Twelve volt battery technology needs to improve to prevent electric vans’ batteries from going flat when they are not being used - a problem known as “bricking”.

The call comes from the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), which is warning that bricking issues are slowing the adoption of electric vans.

Paul Hollick, APF chair, said that despite widespread publicity, many fleets are still finding their vans have become unuseable, requiring them to be trailored to a dealership to be restarted. 

He explained: “The fundamental problem here is that when an electric van is left unused for a couple of weeks, the 12 volt battery charges down and it becomes impossible to start or recharge the vehicle. There is no choice but to return it to the franchise dealer and even then, it can often take weeks to resolve the problem. 

“We’re even hearing from members who are having electric vans delivered in this state and having to reject them immediately, which is completely unacceptable. It’s unavoidably having an impact on the appetite of some fleets to electrify their vans.

Hollick said the response from manufacturers to this problem has been mixed. “The handful of manufacturers involved – and this affects several models – have been quite different in their responses with some being faster to work towards a solution than others,” he said. 

“Our members generally accept that in adopting electric vans, they are close to the cutting edge of using new technology and some teething issues will occur.

”However, there is a general feeling that the 12 volt battery technology being used lags some distance behind the advances that have made in electric vehicle batteries that have been made in recent years, and a large perceived difference between the extremes of how much work these manufacturers appear to be putting into resolving the issue.” 

Hollick said a number of manufacturers are promising the imminent arrival of revised software that will preserve the 12 volt battery for longer. 

“Some manufacturers are telling us that the new software is in progress and could be here in a matter of weeks or months, while others are much vaguer. The latter aren’t winning many friends among fleet operators. 

“Also, it’s worth underlining that even where a fix is available, we are being told that the bricking problem is still likely to occur, it will just take longer to happen, which again underlines the weakness of the underlying technology.

”However, even if it could be extended to three to four weeks to take users over holiday periods, that would be a definite advantage and improvement in practicality.”

 He added that fleets were having to improvise solutions, with some investing in solar panels to trickle charge the 12 volt battery, but this solution also had limitations. 

“We know of one AFP member that is looking at spending £1m on solar panels, which provides some idea of the scope of the problem.

”This provides a fix but again, even though it potentially substantially lengthens the time taken, the van could still eventually brick. It’s looking more and more likely that this won’t be completely resolved until the next generation of electric vans. Manufacturers need to step up.”