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The UK new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market plunged 27% to 17,566 registrations in the first month of 2022 compared with a bumper January last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

However electric van uptake is set to soar by over 80% this year and will continue to rise over the next two years, according to SMMT’s research.

The decline in overall van registrations follows a record January in 2021 – the best in 31 years - when new models and compelling deals saw registrations reach 24,029 units, up 2.0% even on a pre-pandemic January 2020.

However SMMT said that while this January saw the weakest start to a year since 2013, it noted that the first month of the year has historically been volatile due to the intermittent nature of fleet renewal.

Newly registered small vans, weighing less than or equal to two tonnes, more than halved, down 53.9%, while medium-sized vehicles over 2.5 tonnes, representing two-thirds of the LCV market, fell by 29.8%. Pickup truck sales also declined, by 17.4%, but 4x4s recorded a 196.8% increase, though they remain a fractional segment.

While diesel remained the dominant fuel type for commercial vehicles, with a 94.3% market share, demand for battery-powered vans grew 21.4% with 647 units registered, making up 3.7% of the overall market.

SMMT’s report said electric van uptake is predicted to climb significantly this year as a result of key new model launches, rising by 81.3% to 23,130 units, which would represent 6.4% of the market, compared with 3.6% or 12,759 units in 2021. This would see around one in 16 new vans fully electric in 2022.

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The organisation is also forecasting a 2% growth in the LCV sector in 2022, to 362,620 units, putting the market close to the 365,778 vehicles registered in 2019 and only 3.5% below the sector’s record year of 2016.

Next year is also expected to see this growth continue, according to SMMT research, with 387,420 registrations, overtaking 2019 and even 2016 volumes to set a new market record. Electric van registrations are predicted to rise a further 57.6% next year, to a market share of 9.4%.

However despite the growing demand for electric vans SMMT warned that the government must do more to support buyers wanting to make the switch.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Despite the slow start, the van market is expected to post another strong year.

“While chip shortages, rising inflation and increased energy costs will have an impact, growth is still anticipated given the inexorable rise of home deliveries and broader economic recovery.

“With more battery powered vans coming to market, the demand for these new technologies seen in January is likely to continue across the year.

“With uptake rates still lagging the new car market, which has the same end of sale date, the importance of bringing every lever – purchase incentives, fiscal measures and recharging infrastructure investment – to bear on this critical sector is self-evident.”