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Sending the right signals for zero emission van uptake

09 November 2023 #TNB News

2023 continues to be a buoyant year for the UK new light commercial vehicle market (LCV), which has now enjoyed 10 consecutive months of growth – with October seeing 26,342 of the very latest vans joining the UK’s roads. That’s 3.7% above pre-pandemic 2019 levels, reflecting a clear appetite for fleets to fit out with the latest vans, putting more of the latest, fuel efficient models on UK roads.

After a bumper September for new battery electric van (BEV) uptake, demand was slower in October, falling by a fifth (-20.2%). While this suggests long-term growth is precarious, and ought to be a concern for long-term policy planners with the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate less than nine weeks away, it should be seen within the context of October 2022, which saw some specific significant fleet investments.

Positively, however, the LCV outlook for 2023 has been revised upwards to 332,000 units, a 1.2% rise on July’s outlook, and 2024 is expected to see 334,000 new van registrations – including 34,000 BEVs, exceeding 10% of the overall market.

In large part due to significant investments by van manufacturers in the UK and abroad, more than 25 zero emission van models are now on the market, providing a breadth of payloads, ranges and specs to meet operator needs. But this commitment from industry must be matched with a constructive, ambitious Autumn Statement later this month. Government has a key opportunity to send a message that now is a good time for van buyers to switch to electric.

In particular, committing to retain existing incentives and beneficial tax frameworks for BEV buyers will give a positive signal. Looking further ahead to mass adoption, it is essential to address the paucity of public chargepoints, with more needed in all regions of the UK to park and charge vans of all types and sizes.

Another barrier is the number of drivers that are qualified to drive electric vans, and last week SMMT hosted an online meeting with the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles for members to hear about the forthcoming derogations for LCVs weighing more than 4.25 tonnes. The changes will provide an opportunity to unblock the market for these vehicles and make it easier for fleets to invest in the largest BEV vans, accelerating decarbonisation and improving air quality in every region of the UK.

With a busy parliamentary schedule potentially on the horizon next year, it is essential the legislation is on government’s priority list for the sector, gaining Royal Assent sooner rather than later.

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