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Shaun Sadlier's blog: The truth about the number of alternatively-fuelled vans

Date: 30 November 2017

The amount of coverage given in the media to Tesla's new truck, the Semi, over the last week or so, might suggest to the general public that we are on the brink of a revolution in alternative fuel commercial vehicles. However, impressive as its unveiling may have been in some respects, its technology is a world away from the operational choices facing UK fleets today, especially those running vans.

The truth is that the number of alternative fuel vans available to use today or in the near future is tiny. You can count them on your fingers. There is the Nissan EV200 and Renault Kangoo ZE already here, with the Renault Master ZE and Volkswagen eCrafter on their way. Oh, and Ford is soon to trial some hybrid versions of the Transit Connect.

Why is the situation so poor, especially compared to the flood of alternative fuel cars reaching the market in the next few years? Simply, vans do not lend themselves to current alternative fuel technology. The additional weight of components like batteries eat into payload while range is an issue that is difficult to solve for vehicles that are often worked continually.

What this means in at least the medium term is this - there are few alternatives to diesel for fleets running vans, so fleets will continue to run diesel vans because of a lack of viable options. This situation suggests that businesses will therefore have to continue to push down emissions using management techniques that have been successful over many years.

This means acquiring the latest diesel vans that have the best emissions performance, opting for models that are rightsized for their purpose, ensuring that employees drive them responsibly, that they are well-maintained and that the best route planning tools are used to minimise journeys.

None of these strategies are revolutionary but they will all have a genuine impact on air quality while we wait for LCV technology to catch up with cars. Until that moment, old school fleet management is going to be what keeps driving van emissions lower.



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