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The Benefits of Operating an Electric Van

Electric Vans / Electric Van Guides / Benefits of Operating an Electric Van

Hardly a month seems to go by without another electric van being launched. But, just what are the advantages gained by switching to a zero-emission vehicle? Our Van Expert Tim Cattlin explains…

Are they easier to drive?

If we’re talking about fully electric vans rather than hybrids, then you’ll find that they all have an automatic transmission. That’s because the motor drives the wheels directly without the power having to go through a gearbox first, and when it comes to power delivery, you’ll notice that the van accelerates pretty swiftly from a standstill. Why? Because all the torque is available as soon as the motor turns. Compare that to a diesel engine which might not develop its full torque output until it’s spinning at over 3000 revs per minute and in practical terms you’ll notice the difference when entering a busy roundabout with a full load in the back.

Heard of the term ‘recuperation’? It’s the process where, during deceleration, the electric motor places energy back into the battery pack, acting like a generator. This has two benefits. The first is obvious, charging the battery ‘on the fly’ is an efficient and free way to add some valuable miles to the range remaining in the battery. But in addition to this, recuperation creates drag. Used carefully and driving with a bit of anticipation, it’s possible to make a journey only using the brake pedal to bring the van to a complete stop. Most vans have several options, from a gentle braking effect up to a pretty severe one which, in some cases illuminates the brake lights. The higher the setting, the more power is transmitted back into that battery pack.

Are electric vans totally silent?

We’ve all been there – after a long day in the van on the motorway, the constant noise has given us a mild headache. Although today’s Euro 6 diesel vans are much quieter than their predecessors, they are no match for an electric van when it comes to the noise level heard in the cab. Now, don’t expect absolute silence, electric vans do make a sound, some more than others. It’s usually characterised by a gentle whine, particularly at low speeds. Just one thing to bear in mind though. A diesel engine’s noise does tend to mask other sounds so, you might find that in an electric van, you notice the likes of wind and tyre noise which you otherwise wouldn’t have been aware of. Overall though, you’ll really appreciate the peace and quiet you’ll experience during the working day.

It all adds up to a driver finishing his or her day feeling much more relaxed and free of stress. Combine the automatic transmission with the reduced effort in braking and the lack of noise that the electric drivetrain offers and you’ll have a happier, healthier driver with the reduced risk of being involved in an accident that tiredness and fatigue may otherwise have led to.

Do I need an electric van to avoid ULEZ and CAZ charges?

If you’re anywhere near London, you’ll be aware of the ever-expanding ULEZ together with the congestion charge. Other cities are now introducing similar schemes all aimed at reducing carbon emissions in urban areas. Drivers entering Bradford, Bath, Birmingham and other cities are subject to charges if their van doesn’t meet certain criteria. Oxford is the first city to introduce a ZEZ (Zero Emission Zone) where, as the name suggests, you’ll be charged if your van isn’t electric. An electric van is future-proofing against any changes to the rules or the introduction of more zones. You’ll be guaranteed either free access or the most beneficial rate to enter a restricted area.

Is running an electric van cheaper than a diesel?

There are a number of areas where operating an electric van can work out cheaper than a diesel. The most obvious is a saving on fuel costs. We have to be careful here as there are massive differences in the cost of electricity, from special tariffs offered by domestic providers which have seen prices as low as 9 pence per kWh (although more typically you’ll pay nearer 30p), right up to some public fast chargers which can cost well over 70p for the same unit. Providing you can charge at home with a wall box charger, it’ll should cost around £17 to fully charge a 60kWh battery, providing a range of perhaps around 160 miles depending on the van. OK, so your diesel van will go further when it’s full of fuel but you’ll be heading towards £100 to fill a 70-litre tank. It’s a definite win-win with regard to fuel costs, providing you avoid those pricy public chargers.

With fewer moving parts, routine maintenance should be cheaper, and with the recuperation effect reducing the use of brakes, those discs, pads and shoes should last a lot longer. Requirements will differ from van to van but one survey suggested that overall, maintenance bills for electric vehicles were up to 43% lower.

What are the benefits to the environment of running an electric van?

According to the Royal College of Physicians, the Co2 that is produced by our vehicles constitutes about 90% of all emissions in the UK contributing to the death of 40,000 people annually. In addition, diesel particulates can cause health issues such as respiratory changes, nausea, fatigue, lung function changes and nose and eye irritation. This is why we are all heading down the zero emission path and given this sort of evidence, it’s hard to argue against it. Moving our vans over to quiet, efficient, less tiring and cheaper to run electric vehicles is a compelling prospect, and your clients, customers and suppliers may recognise that you are doing your bit to make the air healthier to breathe.