Features & Interviews

Vans: together in electric dreams

19 August 2021 #Features & Interviews

Electric vans are becoming increasingly important as the government, towns and cities attempt to meet their carbon emissions targets – as well as preparing for the end of sale of new pure fossil fuel vans from 2030.

A large number of new vehicles are currently being introduced from manufacturers keen to meet growing customer demand for these vehicles, either pure electric, hybrid or hydrogen.

Pure Electric

Ford has announced that the first European customer trials of its new E-Transit are to begin in late summer this year ahead of its launch in spring 2022.

Van and chassis cab variants will operate in real-world conditions in the supermarket, home delivery, postal services and utilities sectors across the UK, Germany and Norway with conversions including interior racking, refrigerated bodies, box vans and dropsides.

The E-Transit’s powertrain delivers up to 200kW of power for a range of up to 217 miles, and Ford expects service cost of ownership to be about 40% lower compared with internal combustion engine-equipped models, as a result of lower maintenance expenses.

A ProPower Onboard system delivers up to 2.3kW through standard plugs to power conversions and equipment in the cab and load area. Anticipated payload is up to 1,616kg for vans and up to 1,967kg for chassis cab models.

European E-Transit customers will be offered a choice of body, length, roof height and Gross Vehicle Mass options from launch.

Andrew Mottram, E-Transit chief programme engineer, Commercial Vehicles, Ford of Europe said: “Real-world trials are an important step on our journey to deliver the all-electric E Transit and will give us an even better understanding of how to help customers across different industries enhance their productivity using zero-emission power.”

This year has also seen the launch of new electric vans that share a common platform – the Vauxhall Movano-e, Fiat e-Ducato, Peugeot e-Boxer and Citroen e-Relay.

The Movano-e will arrive in the UK later this year, available as a panel van, crew cab and chassis cab, with seating for up to seven.

Featuring a 90kW (122PS) and 260Nm electric motor, it includes a choice of either a 37kWh or 70kWh battery, with ranges of 72 miles and 139 miles respectively.

Its lithium-ion battery is mounted under the floor between the front and rear axle, so as not to compromise in load volume compared to the diesel-engined model.

This positioning of the battery also results in a low centre of gravity, improving cornering and stability even when fully loaded.

Paul Wilcox, managing director, Vauxhall, said: “Crucially, with the introduction of All-New Movano-e, Vauxhall is now one of very few brands offering an electric variant across its entire LCV range, giving buyers the choice to go fully electric to suit the needs of their business and benefit from the environmental, ownership cost and user experience benefits they offer.”

While UK sales of the current Mercedes-Benz eSprinter started in late 2020, the manufacturer has already announced plans for the next-generation model using a new rear-wheel drive Electric Versatility Platform for greater performance and flexibility.

It says splitting the electric components across three modules and coming with three battery sizes will allow the future eSprinter to be offered in a choice of body types, including chassis cabs, minibuses and ambulances.


LEVC has now begun production of its new VN5 van, based on the same architecture and eCity range-extender technology as its TX electric London taxi.

The Coventry-built van was launched in the UK last November and since last month has been exported to countries across Europe.

Royal Mail, Kier, DPD and BT Group are all trialling the vehicle which also comes with the same electric powertrain with a pure EV range of about 70 miles and a total flexible range of more than 400 miles.

It can charge its depleted battery to almost full in 20 minutes via a rapid charger, in two hours with a fast charger and in eight to 10 hours on a trickle charger.

Joerg Hofmann, CEO of LEVC, said: “VN5 sets new green mobility standards in the industry and establishes a new and highly desirable electric van segment.”


Stellantis has announced it will offer a series of hydrogen plug-in hybrid vans in the UK from 2022 based on its existing Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Vivaro models.

The new zero-emission models are being hailed as the solution for fleets that need more range and faster refill times than is currently available from its current range of electric vans.

According to Stellantis, its new hydrogen-fuelled hybrid vans will be able to store 4.4kg of liquid hydrogen in chassis-mounted tanks, while a rechargeable 10.5kWh battery contributes to a total range of 250 miles.

The hydrogen tank can be refilled in just three minutes and the battery can provide a range of 30 miles on its own when fully charged, which takes about an hour.

Its hydrogen fuel cell is integrated under the bonnet and its hydrogen tanks are placed under the floor where the battery would usually be on electric models. This means there is no impact on the available cargo space or payload.

When driving, electricity supplied by the fuel cell powers the electric motor. The battery is used at low speeds and to boost acceleration, and a recuperation system feeds waste energy back into the battery.

Harald Wester, head of Stellantis engineering, said: “As we look further into the future, hydrogen fuel cells show great promise – especially for light commercial vehicles – as the next level of zero emission propulsion technology.

“The technology will fulfil customer range expectations combined with towing and payload capacity.”


UK-based Arrival is a new player in the electric van market, with plans for a public trial of its vehicle this summer and full production beginning in 2022.

The vehicle uses composite panels and aluminium, with four battery sizes meaning payload of up 1,975kg and driving range up to 211 miles per charge.

Meanwhile, the old Morris Commercial brand has been revived and there are plans to put its retro-looking but high-tech medium-size electric van with a 60kWh battery into production this year.

The company has been testing prototypes of the carbon fibre-bodied vehicle since 2017.

As a result, the choice and variety of electric vans continues to grow, providing more operators with opportunities to make the switch to zero-emission motoring.

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