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Van operators forecast wider EV adoption within two years

When asked about their “Anticipated change in fuel type over the next two years?” 34% of fleets questioned said they plan to operate more fully electric commercial vehicles. Almost as many (29%) said they would be using more electric range extenders.

There is also a high level of support for hybrid power (22%), hydrogen (16%) and even natural gas (11%). These figures compare with relatively low numbers forecasting a rise in conventional fuels, with just 4% backing both petrol and diesel.

This result could suggest there is faith in fuel cell development or positive anticipation of hydrogen technology. 

Commenting on the findings, Simon Cook, fleet LCV leader at GE Capital UK, said: “The first thing to bear in mind about these figures is that they do not suggest that a third of new LCVs will be electric in two years. Instead, they indicate that around a third of fleets believe they will have more presence on fleets.

“However, even with this caveat, we believe that this research probably represents an aspiration more than a likely reality. While we are starting to see electric vans appear in small numbers of fleets, sales for 2014 were still in the hundreds compared to an overall new LCV market that comfortably beat 300,000 units.

“To move from today’s position to that indicated in the survey over a two year timescale seems extremely unlikely. However, what is probably true is that more and more fleets are taking an interest in a wide range of alternative fuels and are keen to try them out in an operational sense to see which work for them and in which applications.”

Mr Cook added that the Company Van Trends research also provided impetus for manufacturers who were producing alternatively fuelled LCVs. The research indicates a widespread curiosity about these technologies and that operators expect this interest to lead to more sales.

He said: “Life has been quite tough for electric van manufacturers so far. Market penetration in the UK has been very low. However, what our research suggests is that the situation will improve over time and that more LCV fleets will give the technology a chance in the medium term.”

Mr Cook said that the key factors behind operator interest in alternatively fuelled vans was rooted in factors such as avoiding the London Congestion Charge, as well as a desire to reduce CO2 and other emissions from a corporate point of view. However, considerations such as range and reliability remained a major concern with no step change solutions in sight.

“All of the alternative fuels mentioned in the survey potentially promise huge reductions in CO2 and other emissions compared to petrol and diesel, as well as lower day-to-day running costs. There remain several often-unavoidable practical limitations such as EV range,” he added.

“Commercial vehicle operators are essentially conservative and are driven by the need to keep vehicles on the road and costs contained. New technologies such as these will always take a long time to make a real impact on the market."

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Katie Beck

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