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Vote for Volts! Electric vans for your business

Two issues spring to mind when discussion turns to electric vehicles: cost and confidence. Electric vehicles are the future with the government making it clear that the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned from 2030. Second hand sales will continue but for how long? Their owners may also find themselves slapped with ever increasing road tax in a bid to encourage the switch to electric.

Painters and decorators will need to equip their businesses with electric vans but will be concerned about the cost – currently up to twice as expensive to buy as their diesel alternatives – and will be worried about being able to travel the distance for the job before they need to re-charge the battery (they call it ‘range anxiety’) and how long that re-charge will take – hours off the road instead of ten minutes at a filling station?

Well, the situation is not as dire as may first be thought. More and more manufacturers are already producing, or planning to release, electric vans and the science of battery charging, not to mention the number of charging points, is improving all the time.

First, let’s see what help the government is offering.  A grant is available to help towards the cost of buying an electric car or van. Admittedly, the level of this grant aid is now less generous than originally but it still stands at 35% of the purchase price up to a maximum of £3,000. To be eligible the van must be less than 2,500 kilograms gvw, have CO2 emissions less than 50g/km and can travel at least 60km with zero emissions. Government guidance provides a list of small vans currently eligible although this will be updated.

For larger vans up to 3,500 kilograms gvw the emissions data remains the same but the grant available goes up to a maximum of £6,000. A much longer list of eligible vans is currently on the official guidance (see link at end of article).

Government support is also available for equipping your business with its own charging points. You can get a grant of up to £350 for each of your own charging points up to a maximum of 40 such points (clearly aimed at firms with a fleet to run).

Now, what can you expect from your electric van? The average range of electric vehicles currently on the market is just under 200 miles from a full charge. So if your jobs are predominantly in the local area that should not create too much of a burden.

Batteries are stored beneath the floor so causing no reduction in payload space when compared with diesel equivalents. Because they have fewer moving parts than a conventional engine maintenance costs are reduced. Research suggests that basic running costs of an electric van could be 80% less than that for your average diesel; a saving that could run into thousands of pounds a year.

But where the manufacturers and dealers aim most of their arguments to combat the issue of the cost of buying an electric van is on the savings that accrue under the heading of taxation and other charges. Road tax on electric vans is zero and, if you’re working in London, you will be exempt from the Congestion Charge.

The question that remains is how quick can you re-charge the battery? A full charge, depending on the battery and the charger, could take six hours or, in practical terms, overnight. More rapid chargers that can give you an 80% charge in 30 minutes are now available in a growing number of public locations, including motorway service stations. A home or business charge could cost you about a fiver in electricity costs, maybe £7 to £10 for a public charge – compare that with the cost of a full tank of diesel.

Finally, do you buy new, second hand or lease? As the technology evolves the latest models will be the best equipped but also the most costly. Second hand electric vehicles are now coming onto the market but the battery life and re-charging speeds may be less attractive. Leasing specialist Vanarama has added electric vehicles to its portfolio and offers a home/business charging point as part of the lease arrangement.

It’s time to vote for volts and get some electric wheels!

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