Light commercial vehicle (LCV) registrations grew by 8.5% in February this year, delivering the best February performance since 1998, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has revealed.

According to SMMT's latest research on the sector, published today (6 March), the UK new light commercial vehicle (LCV) market grew for the second consecutive month in February, rising by 8.5% to 17,540 units.

SMMT said the rise in registrations marks the best February performance since 1998, the year before the bi-annual plate change was introduced, adding that the increase comes despite February being a traditionally volatile month with small volumes, as operators delay procurements until March and the new number plate.

In contrast deliveries of battery electric vans declined to 966 units, down -44.5%, year on year, which SMMT said was accentuated by "traditionally smaller volumes in the month accentuating natural fluctuations in fleet investment."

With more new BEV models set to hit the market in the coming months, SMMT said growth in the BEV market is expected to resume, with the latest market outlook anticipating electrified van registrations to rise by 64.5% to some 28,000 units this year.

However SMMT warned that long-term growth to meet net zero ambitions is dependent on a strong, flexible market and dedicated infrastructure, which it said "is so far lacking" and called for an acceleration in the roll out of the infrastrucutre for electric van charging, "as an urgent priority."

Registrations of diesel vans weighing greater than 2.5 to 3.5 tonnes rose by 14.0% to reach 12,125 units, more than two thirds of the total market (69.1%), while vans weighing up to and including 2.0 tonnes increased by 5.2%.

Conversely, medium-sized vans weighing greater than 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes fell by -16.5% to 3,361 units, which SMMT said reflects the broader long-term trend towards larger units.

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The smaller volume pickup and 4×4 utility segments both saw double-digit growth, up 42.3% and 90.8% respectively.

According to SMMT's figures, year to date, overall LCV registrations are up by 17.5% on the same period in 2022 and by 5.3% on the first two months of 2020 pre-pandemic.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: "Following a torrid 2022, the UK van market is returning to sustained growth that is exceeding even pre-pandemic levels.

"Given the importance of vans to keeping the British economy and society on the move, this growth is good news.

"With the ZEV market still at a very early stage, however, a concerted effort by all stakeholders to accelerate van-suitable chargepoint installation must become an urgent priority, enabling long-term net zero fleet investment at the scale necessary."