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Five out of five for Britain’s new van sector

08 June 2023 #TNB News

Whether it’s five months of rising new van registrations, or the growing zero emission van market, the light commercial vehicle sector (LCV) is showing clear signs of progress in 2023. And with some 25 electric van models currently available for Britain’s fleet operators to choose from, there are a wealth of options and customisations to keep businesses on the move in the transition to decarbonised road transport.

The detail is interesting and hints towards the next steps that are needed: SMMT’s latest figures that cover May show the UK’s number of newly registered vans grew by 15.3%, to 25,359 units. Registrations of the largest vans, weighing greater than 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes, rose by 8.3% to 17,173 units, representing nearly seven in 10 (67.7%) new vans, while deliveries of medium-sized vans weighing more than 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes reached 4,143 units, up 57.2%. Evidently, fleet operators continue to opt for models with larger payloads, and demand for small vans at or below 2.0 tonnes continues to slow, declining by -42.3%.

Meanwhile, the number of newly registered pickups and 4x4s increased by 13.3% and 698.7% respectively, and while the volumes remain small in comparison with vans, it’s proof that a diverse range of LCVs is critical to keeping Britain on the move – with high-performing zero emission models in every segment.

Demand for battery electric vans (BEVs) is reaching new highs, up 15.5%, with 24,000 of these latest vehicles set to join Britain’s roads this year – but despite the advancement following key commitments from manufacturers and operators, uptake remains some distance behind the battery electric car market, where the market share is three times greater.

Given that larger vans are becoming more important to van operations, LCV-dedicated public charging infrastructure is all the more necessary, as charging bays that are designed for cars are not guaranteed to be suitable for larger sized vehicles and battery demands. Charging anxiety is the greatest barrier to increased BEV fleet renewal.

It is so important that the UK plans ahead to deliver the green LCV transition, and many solutions are shared with the car sector, such as simplified planning processes for public chargepoint installations, speedier grid connections, and a comprehensive network of reliable, affordable and suitable chargepoints. Regulated infrastructure targets that match new vehicle registration targets that will be set by the forthcoming Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate, meanwhile, would guarantee that Britain’s wide range of BEVs can meet the business-specific needs of operators. It’s clear that car sector investment is on the way, and the van sector must not be left behind, else it will hold back the UK’s wider green goals.

Just as the van and car sectors have shared solutions, so does the UK with its European neighbours, and last week I attended the International Association of the Body and Trailer Building Industry (CLCCR) Board of Directors meeting in Berlin, where SMMT holds a seat to represent the UK.

CLCCR is one example of how SMMT represents the interests of its members and the wider UK industry at international level, as well as, for example, engaging with the European Commission and UNECE in Geneva. SMMT members have a key role in shaping the UK’s position in international regulatory forums affecting commercial vehicles, heavy trailers and buses and coaches – an important benefit of becoming an SMMT member.

A range of topics were discussed in Berlin, including plans for targets to reduce trailer emissions via the Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool (VECTO), which manufacturers will be required to use in future to confirm the likes of body dimensions, tire parameters, weights and more. CLCCR has produced a short film that explains the CO2 certification for trailers but, as always, SMMT is here to help its members to navigate what is a rapidly changing business environment.

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