There’s been a huge amount of talk about electric vehicles in the past couple of years – even when it comes to commercial vehicles (CV) such as vans and trucks. Indeed, electric car registrations increased by 76.6% in the UK last year, according to new data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). With nearly 200,000 on the road, the plug-in revolution is firmly under way.
While much of this has been driven by private motorists, there’s clear evidence that fleet and business car owners are also finding the pull of plug-in vehicles hard to resist. With environmental concerns over emissions – especially NOX emissions – diesels in terminal decline and efforts to clean up our air making the cost of running traditionally powered vehicles harder, hybrid and pure-play electric are definitely the future.
So, does this mean that the widespread use of electric commercial vehicles is upon us? And if so what advantages and disadvantages will they bring to business vehicle users? In this latest blog from Coversure Kidderminster we look at this in detail and see a commercial vehicle future that is potentially greener, leaner, fit for the long-run and cheaper to operate.
Electric Commercial Vehicles: The 5 Great Advantages
There are many advantages associated with plug-in electric commercial vehicles and we’ve listed the main ones below. It is worth stating at this point that as time goes on and restrictions around emissions and access to towns and cities become ever tighter, that these will no longer be seen as advantages but as necessities.
- Running costs – the lower running costs of electric vehicles has long been hailed as a major advantage for vehicle owners. Electric CVs are definitely cheaper to run: charge your van up overnight at home and it will cost you about £1.50 and on that you can do about 100 miles. Research from Renault shows that the average van driver does around 70 miles a day, so given it will cost you about £15 in diesel to do the same distance, there’s a hell of a saving to be had.
- Insurance costs – commercial vehicle insurance is obviously key to ownership. A couple of years ago getting an electric commercial vehicle insurance quote was a challenge even for a broker like us. These days electric CV policies are more readily available and as the market grows so these will become commonplace. Word on the insurance grapevine is that in time electric CV cover should actually be cheaper than for standard commercial vehicles. The reasons for this are explored in the next point.
- Reliability – relatively speaking electric motors are simpler than internal combustion engines. Simpler means there’s less that can go wrong and when things do go south then they are easier and quicker to fix. This brings two significant benefits to CV owners. First it means your vehicle will spend more time where it belongs – on the road earning its living. Secondly it could help bring down your CV insurance quotes as you’ll be less likely to make a claim for repairs and insurers won’t be hit by the cost of any replacement vehicles or business interruption cover if you have it in place.
- Accessibility – in the coming years accessibility is going to become a massive issue for businesses that need vehicles to operate. Clean Air Zones (CAZ), Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) and even Zero Emission Zones (ZEZ) are all either being considered, planned or implemented across the UK as towns and cities look to provide breathable air. London now has a ULEZ that charges up to £100 per day for vans that don’t meet Euro 3 standards, and in January 2020 Birmingham a CAZ will come in that’s expected to charge CV users around £12 per day. These extra costs could hit CV owners hard – especially if they have a CV fleet. Worse, some cities such as Oxford are considering an outright ban on polluting vehicles. Plug-in, hybrid and other low polluting vehicles are either exempt or attract significant reductions to these hefty charges.
- Sustainability – diesels are, if not dead, then on life support. The government has declared a ban on manufacture of them come 2040 and there’s a movement in the European Parliament to bring in a ban by as early as 2025. Like it or not, CV owners need to start thinking now about making the switch, and those that do move early could see brand benefits to boot as they are caring for the environment.
Electric Commercial Vehicles: The 5 Great Disadvantages
Business life is rarely all-good and there are currently some significant disadvantages that need to be overcome before CV users can silently glide around in plug-in vehicles. Again, it is worth noting that these problems are likely to be resolved – they have to be! – over time.
- Range – yes, Renault state that their vans can do 100 miles and that probably is fine for many drivers, but what about couriers and those doing long distance deliveries? 100 miles is likely to leave them high, dry and powerless…
- Charging points – while there’s been significant investment in charging technology and charging posts are increasingly available at motorway services and in urban centres, they aren’t as common as filing stations. If you work in rural areas switching to electric power could prove a major challenge. This is made worse by the fact that if you do run out of juice you can’t just walk to the filling station with a jerry can and get an emergency top of electricity, can you?
- Charging times – at present the fastest charging points can get an electric van to about 80% charged in around 20 minutes. That’s an impressive advance on a couple of years back when a couple of hours was required. It’s still far longer than it takes to fill a tank with diesel though and drivers for whom time is money – delivery drivers, couriers and own goods suppliers – 20 minutes out of their working day is quite a cost.
- Vehicle choice – unlike electric cars which seem to see a new model launched on a weekly basis, electric vans, trucks and other commercial vehicles are still thin on the ground. Nissan, VW, Renault and electric specialists Piaggio all have models on the market, but the range simply isn’t as extensive.
- Vehicle cost – at the time of writing plug-in CVs are significantly more expensive. Take the Nisan e-NV200 for example. That starts at around £23,000 – a lot more than the standard NV200. Yes, there’s currently an £8,000 government grant against a hybrid or electric vehicle, but how long before that goes the same way as the grant to install a charging point in your business? That went back in 2016.
What Types of Electric CVs Are Out There?
As we’ve said above there are now a range of common commercial vehicles that are electrically powered and this number is set to increase. Some of the 200,000 electric cars on are roads are already operating as taxis and electric vans are being taken on by fleet owners such as the Post Office, DHL and Milk and More.
But what about heavier commercial vehicles such as trucks, plant equipment (so-called special types) and HGVs? Well here too electrification is happening. Tesla and Daimler have revealed electric lorries and other big names in the big truck business such as Volvo, DAF and Mercedes all have them on the way.
As for special types – vehicles used in construction, agriculture and mining – an IDTechEx report states that while only 15% of vehicles are currently electric – most of those being vans and other lighter vehicles – that number will soar to 70% by 2029.
Electric Commercial Vehicles, Coming Soon?
The answer to that question is really no – they are already here. The really interesting question is quite how quickly they will become mainstream and even dominate the sector. That this will happen is surely beyond doubt. Pressure on air quality, the death of diesels and charging make the way forward an electrified one. Yes, there will be challenges; not least from CV owners who don’t want to switch for practical or costs reasons, but even they will be forced into changing in time.
Like to Know More?
If you would like to know more about electric commercial vehicle insurance cover or would like some help getting the CV insurance that’s right for you, then please contact us. You can call the Coversure Kidderminster team on (01562) 822664, email us by clicking here or request a no-obligation quote here