Five things you need to know before buying an electric van

Five things you need to know before buying an electric van

Electric vans are increasing in popularity, but should you buy one for your business? Sarah Tooze from Desperate Seller reveals the top five things every builder needs to check before going electric.

Electric vans are more expensive to buy than their diesel counterparts but they offer significant long-term savings when it comes to fuel, tax, and maintenance costs.

Electric vans are easier to drive and more refined than their diesel rivals, which means they tend to be more comfortable over a long journey. The latest crop of electric cargo carriers from Ford, Vauxhall and Peugeot will also deliver heavy-duty load carrying capacity that will easily match the latest diesel panel vans.

However, before you ditch your diesel, there are some important things you should be aware of. Sarah Tooze, editor at the online van marketplace Desperate Seller, reveals the top five things you need to know before joining the electric revolution.


Work out your mileage


How many miles do you drive a week? Does your daily commute involve long motorway trips or are you a local builder who covers lots of short journeys?

Before you set foot in a van showroom, you’ll need to work out what your daily and weekly mileage is (then add 20% to cover those unexpected trips to the builders’ merchant). Once you have an idea of your mileage, you can start shortlisting vans.

The Ford E-Transit will cover between 166 and 196 miles on a full charge, while the Vauxhall Vivaro-E is advertised with a maximum range of 205 miles. It’s important to note the real world range may be slightly lower than the advised figure as things like air conditioning and heating will require extra power from the van’s EV battery.


Do the maths

An electric van could save your business thousands every year. Charging the 75kWh version of the Vivaro-E will cost £21 (at 28p/kwh) and give you around 200 miles of range. A diesel van that returns 47mpg will cost at least £37 to fill (at 191p-per-litre) and you could save even more if you charge your van at home on an overnight tariff.

Electric vans are more expensive to buy than their diesel rivals, however. The Vivaro-E, for example, is around £5000 dearer than the standard diesel model. But road tax is free and electric vans also have fewer moving parts than diesel vehicles, which means maintenance and servicing costs tend to be lower. Many supermarkets and public car parks will let you charge your van for free. Electric vans are also exempt from clean air zone charges, like the London ULEZ.


Take charge

Obviously, if you buy an electric van, you’ll need somewhere to charge it. And a home charger is the cheapest and most convenient way for your business to operate an electric van.

Charging your van via a three-pint plug will take all day, so invest in a home wallbox if you have a driveway as this will cut the charging time to seven hours.

There are more than 33,000 public EV charging points in the UK, and more are being added to this figure every day. Some public charging stations are free to use. Rapid charging is the most expensive way to charge your van but is useful if you get caught short, boosting your battery from 10% to 80% in around 30 minutes.


Check your weight

Payload capacity and loadspace is generally the same as diesel and petrol vans but electric vehicles tend to have lower towing capacities than their diesel counterparts. The Vivaro-E, for example, will tow a braked trailer up to 1,000kg – so always check the spec if you need your electric vehicle to tow heavy tools or equipment.

The Government changed licensing laws in 2018 to make it easier for people to drive electric vans. This means you can operate an electric van weighing up to 4,250kg with a standard driving licence (instead of the 3,500kg you’d normally be limited to with a petrol or diesel vehicle).


Take a test drive

Have you ever driven an electric van before? If you haven’t, you’ll probably find the experience a little strange at first because electric vans are silent and don’t have a manual gearbox.

Electric vans also use regenerative braking, which recovers energy to top up the battery when you slow down. This means the van will lose speed when you lift your foot off of the accelerator much quicker than a standard diesel vehicle. As a result, we’d recommend taking an electric van for a lengthy test drive so you can see if it is something you feel comfortable with.

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