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

  • Proposal to increase GVW from 3.5 to 4.25 tonnes
  • Would create ‘payload bonus’ for alternative fuels
  • Parkers Vans explains all the details

As Parkers Vans reported back in January 2017, Iveco has been lobbying hard for an increase in the maximum legal payload for large vans powered by alternative fuels – specifically electric vans and those that use compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of petrol or diesel.

Now it seems the UK government is finally preparing to move on the issue, and has opened a consultation to extend the current gross vehicle weight (GVW) allowance on the standard driving licence from 3.5 tonnes to 4.25 tonnes for alternative fuel light commercials vehicles (LCVs) only.

What does this all mean – and why does it matter?

At the moment, to drive a van with a GVW greater than 3.5 tonnes you need what’s known as a C1 category licence – which is above and beyond a regular car licence (officially called the Category B licence).

This licence distinction matters, because so many businesses rely on van drivers with regular driving licences; the pool of operators for heavier GVW vans is much, much smaller – so there would be an inevitable impact on costs.

Iveco Daily NP - powered by CNG

The consultation proposes allowing a modest extension of the 3.5-tonne rule, but only for alternative fuel vans.

The new limit would be 4.25 tonnes, a weight that Iveco reasons matches the combined towing maximum already allowed by the B licence (which is to say a 3,500kg van towing a 750kg trailer).

Why would the proposed GVW increase only apply to alternative fuel vans?

It’s intended as a means of making alternative fuels more viable – and attractive – to van operators.

Clearly we have increasingly capable all-electric technology, and CNG vans work perfectly well, too – especially when turbocharged like the latest VW Caddy – but all this new tech tends to be heavier than existing internal combustion power.

VW Caddy TGI - powered by compressed natural gas

To take the example of the Iveco Daily, CNG-powered versions are around 200kg heavier than their diesel counterparts, while electric models weigh upwards of 300kg more.

This extra weight eats into the payload capacity of large 3.5-tonne vans – which critically reduces their operational efficiency.

The proposed GVW increase would give headroom over the weight of the new technology, and thus make them more attractive to potential buyers.

Hence the idea is often referred to as the ‘payload bonus’ plan.

So it’s a good idea then?

Iveco’s alternative fuels director Martin Flach has been lobbying for a change in the law for years.

‘Increasingly, customers are looking seriously at low-emission LCVs but at 3.5 tonnes vehicles are usually critical on payload and it has resulted in a much lower take-up of vehicles than we would have liked,’ he explained.

Iveco alternative fuel director Michael Flach

‘It’s always seemed nonsensical that companies keen to implement innovative technology that is better for the environment, should be penalised on payload and have to pay for additional driver training. ‘

He added: ‘If the plan is accepted, we firmly believe it would quickly boost the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles and consequently improve air quality. The vehicles are available, we just need the government to ensure businesses are being given the opportunity to make the most of them.’

When will we know the result of the government consultation on the payload bonus for alternative fuel vans?

The consultation is open until 18 October 2017, so we may finally have a decision on this issue before the end of the year.

Which other van manufacturers would benefit?

The rule change would benefit any van maker that's also building, or planning to build, a large van that's powered by an alternative fuel.

Renault Master ZE

The list presently includes Mercedes-Benz, Renault and Volkswagen.

Also read:

Iveco seeking ‘payload bonus’ for alternative fuel vans

The Parkers Vans guide to electric vans

Cooking on gas: VW Caddy TGI review

Ford Transit Custom plug-in hybrid – everything you need to know

The Parkers Vans guide to van fuel economy