UK Set To Have Thousands More Electric Vans

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Led by Global Action Plan in partnership with Engie, the UK Clean Van Commitment is an initiative which aims to get 2,400 new electric vans in operation by 2020, and for 18,000 new electric vans to replace diesel vans by 2028. Air pollution produced by older, diesel vans contributes to human health problems and even premature deaths. For example, they generate 30% of the UK’s road transport NOx emissions. To reduce diesel van air pollution, 16 UK van fleet operators are participating in the initiative.

Bex Bolland, Head of Air Quality at Global Action Plan, answered some questions about the electric vans for CleanTechnica.

16 van fleets are to go electric by 2020 and 2028, but exactly how many new vans is that? 

2,400 by the end of 2020 and up to 18,000 by 2028 (assuming they all operate in cities.)

Where will they be sourced from? 

The key manufacturers that provide EV vans currently are Nissan (EVN200), Renault (Kangoo), Citroen (Berlingo). In the next two years, new models will be coming on the market from other manufacturers such as LEVC.

Where is the funding coming from to pay them?

The organizations are investing in their zero emission fleet. The government has provided subsidies up until 2020, e.g. the plug-in van grant. The organizations are likely to need to invest in local charging infrastructure and grid supply to ensure that they are able to maximize the distance their fleet can travel.

Will the electric vans be used only in urban centers or will some be used in rural areas too? 

The signatories represent a diverse range of organizations with very different requirements, locations and distances traveled by their vans. Some organizations are able to deliver additional infrastructure in rural locations to ensure charging with the range (distance) of EV vans currently on the market. For the majority, in the first two years the focus is likely to be urban centers. The health costs are highest and distance traveled is typically lowest in cities, making EVs most appropriate and why the focus of the commitment to be on vans in cities.

The lifetime health cost savings of replacing 18,000 diesel vans with EVs across the UK is huge. What are some of the health conditions caused by diesel vans in urban centers? 

Cardiac and respiratory health issues are known to be caused/exacerbated by air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, associated with diesel vehicles. There are additional health impacts not currently included in the health costs analysis such as premature birth, low birth weight, cancer, dementia and anxiety some of which will be incorporated into the COMEAP update next year.

Does the cost savings include the prevention of some premature deaths?

Yes, they do include the prevention of cardiac and respiratory early deaths.

Diesel emissions have been known to be hazardous to human health for a long time, so why the relatively sudden push for electric vans now? Will all the electric vans be used for commercial purposes?

In 2018 it was highlighted the transport sector in the UK is the only area that has not decarbonized, in fact it has become more carbon intensive.  The focus of manufacturers has been on EV cars, only recently have we seen EV vans that were fit for purpose and it is now right to encourage fleets and drivers to change their behavior. The CVC highlights the demand for more vans and for those with a bigger weight class which we have yet to see working examples. EV vans will be used in the same way vans of the largest fleets are used, for service delivery purposes.

How will charging infrastructure be ramped up to support all the new electric vans?

OLEV and local government are taking the lead, e.g. the London Mayor’s EV Infrastructure Taskforce.

Could there be a spillover effect when individuals see the commercial electric vans and they want them for their own personal driving purposes?

The intention of the CVC is to bring down the overall cost of EV vans by encouraging the businesses who can afford to invest to do so more explicitly to highlight their collective demand, and create the secondhand market for the traditional white van driver in 4-6 years (the natural turnover of fleet vehicles). Whether it’s speaking to private owners or taxi drivers, once you drive an EV you don’t want to go back — the experience is just that good. We can expect the commitment these leading fleets are making will change the dynamic of the UK car and van industry by inspiring more people to switch to EVs, tackling both climate change and air pollution in a substantial way, particularly if driving is an essential part of their life.

Image Credit: Corvettec6r, Wikipedia, CC0

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Jake Richardson

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