The road to achieving a net zero transport network is far from a straight line. Barriers and roadblocks are arising all the time. When looking at commercial vehicles, this testing landscape becomes even more fraught.

Van fleets are struggling to make the zero-emission transition and the 2030 Phase Out target for internal combustion engine vehicles is at serious risk. Fleet-friendly public charging infrastructure is scarce and operators are struggling to find electric vehicles that can match their diesel counterparts when it comes to cost of ownership, payload or range.

Improvements are materialising but incentives still play a vital role in supporting the move to zero-emission vans. That is why the recent extension to the Plug-in Van Grant is a positive step. In extending the number of vehicles a single ‘end user’ can order with the grant in a year, the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) has shown that the government is listening to the concerns of this sector.

While the extension will be welcome news to the largest fleet operators, it is not a silver bullet. Many of the barriers to adopting electric LCVs are felt most strongly by SMEs and sole traders. They will be unaffected by the extension to the grant, while still having to justify a closing TCO gap as soaring energy prices eat into the cost benefits that electric vehicles have held over ICE for years.

At a time when demand for electric vans needs to ramp up to meet Phase Out targets, vehicle suitability and choice, alongside running costs and charging possibilities are putting the brakes on.

The BVRLA continues to campaign on this topic and is in regular contact with OZEV and other bodies to share the concerns of van operators and drivers. We have a raft of research projects, such as our Fleet Charging Guide and Road to Zero Report Card, that shine a light on these concerns and offer up tangible solutions. Those reports quantify the sector’s challenges and arm us with the tools we need to support government in making decisions that benefit van operators of all shapes and sizes.

An example of where this has led to genuine change is the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate. Coming into force next year, the ZEV Mandate will encourage manufacturers to produce more affordable and capable electric vans. The current concerns over the number of suitable electric vans in the UK market have been considered as part of the mandate’s development. The initial annual targets overlooked the lack of suitable options available in the UK. With the BVRLA’s input, policy makers have changed the timings and key milestones to better match when more capable electric vans are due to be launched.

This will help to address issues around supply.

Greater choice in the market should see more use cases met and allow prices to come down. In the meantime, we need to see a huge effort in rolling out a more affordable, reliable and accessible van fleet-friendly charging infrastructure. We need a new Electric Van Plan.

Gerry Keaney, BVRLA chief executive