The motoring press have been full of talk of the electric vehicle revolution over the past couple of years. Since the VW scandal effectively meant the death of diesels and with the UK government coming down hard on emissions, manufacturers have been clamouring to get electric cars on the road. Electric cars are now widely regarded as being the future and even fleet owners are switching to electric and other ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).
But what’s happening in the commercial vehicle (CV) market? There are 6.4m commercial vehicles on Britain’s roads according to the Department of Transport (DoT). The vast majority of these are relatively high polluting diesels operating in some of the most polluted areas of the country. This makes CVs both a massive potential market and a vital one from the perspective of clean air.
Given its size, it’s not surprising that more and more manufacturers are putting out electric versions of their CV models. But how viable are electric commercial vehicles – especially in such a mixed economy area as Grantham? What are the advantages and what are the disadvantages to owning and running one? And are electric CVs coming soon or do they remain an electric pipe dream?
In this latest blog from Coversure Grantham – Lincolnshire’s leading independent insurance brokers – we’ll look at the pros, the cons and look to a not too distant future where the phrase, ‘Fill her up’ will be replaced by, ‘Plug her in.’
Electric Commercial Vehicles: The Advantages
• Cheaper Running Costs – while the electric vehicle revolution may have been triggered by concerns over emissions – and with 40,000 premature deaths caused annually by poor air quality in the UK, we’re right to be concerned – CV owners will only switch if its cost effective. Unlike private car drivers, to couriers, tradesman, hauliers, farmers and the like, their vehicle is central of their business. Drive up the cost of transport and you drive down competitiveness and income.
So how do electric models compare to fossil fuelled ones? Well the DoT estimates that the cost of charging a standard electric van such as a Nissan e-NV2000 is around £1.50 and on that you’ll be able to drive for around 100 miles. Depending on what you are paying for diesel, it would cost you somewhere in the region of £12 to do the same. That is one hell of a saving.
And the good news on running costs doesn’t end there. Comparatively speaking, these are relatively simple engines and their reliability levels are much higher. This means that not only will they spend more time where you need them – on the road, site or on the field – but when they do go wrong they will be easier and cheaper to fix. Being more reliable and being cheaper to repair could also mean cheap commercial vehicle insurance quotes.
• Unlimited Access – more and more towns and cities are being forced to take clean air seriously and clean up their air quality acts. Birmingham and Manchester have already followed London’s lead by announcing charges for polluting vehicles entering the parts of the city – van owners wanting to enter London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will be charged a whopping £24.00 a day – ouch! Lincoln City Council freely admits that its air quality often falls short of where it should be and this could lead it to join cities such as Southampton, Leeds and Nottingham in having charging forced upon them.
Electric vehicles and other ULEVs are exempt from these charges. This not only means avoiding hefty fees but it also means that drivers will continue to be able to access all areas. With places like Oxford considering an outright centre ban on polluting vehicles, going electric could be the only way that couriers, delivery drivers and tradesman can continue to work.
• Big Benefits for Farmers – No one is going to pretend these are easy times for farmers. Pressure on material prices are at an all-time high, supermarkets are squeezing margins, EU subsides are set to end and there’s the looming threat of fresh imports from less-regulated nations such as the US should we strike a trade deal. Then there are more immediate problems such as the crime wave that’s beset farms. According to the NFU there’s been a 20% rise in reported farm thefts in the last 12 months with machinery and diesel being thieves’ preferred targets. But what if you didn’t need to keep diesel in the yard? What if instead you simply plugged your tractor in at night or when it had an idle hour? Welcome to the world of an electric farm…
Farmers, like any other small business, can apply for grants through the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme to pay for up to 75% of the cost of installing up to 20 charging sockets. Given the quietness of electric vehicles and their massive reduction in emissions for those running” special types fleets and this could allow greater working time freedom and a greener industry.
• Electric CVs – Reduced Insurance Costs? – as we have noted, electric commercial vehicles are thought to be more reliable and cheaper to repair. From a CV insurance quote perspective this could mean good news for all as it means a lower chance of having to make a claim for a repair and lower replacement vehicle costs.
• Environmental Benefits – twenty years ago, concerns over a business’s green credentials were largely confined to big corporations with massive carbon footprints such as the oil and aviation giants. Today, as public awareness and opinion of green issues have become mainstream so all businesses need to show their green credentials if they want to win and retain business. Recently we have seen couriers such as Deliveroo switching to electric delivery vans, John Deere now have an electric tractor on the market, JCB have an electric digger and there is a wide range of electric vans and pick-ups to choose from. These moves reflect both the need for businesses to be seen to be green and how customers are choosing to deal with greener companies.
Electric Commercial Vehicles: The Disadvantages
No new technology comes without its drawbacks and electric CVs are no exception. As we shall see range, cost and convenience remain the main barriers to immediate adoption.
• Cost of Vehicles – electrically powered vehicles are significantly more expensive to buy. With their limited production numbers and the billions invested in development yet to be repaid, they are and will remain a premium option for the next few years. For example, Renault’s Kangoo Z E 33 price – including the plug-in grant – is £23,232 vs £15,850 for the diesel. For a courier or a tradesman that’s a big jump and while the running costs over time will more than repay the cost, it’s still a lot to fork out.
• Limited range – at the time of writing the best electric vans on the market have a range of around 174 miles on a single charge. Not bad, and if you are an urban courier or tradesman or part of the 70% of van users who, according to Renault, drive less than 62 miles a day, then you’ll be fine. But what if your work takes you further afield? Lincolnshire is a large, largely rural county and a journey of 200 miles in a day is far from impossible. Well, it is without a time-consuming recharge.
• Lack of charging points – at the time of writing Lincoln – a sizeable urban area – has just 18 charging points. Look across the county and they become perilously few and far between, meaning drivers will need to plan their journeys carefully as carrying a ready can in the back of the van isn’t an option.
• Lower payloads? there’s a perception that ULEVs have lower payloads as the batteries are heavy and the engines have less power. In some models this is still the case, but in fairness newer ones have overcome this. For example, the Nissan e-NV200 has the same cargo volume as the standard NV200 diesel, but can actually hold a heavier payload – 770kg vs 730kg.
Are Electric Commercial Vehicles Coming Soon?
With big commercial manufacturers such as Renault, Nissan, Citroen, VW and Mercedes all staking their futures on ULEV CVs, clean air zones restricting access to polluting vehicles and government clampdowns on emissions, electric commercial vehicles’ time is definitely coming. It will take time, investment in charging infrastructure and a change of mindset from owners, but there’s little doubt that the green revolution we’re seeing in cars is coming CVs’ way.
Like Some CV Insurance Help?
Like some help saving on your commercial vehicle insurance quotes? Then let Coversure Grantham help you find the cover you need. Contact us today on (01476) 565 590, email us or click here to vist our website.