Are electric vans better than diesel for commercial use in 2020?

Are electric vans better than diesel for commercial use in 2020?

Electric vans can be more cost-effective and better for the environment, but they are not without their drawbacks. In 2020, electric vans are expensive, in short supply, and the infrastructure to support them is still not yet universal.

These blockers prevent electric from being a practical choice for many fleets, yet there are some businesses which can benefit from the electrification of their fleet.  

So, what are the factors holding electric vans back for commercial use?


EVs face several blockers

EVs are one of the best solutions in achieving the government’s 2050 net-zero emissions target. As with any new technology, there are still several challenges to overcome before EVs can be a true replacement for combustion engines. 



The high price tag of an EV is still the main blocker. Until there is a breakthrough in EV technology and/or a surge in demand, costs are unlikely to change in a significant way. 


Perception of Range Anxiety

Many drivers still have range anxiety concerns for EVs. Further advancements in EV technology will be needed before drivers will lose the fear of running out of battery.


Charging Anxiety

Charging an EV is still causing headaches for many drivers. EVs will be a more attractive option once they are no longer held back by challenges around charging them. 


Huge Electricity Demands

Widespread adoption of EVs would create an extra demand for power that the UK’s current energy grid cannot support. The upgrades needed would come at significant cost.


Competition with other markets

With a limited supply of electric vehicles being manufactured, there’s a lot of competition for acquiring them. This impacts electric vans in two key ways: 

  1. Batteries are often being used for cars where there is a bigger market for them – and they are easier to sell.
  2. Vehicles are more commonly made in left-hand drive where there is, again, a bigger market for them, driving on the right-hand side of the road. 

The result is that the supply of electric vans for the UK is low, even when compared to the generally limited availability of electric vehicles.

 The countries that use left-hand traffic compared to right-hand traffic.

The countries that use left-hand traffic compared to right-hand traffic - credit

Developments in EV technology and systems could alleviate these blockers


Smart Charging

If everyone charged their EV at the same time, this would create unnecessary pressure on the energy grid.

By having a system to smartly manage when vehicles are charged, we would be able to prevent surges in demand for power. Surges in demand for power is something that puts our national grid under huge strain.

Having battery storage units would assist in making sure that power draw is more spread out and act as an added buffer to help ensure power is available when it is needed. It may even be that large storage batteries could be used to power both our vehicles and our buildings.

With smart charging, the extra power and cost of upgrades needed to support electric vehicle charging could be reduced drastically.


ℹ  Northgate has a growing range of electric vans and vehicles that meet the Euro 6 emissions standards. If you are considering these options for your fleet, why not speak with one of our expert fleet consultants?  > Request a call-back  


Battery Capability 

Electric vehicle batteries are continually being developed to hold bigger charges in lighter storage. The main issue with the current electric vehicles available and their limited range - is not that there isn’t a battery solution which could hold sufficient charge, rather it’s that the size and weight of the battery needed would be too big.

Electric vehicle batteries are already large. Bigger batteries are heavier, so they tend to be less fuel-efficient and are only really suitable for much larger vehicles.  However, battery size is starting to become more standardised with more power cells being packed in – getting the balance right and preventing excess heat is the key.

New iterations of electric vans coming out are continually pushing for lighter batteries with greater storage capability and better battery life.


Investment from Government

Investments and policies that support electrification will impact the speed of widespread EV adoption.

Having a UK Gigafactory to produce batteries could play a crucial role in meeting an increase in demand for electric vehicles.

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) expressed their desire for a UK Gigafactory to be built earlier this year. More recently, the Conservative party included a Gigafactory as part of their manifesto.



Over time, the costs of EVs should come down.

As the cost of producing batteries falls and the volume of sales increases, the prices of EVs will decrease.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that EVs could reach cost parity with the combustion engine as soon as 2025.

If EVs reach cost parity with conventionally fuelled vehicles, a huge surge in EV sales is expected. Any increases in EV sales is likely to further drive down costs.


More needs to be done before there is widespread adoption of electric vans


EVs provide a far greener alternative to conventionally fuelled vehicles in meeting most of our Transport needs. Before the widespread adoption of EVs becomes possible however, there needs to be a significant reduction in their price, better infrastructure to support them, and they need to become more widely available for fleets.

We also have to consider more specialist vehicles where there is a debate on whether battery-electric powertrains can deliver a practical solution – e.g. vans that need power at the roadside for extended periods. Many feel that hydrogen vehicles are a more likely solution. 

And with investment from the government, further incentives to go green, and a review of the current policies for phasing out internal combustion engines, the market can be nudged further in adopting zero-emission vehicles and in a way that is practical for businesses.


How can Northgate help?


If you are considering greener alternatives for your fleet, our fleet consultants can provide expert advice on the options available to you.

We offer a vast range of vehicles that meet the current Euro 6 emissions standards and we also have a growing range of electric vehicles.

Whether you need one or 1000+ business vans, Northgate puts you in the driving seat with flexible or long-term hire options, fleet management services, and expert fleet consultants on hand to help you meet your business needs. 

Contact us today or take a look at our Hire Options for more details.


 Request a call-back

Published: 20/08/2020 15:55

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