It’s time for white vans to go green

Not that long ago, there were hardly any electric light commercial vehicles on the market. Today, almost all LCVs have an electric variant. Nevertheless, not all fleet managers are eager to accept the EV powertrain for their LCV fleet.

“They’re too expensive!” “Their range is too limited.” “They can’t carry enough payload.” “We can’t charge them in our warehouse.” These are just some of the reasons fleet operators cite when asked why they don’t want to add electric vans to their fleets. In some cases, these reactions may be justified. In most, however, they’re not.

Market conditions have changed dramatically over the last few years as most LCV manufacturers have introduced – or are planning to introduce – electric versions of existing vans. Some dedicated electric LCVs are also entering the fray. Looking at the total cost of ownership over these vehicles’ entire lifespan, their business case is a no brainer.


Low Emission Zones in Europe at the start of 2020 (source: LeasePlan, based on data from


Most e-LCVs have a range of around 160km with some manufacturers even claiming a range of up to 300km or more. This average range means e-LCVs usually have sufficient range to be able to complete a typical day’s deliveries or trips without the need to be recharged.

Do keep in mind that, as is the case with all electric vehicles, range suffers in cold conditions. Similarly, switching on the air conditioning will deplete the batteries faster in summer temperatures.

Mind the 3.5 tonnes

Batteries are heavy. Adding more batteries to increase range adds weight and leaves less capacity for payload and therefore less cargo that a driver can carry within the 3.5-tonne weight limit. A vehicle with a higher maximum gross vehicle weight isn’t within the scope of the standard driving licence in most European countries.

In many European countries, however, governments have responded to this in a process of alternative fuel payload derogation, allowing standard licence holders to drive e-LCVs weighing up to 4.25 tonnes. This measure enables e-LCVs to match a diesel equivalent in terms of payload.

Smart charging

If you have a larger fleet, your electrical set-up may not be able to cope with peak demand of all vehicles charging at the same time. And even if it is, your local grid may not be. That’s where smart charging comes in. Drivers that return their vans to base at the end of their day can plug the vehicle in a charger which is connected to a system that ensures all vehicles are charged by the start of the next day. But not all at once.

Smart charging solutions can also use vehicle batteries to balance the local grid by sending power back into it. Not only does this make sense from a technical point of view, it also helps keep operational costs down by providing additional income.

Route planning optimisation

More than is the case in diesel vehicles, range will suffer if drivers accelerate too fast. Fitting e-LCVs with telematics can prevent that, with the automatic additional benefit of increased safety. Telematics can also help with route and charging planning. Also see article on page 46 on telematics.

LEZ go

As of 2019, there are around 300 Low Emission Zones in Europe and the number is growing. Unfortunately, each city has its own definition, which is also prone to change, becoming stricter and banning more vehicles over time. There’s one constant, though: electrified vehicles always get the green light.

This ties in perfectly with the kind of driving electrified vans were made for: they are ideally suited to cover short distances and provided last-mile delivery services. That’s often the case in urban areas, so an electrified urban fleet can guarantee a company’s mobility.

Less tiring

Electric vehicles don’t have a clutch which means they are less tiring for the driver on congested roads,which also increases safety. It’s also part of what makes the running costs for such vehicles lower over the total lifecycle of the vehicle.


The pressure on businesses to reduce emissions and lower their carbon footprint is increasing. Depending on where an EV’s battery is produced and where the EV is driven – and how the electricity generated to charge its batteries is produced – EVs have a smaller carbon footprint than ICE vehicles over their entire vehicle lifecycle.

Particularly combined with renewable energy and the ability to deliver electricity back to the power grid, this makes a strong case for e-LCVs.

Lightweight racking

An electric van’s range goes down if it is carrying heavier cargo. One way to keep weight down, is fitting racking that is more lightweight.

Modul-System has developed a racking system that uses ultra-high strength steel, which helps increase load capacity, lower fuel consumption and reduce emissions.

It is also important to avoid damaging the vehicle’s battery and wiring system underneath the cargo floor by attaching racking accessories with glue rather than by drilling into the floor.

Authored by: Benjamin Uyttebroeck, Fleet Europe

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