24 mai 22

e-LCV fleets need dedicated recharging stations

Light commercial vehicles (LCV) require a dedicated recharging network to give van fleets confidence in battery technology, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents OEMs in the UK.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, told Fleet Europe that public charge point parking bays designed for electric cars may not be big enough for vans, and nor are they always in the right locations to support van fleet needs, with so much investment currently going into high speed chargers on the strategic road network, rather than in dense urban areas.

'We need a specific strategy to focus on the unique needs of van owners," he said.

Figures from the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) indicate that as many as 70% of van drivers will not be able to charge an electric van at home, forcing fleets to find public and depot charging solutions. As electric car sales rocket, the ratio of EVs to public charge points is currently 32:1, although this masks wide discrepancies between regions, with London and the south east of England much better served than other areas.

The UK needs 500,000 charge points by 2035

“The first thing is understanding what van users need,” said Hawes. “The chances are that they need chargers in specific places and may have greater demands at certain times of the day. If you are driving a delivery route you probably want a rapid charger, because you cannot afford to sit there with the van parked up for six to eight hours.”

He called on the Government to introduce binding targets for van charging provision into its national EV charging infrastructure plans, and added that intervention is required to support businesses that want to install workplace chargers.

“For fleets that are back to-depot, it’s about making sure there is the facility for getting high speed chargers put in. When you have multiple chargers for a range of vehicles, your demands on the electricity grid are going to be significant. There needs to be a mechanism that avoids ‘first user disadvantage’, so if there are four or five companies in a street that are going to go electric, it’s not the first user that has to pay for the upgrade to the grid – that is inherently unfair. Otherwise no one is going to make that first investment.”

Charge point anxiety

A survey of 500 van owners, conducted this month on behalf of the SMMT, found that 57% of operators are anxious about transitioning from diesel to electric vans because they fear they will not be able to find a charge point when they need one. The survey also discovered that 41% of van owners are not able to recharge vehicles either at home or at the workplace.

The high acquisition cost of electric LCVs remains a barrier for more than half of van operators, which helps to explain why electric vans account for fewer than 5% of new van sales. This puts the commercial vehicle market about two years behind cars.

The SMMT survey found one in five van operators plan to defer the switch to EVs for three to seven years, although 88% expect to be fully electric by 2035.

Speaking at the annual Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, Hawes (pictured above) said: “If we’re to deliver the nation’s carbon emission cuts, we need them to move to electric. There’s an electric van to suit every business case, but we need a ‘van plan’ to ensure zero-emission driving works for the millions of people for whom their van is their livelihood and the millions more who rely on these workhorses for the delivery of their daily needs.”

With more than four million vans on UK roads, electrifying the fleet is vital to reduce the country’s transport-related carbon emissions. The encouraging news is that only 20% of van owners say they cannot find an electric van to meet their needs, with range and payload both declining as barriers to uptake.

Association of Fleet Professionals

Publication of the SMMT survey coincided with the publication of a new nationwide map by the AFP that reveals where UK businesses need kerbside charging close to the homes of company van drivers, based on 75,000 records submitted by fleets.

Paul Hollick, AFP chair, said: “As businesses move to electrify their company vehicles ahead of the Government’s 2030 deadline, the high number of drivers without space available off-road to have a charger installed is a major obstacle to electrification. This is especially the case for electric vans, whose drivers are much more likely to live in a terraced house or apartment and lack this kind of parking.

“In these locations, kerbside facilities need to be installed in order for crucial overnight charging to take place – and the new map has been created in order to show national and local government, as well as charging providers, exactly where these new chargers are needed by our members.

“It means that fleet operators can engage in conversations directly with these partners about how quickly charging can be installed. It’s very much a situation where, until facilities are available, it is very difficult for electric vans to be adopted. Our aim is for kerbside charging to be made available within a safe 4-5 minute walk for all of these employee drivers.

“The situation is exacerbated by the fact that many publicly available charging points are simply not big enough to take a panel van. For electric vans to become widely used by fleets, a massive upgrading of the general infrastructure is essential."

The AFP is keen for more fleets to add their data to the map to strengthen the case for more kerbside chargers.

Authored by: Jonathan Manning