Getting the buzz | Commercial Vehicle Editorial Jan 2017

Andy Picton

20 Dec 2016, Editorial

With electric powered light commercial vehicles struggling to be accepted in the UK, the continued positive spin of the manufacturer seems to be at loggerheads with the reluctance of the operator to actually be convinced by them.

On the one hand, the initial lure of cleaner, cheaper, quieter power and ‘doing your bit for the environment’ is particularly attractive however, the reality of running an electric vehicle is somewhat flawed.

There are those who continue to question the reliability and durability of the batteries. How much do they cost to replace if they fail? Who owns them? Who will buy a used electric van once its initial life has been run?

Reports suggest that an electric van with a full payload can lose up to 85% of its stated range (35% for an ICE) which has not help the general perception when in reality, few actually operate at more than 50% capacity. So should operators be put off by these statistics?

Manufacturers, at last, are realising that to have any chance of strengthening their residual value proposition, a dedicated used vehicle network is being created where a thorough inspection of the vehicle including battery, electrical elements and cooling system can be checked and at the point of sale, a used vehicle warranty offered. Some are even offering free rapid charging points, free car rental and train journeys as incentives to entice potential customers. This scheme is already operational in Europe and hopefully will soon be offered in the UK. This should promote confidence and a stronger desire to own a used electric van and in turn strengthen their RVs.

In addition, the case for using electric LCVs within a mixed fleet for urban deliveries can be readily made. The growing electric charging infrastructure, the fluctuation of oil prices and the increasing number of specific national and local government incentives set against the widening number of tariffs for those opting for diesel power has meant those electing for vans with zero emissions from the tailpipe, are already reaping the benefits. In addition, other perceived positives include no Excise Duty or MOT requirements and exemption from O Licensing for those operating above the 3.5-tonne limit.

If you can get past the fundamentals of why you are running a van without getting hung up on what propels it, the change should be easier to make. How much fuel are you putting in the tank each month compared to how much it costs to either lease the batteries and charge each night, should be the comparison. Who in their right mind would want to own still unproven batteries when the manufacturer will lease them to you, with a promise that if the charging capacity falls below 80%, the manufacturer will replace them? Let the onus fall on the manufacturer to supply you with a fit for purpose vehicle.

So, are the pitfalls associated with going electric just too great? For those who enter into this with their eyes wide open, the answer has to be a categorical no. Do your homework first, run the vehicle in its intended urban environment over an extended period and get the best out of the technology. And with manufacturers waking up to the concerns of the new and potential used operator, hopefully demand will grow. Done properly, we might yet discover that there is a time and place for electric.

About the author

Andy Picton

Andy PictonChief Commercial Vehicle Editor

Having worked previously for Barclays Asset Finance and LeasePlan in the commercial vehicle sector, Andy joined Glass’s in 2002 as part of the Commercial Vehicle team working closely with manufacturers, leasing and insurance companies, traders, dealers and auction houses. He was promoted to Chief Commercial Vehicle Editor in 2016 and manages our industry-leading team of valuation experts. He loves football, music and obviously commercial vehicles.