The UK new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market grew for the eighth consecutive month in August, despite it tending to be a smaller volume month ahead of the September plate change, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed.

However, whilst the sale of electric vans grew during the month, SMMT's latest figures reveal that diesel vans still made up more than nine out of ten registrations of new vans, prompting calls for more action from government to speed up the transition to clean energy.

According to SMMT, the LCV market in August rose by 5.0% to 16,303 units in August. The market for medium-sized vans, weighing greater than 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes, drove growth in the month, surging 72.1% to 2,718 units, with 4x4s and pickups also proving popular, rising by 163.9% and 22.3% respectively to a combined 1,693 units.

However, registrations of the largest LCVs - those weighing greater than 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes - decreased, falling by 5.1% to 11,549 units, although they still represented the majority (70.8%) of all new van deliveries. Registrations of vans weighing up to and including 2.0 tonnes also fell, down by 30.4% to 343 units.

Battery electric van registrations grew 18.9% to 1,122 units to take a 6.9% market share in August, with 11,414 zero emission electric vans registered so far this year, up 16.4% on the same period in 2022. SMMT said the rise was due to more businesses switching on to the benefits the vans offer in terms of competitive running costs and zero emissions at the tailpipe.

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Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "Another month of growth for new van sales is good news and a sign that the market is well on the way to recovery.

"That more operators are choosing electric models is also positive, given the massive investments made by van makers into these vehicles, including at plants in the UK.

"Diesel models, however, still make up more than nine in ten registrations, proof of how far the market must move if it is to decarbonise. With an end of sale dates and a ZEV mandate looming, we must pull every lever to deliver the transition."

Commenting on the SMMT’s August’s vehicle registration figures, Jon Lawes, managing director at Novuna Vehicle Solutions, added: “The priority now is for the government to provide clarity on the ZEV mandate, to avoid stalling investment in charging infrastructure, and mitigate against potential supply issues if manufacturers impose caps on non-EVs into the UK which could affect the wider economy, as consumers and the industry grapples with continued uncertainty.

“There is real support for the mandate across the industry, however the challenge is in the detail and with 2024 just around the corner, timing is everything.”

The Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate is set to come into force in 2024. The mandate is designed to push manufacturers into increasing their zero-emission vehicle sales in the build up to the 2030 ban on the sale of most petrol and diesel cars. However the government has recently confirmed the mandate will be put to a parliamentary vote, which could see the deadline pushed back.

Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) welcomed the continued growth in new LCV market but called for government incentives for companies investing in electric vans.

She said: “While it is encouraging to see growth in BEV light commercials for August, it is still disappointing to see the overall market share of 5.4% year-to-date remains 0.1% lower than this point last year.

"It is time Government realized that it is a significant cost to purchase any new light commercial, particularly an EV van, when there are proven and reliable diesel options available at far lower prices.

"Running an LCV is a business decision, and one which will need financial incentives from Government to initiate a more radical shift in consumer uptake towards electric light commercial.”