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Is an electric van the right choice for you?

Would an electric van suit your business needs? Here's what you need to weigh up before you buy...

Nissan e-NV200 front

While they’re only being sold in small numbers at the moment, the popularity of EV vans is growing steadily. The government is trying to push buyers towards greener methods of travel, and early adopters are discovering that there are huge upsides to going electric.

But the question is, would an electric van be right for you? We’ve put together this EV van buyers’ guide to get you started.

How does an EV van work? And how do I charge it?

Electric vans are powered by a lithium-ion battery and typically driven by a single electric motor. The battery is charged by plugging the van into either a domestic socket, a dedicated home-charging unit or a public charging station via a cable.

Charging is easy, with most manufacturers now adopting the ‘Type 2’ charging socket; EV vans capable of rapid charging come with a ‘CCS’ charger, which looks like a Type 2 but with two additional contact points underneath.

At home, you simply need to connect everything up, while public stations will require payment up front. Most electric vans will display how full the battery is and how long a full charge will take on the dashboard. More sophisticated vans will allow you to control charging via an app.

Electric car rapid charger

Why should I buy an electric van?

Electric vans are much cheaper to run than diesels. Take the Renault Master ZE as an example: it has a 33kWh battery, so if you charge it at home a full top-up will likely cost less than £5, depending on your tariff. Assuming it achieves its full range of 124 miles, that means fuel costs of roughly four pence per mile, though you should budget for more when using more expensive public charging points.

Other benefits include near-silent running - making them much easier on the ears - while modern electric motors deliver huge amounts of low-end torque. This means performance is strong, even when carrying goods.

Read about all of the benefits.

VW e-Crafter parked charging

What should I be wary of?

Range anxiety - the fear of running out of charge - is a big concern for potential buyers. Before you take the plunge, you need to make sure that the real-world range (usually 60 to 70% of the ‘official’ range) is sufficient. Bear in mind too that range will decrease while carrying heavy loads, and cold temperatures also have a negative effect.

Charging times are also a factor. Getting a dedicated charging unit installed at home will allow you to charge your van in a few hours, meaning you can plug in overnight and wake up to a full battery. Meanwhile, some public ‘rapid’ chargers will give you an 80% top-up in 30 minutes. It’s worth checking how many of these are located nearby.

Weight is also an issue. Because EV batteries tend to be very heavy, the government has had to lift the legal gross vehicle weight (GVW) of electric vans from 3.5 to 4.25 tonnes to help them compete with diesel machines. Carrying capacity is rarely affected though, with cells usually located under the floor of the load bay.

Electric/plug-in car grant to go ahead

How much money can I save on an EV van?

Presently, the government is giving buyers a 20% discount (up to a value of £8,000) on EV vans to help absorb the initial purchase price.

Electric vans are also exempt from the London Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone charge, currently priced at £15 and £100 per day respectively for diesel vans weighing up to 3.5 tonnes. So if you need to pay these on a regular basis you’ll quickly recoup your money. An EV van could bring big savings in other towns and cities with similar low emission zone policies.

Add those onto the fuel savings and the long-term, financial case for an electric van becomes incredibly strong.

Renault Kangoo ZE in London

Where do EV vans work best?

EV vans work best in cities, and are most commonly used by ‘last mile’ delivery companies. Their limited range makes them ideal for urban environments where you’re unlikely to rack up big miles between charges, although it’s not impossible to use them in less densely populated areas.

Which electric van should I choose?

While there are only a handful of electric vans on sale right now, there are plenty of shapes and sizes to meet every EV van buyers’ needs. There are also many more electric vans coming to market in the coming months to satisfy demand.

For all the latest van reviews, news, advice and video reviews, visit our dedicated van section here.

Next: Read our selection of the best electric vans on sale today >>

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