How do Electric Vans weigh up to Diesel power these days?

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Pic: Northgate

Electric vans can be more cost-effective and better for the environment, but they are not without their drawbacks, according to LCV fleet supplier Northgate. In 2020, electric vans are expensive, in short supply, and the infrastructure to support them is still not yet universal.

These blockers prevent electric from being a practical choice for many fleets, yet there are some businesses which can benefit from the electrification of its fleet.

So, what are the factors holding electric vans back for commercial use?

Electric Vehicles (EVs) are one of the best solutions in achieving Government’s 2050 net-zero emissions target. As with any new technology, there are still several challenges to overcome before EVs can be a true replacement for combustion engines.

The high price tag of an EV is still the main blocker. Until there is a breakthrough in EV technology and/or a surge in demand, costs are unlikely to change in a significant way.

Many drivers still have range distance anxiety issues for EVs. Further advancements in EV technology will be needed before drivers will lose the fear of running out of battery. Charging an EV is still causing headaches for many drivers. EVs will be a more attractive option once they are no longer held back by challenges around charging them.

Widespread adoption of EVs would create an extra demand for power that the current energy grid cannot support. The upgrades needed would come at significant cost. 

With a limited supply of electric vehicles being manufactured, there’s a lot of competition for acquiring them. This impacts electric vans in two key ways:

  1. Batteries are often being used for cars where there is a bigger market for them – and they are easier to sell.
  2. Vehicles are more commonly made in left-hand drive where there is, again, a bigger market for them, driving on the right-hand side of the road.

The result is that the supply of electric vans for the UK & Ireland is low, even when compared to the generally limited availability of electric vehicles.

 The countries that use left-hand traffic compared to right-hand traffic.

The countries that use left-hand traffic compared to right-hand traffic

If everyone charged their EV at the same time, this would create unnecessary pressure on the energy grid.

By having a system to smartly manage when vehicles are charged, we would be able to prevent surges in demand for power. Surges in demand for power is something that puts our national grid under huge strain.

Having battery storage units would assist in making sure that power draw is more spread out and act as an added buffer to help ensure power is available when it is needed. It may even be that large storage batteries could be used to power both our vehicles and our buildings.

With smart charging, the extra power and cost of upgrades needed to support electric vehicle charging could be reduced drastically. 

Electric vehicle batteries are continually being developed to hold bigger charges in lighter storage. The main issue with the current electric vehicles available and their limited range – is not that there isn’t a battery solution which could hold sufficient charge, rather it’s that the size and weight of the battery needed would be too big.

Electric vehicle batteries are already large. Bigger batteries are heavier, so they tend to be less fuel-efficient and are only really suitable for much larger vehicles.  However, battery size is starting to become more standardised with more power cells being packed in – getting the balance right and preventing excess heat is the key.

New iterations of electric vans coming out are continually pushing for lighter batteries with greater storage capability and better battery life.

Over time, the costs of EVs should come down. As the cost of producing batteries falls and the volume of sales increases, the prices of EVs will decrease.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that EVs could reach cost parity with the combustion engine as soon as 2025. If EVs reach cost parity with conventionally fuelled vehicles, a huge surge in EV sales is expected. Any increases in EV sales is likely to further drive down costs.

EVs provide a far greener alternative to conventionally fuelled vehicles in meeting most of our Transport needs. Before the widespread adoption of EVs becomes possible however, there needs to be a significant reduction in their price, better infrastructure to support them, and they need to become more widely available for fleets.

We also have to consider more specialist vehicles where there is a debate on whether battery-electric powertrains can deliver a practical solution – e.g. vans that need power at the roadside for extended periods. Many feel that H2 hydrogen/fuel cell vehicles are a more likely solution.