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Converting to a greener UK van sector

03 August 2023 #TNB News

While British households are more dependent than ever on home deliveries from supermarkets to online retailers, few may be aware of the van conversion industry’s critical role of making sure that their regular dispatches arrive on their doorstep.

Most vans on UK roads leave the factory in the form of a chassis, before being delivered to converters that will then add the frame, wheels and cab – the things that make vans instantly recognisable to the public – according to the varied needs of a wide range of fleet operators.

The conversion sector is also critical to decarbonising the van sector, with many converters looking to upgrade their workshops, equipment and components, and upskill their workforce ready for the latest electric vehicle technology, from battery packs, to onboard chargers and cabling.

It’s important then that SMMT recently held its latest event, Meet the Van Converter, bringing together major van manufacturers and converters to discuss their business needs and opportunities for collaboration that will ultimately deliver long-term success.

What success will look like is constantly evolving in the light of the sector’s net zero commitment – nowhere more so than the workforce, with technicians required to upskill in the latest technology. More than 8,000 new battery electric vans joined Britain’s roads in the first half of 2023, so there is no time to delay.

The transition was the centre of attention in the BBC’s recent documentary Electric Cars: What They Really Mean For You, which featured an interview with SMMT about the importance of making sure that Britain is a globally competitive location for manufacturing investment. There have been key steps in the right direction this year, including the announcement of a new gigafactory for Somerset, and an electric van plant that will launch in the North West later this year. Almost every component needed to produce an EV is already made in the UK, and measures that help to scale up our domestic supply chain must be the number one priority.

After all, the achievement of Britain’s green targets necessarily involves a broad range of actors, with every cog in the wheel playing an essential role. The industry must continue to collaborate and think innovatively – positively, these are two areas in which the UK has traditionally excelled, putting us in a strong position to succeed in the years to come.

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