vans you can currently buy:

Small electric vans on sale now:

Medium electric vans on sale now:

Large electric vans on sale now:

For more info on these models, take a look at our list of the best electric vans you can buy now.

Electric vans coming to the UK soon

We're expecting the number of electric vans available to UK buyers to increase dramatically from 2020 onwards - but for full details of all of these you should check out our article dediacted to future electric vans coming soon.

>> Future electric vans - the electric vans coming soon

Any other electric vans we should know about?

Beyond the vans covered in the articles above, there are a number of electric van projects bubbling away around the world that may or may not make an appearance in the UK at some point.

A great example of this is Ford's partnership with Deutsche Post, with Ford supplying the Transit chassis for a bespoke Deutsche Post and DHL electric delivery van called the StreetScooter Work XL.

StreetScooter Work XL - electric van guide (2019)

Astonishingly, the partnership planned to have 2,500 examples in service by the end of 2018, a record number of electric vans in the large van category.

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 - electric van guide (2019)

There are plans to increase production of these to 20,000 a year.

You may soon start seeing the smaller StreetScooter near you, as a fleet of 200 is going into operation as 21st century milk floats right here in the UK.

Renault Twizy Cargo - electric van guide (2019)

In addition to these, there are cargo versions of the Renault Twizy (above), the Renault Zoe and the Volkswagen e-Up (called the e-Load Up, below). You can get the Twizy Cargo in the UK, but its carrying capacity is tiny.

VW e-Load Up - electric van guide (2019)

Does anyone make a hybrid electric van?

Yes. For a long while now Mitsubishi has sold a commercial vehicle versions of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV - essentially the passenger version with the rear seats removed and the windows blanked out. Comfortable, but not hugely practical.

More significantly, there is a now a proper petrol-electric hybrid version of the Ford Transit Custom available using range-extender technology. A van based on the lastest LEVC London taxi will also deploy range-extender tech, and is set to go on sale in 2020.

We've details of all these below.

Ford Transit Custom Plug-in Hybrid

Ford Transit Custom PLug-in Hybrid charging - electric van guide (2019)

This Ford hybrid van (above) is based on the hugely popular Transit Custom, and uses a range-extender plug-in petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain to achieve a claimed 30 miles of electric driving, with a total range of 310 miles if you make use of the petrol tank.

As a solution that enables electric only running without the range anxiety it works very well, but it's not a great substitute for a diesel van long-distance and there will be a large number of pure electric rivals with claimed ranges over 200 miles on sale in 2020.

It also costs around £15,000 more than an equivalent conventional Transit Custom. Whoa.

>> Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid review

LEVC VN5 range-extender van

LEVC LCV plug-in hybrid electric van based on London taxi - electric van guide (2019)

You may not have heard of the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC), but it's owned by Chinese automotive giant Geely (also owner of Volvo) these days and builds the latest London taxi, which uses range-extender technology in the same way as the Transit Custom PHEV above. LEVC is now using the taxi platform to produce a van.

Called the LEVC VN5, it will be built in a factory near Coventry, and claims an impressive 63-mile electric driving range before the petrol engine kicks in to create enough juice for 301 miles in total.

We've tested the taxi, and found it extremely comfortable and very pleasant to drive. The van is smaller than the Transit Custom, though.

>> Official details of the LEVC VN5 range-extender electric van

Does anyone make an electric pickup truck?

None of the manufacturers of pickups that are currently sold in the UK have confirmed that they will build electric versions. But a few are starting to acknowledge that come 2025, electrification of some kind may be necessary to meet planned emissions regulations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are stronger signs that electric pickups are on the way from the USA, which has a much greater number of pickup truck buyers.

Rivian R1T

Rivian R1T electric pickup truck - electric van guide (2019)

American start-up Rivian is leading the way here, with confirmed plans to build the all-electric pickup truck pictured above.

Called the Rivian R1T, this e-pickup promises some incredible performance figures, including a 400-mile driving range and 0-60mph in just 3.0 seconds. Payload looks a little light at the moment, though, at a claimed 800kg.

Sadly, it's not set to go on sale in the USA until 2021, with European sales currently planned for 2022.

And if you think it sounds a little too good to be true, consider that Ford has invested money in the company, suggesting the automotive giant thinks Rivian is onto something.

The same firm is working on an electric van, and made headlines recently when it secured a huge order for these from Amazon.

>> More information on the Rivian R1T electric pickup

Ford F-150 Electric

Ford F-150 electric pickup prototype - on sale in 2021

Ford's investment into Rivian isn't stopping the firm exploring the possibility of launching its own electric pickup, based on the enormously popular F-150 - the USA's bestselling truck for over four decades.

We understand that an F-150 Electric production model could go on sale as soon as 2021, and to underline the performance potential of such a machine, Ford's been showing off a prototype by having it tow a freight train.

Don't expect to see it on sale in the UK any time soon, though.

Bollinger B2

Bollinger B2 electric pickup truck

Another American start-up now taking deposits for an electric pickup is Bollinger, which plans to produce this huge B2 model and sell it for $125,000 (roughly £100,000 at present exchange rates).

Despite the set-square styling, it's a fascinating piece of product design, with innovations that include the option to open up the back of the cab for increased load capacity, and a storage space in the front where you'd usually expect to find the engine (the whole drivetrain is under the floor).

There's even a load-through feature that makes use of both elements to swallow items up to 16 feet long (4,876mm).

Driving range is an estimated 200 miles, while power and torque is said to be equivalent to 614hp and 922Nm. Bollinger claims it's 'the world's most capable pickup truck' - if we ever get to drive one we'll see if that's true... On sale 2020-2021.

>> More information on the Bollinger B2

Tesla Cybertruck electric pickup

Tesla Cybertruck electric pickup

Electric car gamechanger Tesla – maker of the Model SModel X and Model 3 – has also announced plans to build an electric pickup. Called the Cybertruck, the prototype revealed in November 2019 certainly raised plenty of eyebrows, not least for its angular retro-futuristic styling.

As ever with Tesla, there's a lot of hype, including some huge performance claims and some even more outrageous promises surrounding the strength of the stainless steel bodywork and so-called armoured glass (which shattered during a live demonstration at the reveal event).

If you really want to you can already pay £100 to reserve one, but UK pricing is yet to be revealed, and the thing is likely to be so heavy that driving it on a regular car licence probably won't be possible. We're... intrigued.

>> More information on the Tesla Cybertruck

Nikola Badger hydrogen-electric pickup

Nikola Badger electric pickup truck

If you thought that Tesla far-fetched, get a load of the Nikola Badger, which aims to combine battery electric power with a hydrogen fuel cell for long-distance driving. Headline figures include a 600-mile range and 906hp. From four electric motors.

Sounds bonkers. But the firm is working on hydrogen technology for lorries and trucks, and has proven itself enough to get Iveco interested as a build partner on that project.

Theory goes the Badger will be on sale in 2021.

>> More information on the Nikola Badger

Morris Commercial JE electric pickup

Morris JE electric pickup, minibus and van - coming in 2020, maybe

The latest futuristic electric pickup project to emerge comes from much closer to home. A plan to resurrect the old Morris Commercial name has already spawned a new electric van prototype, but the fledgling firm says its also working on a pickup.

Details are scarce, but if the specs are the same as the van it could be very interesting.

Also read:

>> The best electric vans you can buy now

>> Future electric vans coming soon

>> 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

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