Guide to electric vans

Last updated by on May 18th, 2021’s guide to electric vans – everything you need to know

Thinking of taking the plunge and buying an electric van? Read our guide first for the pros and cons.

Electric vans are gaining more traction every day in the UK, with more and more businesses considering them as a clean, eco-friendly and cost-efficient alternative to a diesel van.

Electric powertrains are now available (or soon to be) in small, medium and large vans, and they vary from low-range vehicles intended for last-mile deliveries to vehicles with enough battery life for a full day of long-distance driving.

As concerns about the environment – particularly within city centres – move closer to the forefront of people’s minds, battery-electric vehicles (BEVS) including vans are going to play a bigger role on UK roads. This is particularly important now that the government has set a timer on selling petrol and diesel vehicles; from 2030, the only vehicles on sale in the UK will be fully electric or plug-in hybrid (PHEV).

Operators still have many concerns about going electric for their van fleet, and many of them are very valid indeed. But it’s also the truth that many people aren’t aware that they’re capable of going electric with minimal compromise.

We’ve answered some of your most pressing questions about electric vans below…

How far can an electric van drive without recharging?

This number varies depending on what van you buy. Just a few short years ago, most electric vans would barely do 100 miles on a full charge – only really making them suitable for last-mile, short-range deliveries.

That began to shift in 2020, though, and through 2021 and beyond upcoming vans look set to answer the question of range once and for all.

Now, even a fairly cheap electric van such as the Renault Zoe Van can achieve up to 245 miles on a charge. Mid-sized panel vans from Citroen, Peugeot and Vauxhall have a claimed driving range of over 200 miles, which is very impressive, while we’re soon to see vehicles such as the Ford E-Transit and Peugeot e-Boxer that offer this much range in a full-sized van.

How long does it take to charge an electric van?

This depends on what kind of van you have and how fast you can charge it. The slowest kind of charging is done over a regular 3-pin plug – this will give a full charge overnight for small vans, but it’s more or less useless for big vans with larger batteries as they’ll need approaching 2 days to fully charge.

A wallbox, supplied free with many electric vans and the most popular way to charge up, will charge most vehicles overnight, so you’ll be able to arrive each morning to a fully charged van.

Meanwhile, fast chargers, available at hundreds of sites across the country, can add as much as 80% charge in 30 minute. However, not all chargers are this fast, and not all electric vans are even capable of using them – it’s one of the most important things to check before purchasing. At a minimum, we’d recommend getting a van with at least 50kW fast charging capability.

Will I save money with an electric van?

Eventually – almost definitely. The purchase price is a big stumbling block with any electric vehicle, as they’re typically much more expensive than their diesel equivalents. However, that cost immediately begins to recoup due to the far lower cost of fuel.

If charging up overnight on an off-peak tariff, a full ‘tank’ of electricity can cost just a few pounds.

Free road tax, reduced rates for congestion charging and in some cases parking also help, while electric vans also have very few moving parts – in theory, making maintenance and repairs easier.

How clean is an electric van?

It depends on how you look at it. The good news is that as a zero-emissions vehicle, they produce nothing harmful from their daily driving. 

This means they qualify for zero road tax and sidestep emissions regulations such as London’s congestion charge and ULEZ. Dodging the congestion charge alone could save companies almost £4,000 a year.

Whole-life emissions are more difficult to calculate, but it’s estimated than even with the mining necessary for the elements in the batteries and the emissions involved in generating electricity, an electric van is cleaner over its lifetime than a diesel equivalent.

Better yet, as the UK’s electricity grid moves towards more and more renewable resources, an electric van will actually become cleaner over its lifetime.


How much payload does an electric van have?

This is another sticking point, as electric vans typically offer lower payloads than their diesel counterparts.

This is due to the weight of the battery pack, which eats into the available load that the chassis can handle.

This is more of an issue with large electric vans, many of which already use up nearly all of their available weight before adding batteries. However, manufacturers are working hard on it, and many of the more recent electric vans can carry more than a tonne of payload, which ought to be enough for all but the heaviest-duty users.

 Electric van pros and cons

Pro: Electric vans qualify for the government’s Plug-in Van Grant – which can lop up to £8,000 off the purchase price

Pros Cons
Electric vans qualify for the government’s Plug-in Van Grant – which can lop up to £8,000 off the purchase price Long-range vans are still very expensive to buy, and short-range ones won’t suit all drivers
 Great to drive – simple, relaxing, and quite fun Charging – unlike traditional fuels, there still isn’t a comprehensive network of charging stations
Eco-friendly, with zero tailpipe emissions Reduced payloads and in some cases, smaller load areas
Positive driving experience – e-vans tend to be quieter, and with no traditional gears, they’re smooth to drive (much like an automatic). They also have more ‘get up and go’ as the motors start instantly rather than need warming up Batteries will eventually degrade – as they age they hold less power, although technology is always improving

Why use to insure your electric van?

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Related: Electric car insurance

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