Operational restrictions and uncertainties are creating issues for fleets adopting new 4.25 tonne electric vans, according to the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP).
Following a DfT derogation issued in 2019, standard B licence holders, who can normally only drive vans up to 3.5 tonnes, were given the green light to operate electric vans up to 4.25 tonnes, in recognition of the extra weight of the vehicles' batteries. These vehicles are also exempt from operator licence rules.
However, AFP said this week that fleets are finding that a range of other restrictions still apply. Because the van is classed as an HGV, it needs an MOT test after 12 months and is also speed restricted. In addition, tachograph regulations come into effect if the vehicle travels more than 100kms from base.
Another complication is that the 2019 licence derogation lapsed in May and its renewal, whilst likely, has not been officially confirmed.
Fleets operating in Northern Ireland face further complications with the 4.25 tonne exemption stopping at the border for those travelling from the North into the South, requiring the vehicle to be covered by an international operator licence.
AFP chair Paul Hollick said: “The whole 4.25 tonne concept is a sensible one, we believe, meaning that operators who would normally adopt 3.5 tonners can easily use larger electric vans while avoiding the central compromise on payload caused by battery weight. However, the real world experience of fleets is that there are still serious obstacles to clear.
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“In many cases, commercial users of 3.5 tonne vans are engineers of different types who travel across relatively wide areas, so the speed and tachograph restrictions are especially difficult in day-to-day terms while, we believe, adding nothing in terms of safety for a vehicle of this type.
“If the idea of the concession is that fleets can easily choose a 4.25 tonne electric van instead of a 3.5 tonne diesel one, then that is not currently possible. There are just too many additional responsibilities and regulatory uncertainties.”
He added that the AFP will lobby for the rule to be changed, arguing that the present situation serves as a disincentive for fleets looking to acquire larger electric vans.
Hollick said: “As the AFP has detailed in recent months, electric van adoption is generally proving much more difficult for many fleets than electric cars.
"This is especially true given concerns over range and payload, while unnecessary problems such as these 4.25 tonne issues create additional hurdles that are often difficult to resolve.
"We’ll be campaigning for the necessary changes and asking other industry bodies to support our efforts.”