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Time for green LCVs to take centre stage

11 January 2024 #TNB News

Twenty-one was the magic number for Britain’s new light commercial vehicle market in 2023 as SMMT’s latest figures show an extra 21.0% more of such vehicles were registered across the year compared with 2022 – that growth being reflected symmetrically by battery electric vehicles (BEV) uptake, which also rose 21.0% to reach record volumes. Positive growth indeed, but aspiration must be even higher in 2024.

The very greenest vans are now required to make up 10% of manufacturers sales in the UK this year. The sector can supply these highly competitive vehicles at the required volumes. But questions remain as to whether fleets are ready to make the switch, given Britain’s ongoing challenge of rolling out enough chargepoint infrastructure to meet the specific needs of van operators.

The overall van market is strong, with some 341,455 vehicles registered in 2023 – an additional 59,316 LCVs of all types and sizes joining our roads compared with the year before. That represents an extra £2 billion spend by companies that carry out a broad range of hugely important roles in the British economy, from local tradespeople to some of the world’s biggest retailers, and the online delivery services that we all increasingly depend on.

A record volume of BEV uptake meant that 20,253 of these latest vehicles are now in our towns and cities, made up by some 28 different models. In all, BEVs represented 5.9% of the market – so some ground to go to hit the 10% required for this year. There is no time to waste.

With LCVs being a business tool, downtime is not an option, and so confidence is needed in the charging infrastructure. Government’s Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure funding is making a difference, while BT Group’s innovative plan to repurpose its green street cabinets is positive. A bigger BEV market will only encourage more private providers to invest in charging infrastructure.

Smarter legislation can drive uptake, too, and it is crucial that the Plug-in Van Grant remains in place for the long term, given the highly ambitious targets that have been set for the sector. At the same time, driving licence derogations for electric vans weighing more than 4.25 tonnes would open up zero emission mobility to more operators – representing an easy win for government during what will be a busy election year.

Looking abroad this week, the Consumer Electronics Show has been taking place in Las Vegas, with a number of new van market disruptors showcasing their products over the last few days. For the van sector, 2024 must be the year that zero emission models take centre stage, not just with manufacturers but among all stakeholders, in order to deliver the change that is needed.

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