The strangest electric vans you can buy online

  • In need of an electric van on the cheap? Alibaba could hold the key
  • Interesting designs and approaches to intellectual property
  • Parkers does not endorse buying these. But we are interested in the outcome if you do

The market in the UK for electric vans is small, but growing – however, it still requires a significant investment on the part of operators. Some large electric vans can run into six figures, but even smaller ones cost significantly more than their diesel counterparts.

However, for every European van, there’s another 50 or so from that holy grail of cheap electronics – China. Chinese businesses use electric vans extensively, and their expertise in bringing cheap products to market means that there’s a huge selection available for a bargain price.

Head onto global online marketplace Alibaba and you’ll be confronted with a dizzying array. That’s just what we’ve done here, rounding up some of the most weird and wonderful.

Could I really buy one of these?

We’re not talking about Chinese-built vehicles exported and type-approved for European markets of the kind that Maxus vans sells. These are made for local markets… which unfortunately means we can’t really recommend purchasing them for use in the UK, as they won't automatically be approved to drive on our public roads.

Consider this more of an exercise in lockdown boredom than a serious buying guide.

However, there are workarounds. Individual Vehicle Approval could be a route towards getting vehicles like this registered for UK road use, with modifications applied so they meet criteria. And you can use any of them on your own private land with no penalty.

You’ll need to add the cost of shipping your van to the prices listed here – this is generally very reasonable, considering the distance involved, but will likely work out as a serious percentage of the total price of the vehicle.

Sichuan Minghong Pickup

Sichuan Minghong pickup

When we say bargain, we really mean it. This tiny pickup truck costs from just $1,000 (£800) yet comes with all kinds of luxury features such as electric windows, LED lights, and even a sunroof. It’ll also seat three in a strange one-two configuration.

The dinky load bed has a payload up to 300kg, and it’s offered with a choice of lead-acid or lithium batteries – the latter giving up to 86 miles of range, albeit at a less-than-stellar top speed of 25mph.

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Xuzhou Furinkazan Fur-S1

Xuzhou Furinkazan Fur-S1

We’ll pivot immediately to the more insane end of the Alibaba spectrum. This isn’t a mobile greenhouse – it is in fact a food truck, and can be fitted with all manner of cooking apparatus from the factory. It also appears to come with a face.

There’s not actually much detail about the underlying mechanicals – we’ll take that to mean low speed and rotten to drive. It’s capable of just 31 miles on a charge, not helped, we imagine, by its complete lack of aerodynamics.

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Loudi Dafenghe DFH-TM01

Loudi Dafenghe DFH-TM01

Renault Twizy Cargo, eat your heart out. This single-seat load-lugger has a similar open-cockpit design but offers a superior range of up to 86 miles.

It can be had with an open or enclosed load bed, in a variety of colours and with some very funky alloy wheel designs. And it costs from just $2,000 (£1,621). Where do we sign?

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Yichang Xinwei 1.5t

Yichang Xinwei 1.5t

Sometimes simplicity is best, and you’d do well to find something simpler than this electric dropside. It offers a payload of 1,500kg and a range – fully loaded – of 62 miles, but costs just £7,989.

Sure, for that, luxury is off the table – the seats look like church pews and the only ventilation is a desk fan strapped to the dashboard, but as a pure tool, this looks to put function over form in all the best ways.

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Zhenjiang ZIBON ZBEV1012

Zhenjiang ZIBON ZBEV1012

This electric pickup is actually pretty handsome – helped by its unmistakeable resemblance to the Volkswagen Amarok. At just £12,000 it begins to look less of a bargain than some vehicles here, though – especially when you compare it to a proper Amarok.

Payload is just 480kg and the 127hp motor propels it to a top speed of just 74mph – a far cry from the Volkswagen’s beefy V6 diesel engine and 1,030kg payload.

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Taizhou Yunderong Neibor E1

Taizhou Yunderong Neibor E1

Another familiar face here, as this Neibor van looks startingly similar to the newly unveiled Saturn City Van.

We reckon the UK model is uprated, however, as it offers superior range and power to the model listed here – albeit at a much, much higher price.

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Qingdao BD-FT-C

Qingdao BD-FT-C

Love the look of a classic Citroen H Van but can’t stomach the high price or complicated maintenance? We’re amazed at just how close to life this replica is – stick a Citroen badge on and we think it would be genuinely convincing.

Once again, it’s aimed at being a food truck rather than a freighter, with a top speed of barely 20mph and a range of less than 50 miles. Yet with even a stripped-back HY van setting you back more than double the price of this (and the vast majority being trailered to and from locations instead of driving) does it really matter?

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Dongfeng EC35

Dongfeng EC35

Another familiar-looking van here – this Dongfeng van is actually planned to head to the UK later this year, badged as a DFSK, so this gives us a heads-up to what specs it’s likely to feature.

No range information is given, but Dongfeng says it’ll have a decently large 41.4kWh battery pack, albeit with a top speed of just 65mph. It’ll cost you from just $15,000 (£12,036), though we’d probably recommend waiting for someone else to do the legwork and buy it officially instead.

Buy this van on Alibaba here

Also read:

>> The Parkers guide to electric vans

>> The best electric vans

>> New vans coming soon

>> Can you buy a van online?