Britain’s van market has grown for the eleventh month but electric van sales have fallen, prompting the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) to call for government action to help boost EV registrations.

Lorries travelling on the A1/M motorway near Leeds Yorkshire UK


The new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market grew by 12.7% in November as 27,433 vans, pickups and 4x4s joined Britain’s fleets, according to the latest figures published today (5 December) by the SMMT. However BEV registrations stumbled for the second consecutive month.

The increase in diesel LCV registrations represents a 4.6% increase on pre-pandemic 2019 levels and represents almost a year of rising demand, totalling 311,754 units in 11 months – the largest volume for two years as availability continues to pick up.

The greatest volume growth was delivered via medium-sized vans, more than doubling by 161.1% to 4,554 units, according to SMMT, while rising registrations of 4x4s and pickups continued, up 6.5% and 14.9% respectively to 589 units and 3,783 units.

New LCV buyers continued to show preference for payload and fuel efficiencies, however, with the largest van models – those weighing greater than 2.5 tonnes to 3.5 tonnes – representing 18,070 units and 65.9% of the market, albeit -1.6% units fewer than in November last year.Small van registrations, meanwhile, grew 10.4% to 437 units.

Battery electric van (BEV) registrations fell in November, the second month in a row, as 1,631 units were registered – some 343 fewer than in November last year. However SMMT noted that the broader trend is positive with BEV registrations up 15.0% since January.

The research also showed that 17,289 BEVs have joined UK roads in 2023, accounting for almost one in 18 new vans registered across the year. SMMT warned that the recent stall in demand underscores the importance of measures that encourage van operators to invest in the benefits that zero emission technology offers, from lower CO2 emissions to increased performance, and potentially lower running costs.

The Society called for the government to make it a priority to take swift action to delay tough Rules of Origin requirements that will place tariffs on BEVs traded across the Channel from 1 January which could potentially reducing choice and affordability.

Announcing these latest statistics on van registrations, SMMT said: ”With four in five (83.6%) BEVs registered this year originating in the EU, and the UK increasing its BEV exports, the new rules pose a clear threat to the transition, just as new regulation mandating the sale of these vehicles comes into effect. Operator confidence must also be safeguarded by accelerating public chargepoint rollout with a national delivery plan that considers the specific needs of larger vans.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, added: ”An eleventh month of growth in Britain’s van sector is hugely positive, especially given fleet renewal is key to decarbonisation. It is crucial that operator demand also translates to zero emission van uptake, driving down CO2 emissions to meet Britain’s ambitious environmental targets. These are severely threatened by Rules of Origin requirements due in less than four weeks’ time, so it is essential that a pragmatic solution is found, and fast.”