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Sales executive at GlobalVans

Electric vs Diesel

Which van is cheaper to run over 4 years?

Electric Vans / Electric Van Guides / Electric vs Diesel

There’s an assumption that an electric van will be cheaper to run than a diesel one. But, most with that thought are just comparing the price of diesel fuel with the cost of the electricity they would consume on a home charger. But, is it so clear-cut? Our Van Expert Tim Cattlin takes a look at this and other costs to see which comes out on top…

Which is cheaper to buy (or lease)?

Up until recently, an electric van has always been more expensive to buy than a diesel. But, with manufacturers increasing production, and the government’s ZEV Mandate meaning that van makers must have an increasingly higher proportion of electric vans registered to avoid fines, the gap has narrowed considerably. At Global Vans, we are regularly offered support meaning that the monthly cost of leasing an electric van can sometimes be much closer to the diesel model than you might have thought possible.

And when I come to part exchange or sell my electric van? Will it be worth more than the diesel?

This is a tricky one. Used van buyers are treading carefully right now, unsure about how an electric van, particularly the early ones with a limited range from a full charge will work for them and in many cases are choosing to stick with the diesel engine that they are familiar with. As a result values are fairly low, and anyone seeking to dispose of one right now might be disappointed at what they are offered. But, as they become more widely available and preconceptions are finally put to bed, demand should increase, along with prices. Predicting where things will be in 4 years time is difficult but, someone leasing a new electric van is protected from any volatility, the leasing company taking on the full risk on a contract hire agreement. Nothing to worry about there for the van operator.

But, the electric van will save me £££’s when it comes to fuel costs, right?

Yes, with just a couple of caveats. Let’s do the sums, but we’re going to have to take the price of diesel and electricity at the rate at the time of writing (December 2023) for illustration purposes. Our van is
Vauxhall Vivaro, and we’ll look at costs assuming you drive 10,000 miles per year over 4 years. The 120PS L1 diesel van has an official combined fuel consumption figure of 41.5mpg. At a price of £1.59 per litre, this van will use £6959 of diesel over the 4 years.

The Vivaro Electric with the larger 75kWh battery has an official range of 205 miles from a full charge. At a cost of 27 pence per kWh (what you’re probably paying at home), a full charge will cost around £20 (source, Zapmap). This means that over 40,000 miles the cost of the electricity would be £3902. A huge saving but, there’s something else that could increase the saving even further. Some energy companies offer a reduced rate for customers charging an electric vehicle overnight. The savings can be very considerable indeed…

About those caveats then…

OK, well, you’ll need to install a home chargepoint (known as a wallbox), that’ll set you back a few hundred pounds but it’s a one-off and should last you for life. The other factor to bear in mind is that electricity sourced from public chargepoints is more expensive, and rapid chargers (if your van is compatible) usually found on motorways are very pricey indeed. Avoid at your peril, if at all possible!

Is servicing cheaper?

At present, most manufacturers are recommending routine servicing at similar intervals to the diesel vans. Whether this is really necessary is open to debate, and we may well see changes in this policy as the makers seek to become more competitive in their offerings. Actual evidence of routine maintenance and repair costs is still a little thin on the ground, but there have been anecdotal reports of savings of up to 40% over a diesel van. These can’t be verified, but it’s very likely that overall the electric van will be significantly cheaper to maintain. Just think, there’s no clutch, no DPF filter to clog, no oil, fuel or air filters to be changed, no cooling system to leak and no timing belt to change. And there’s that recuperation effect, putting much less wear on the braking system.

Are there any other savings I’d get by running an electric van?

If you operate in the London area, you’ll get the ‘cleaner vehicles discount’ on the congestion charge, although this is set to be discontinued at the end of 2025. You’ll also be able to transit any low or zero-emission zone for free as the rules stand at present, and although it’s all speculation, you can be pretty sure that diesel vans will be increasingly ‘discouraged’ from entering our cities in the future.

So, from a running cost perspective, an electric van is a no-brainer?

Just a couple of things could spoil the party. If you use public chargepoints regularly, especially rapid chargers, the benefit will be quickly eroded. And if you decide to purchase one (rather than lease), and used van values remain low, you could potentially lose quite a bit of money in depreciation. That’s an area that is difficult to predict, however.