The Government’s £8000 electric vehicle grant has arrived, with the first six eligible vehicles reveled by the DfT. James Dallas finds out more

The Government has revealed the first six electric vans to qualify for its Plug-in Van Grant, which knocks 20% off the vehicle’s new list price, up to a maximum of £8000.

They are Mercedes‘ Vito E-Cell, Italian firm Faam’s Ecomille and Jolly 2000, Mia Electric’s Mia U, Renault‘s Kangoo ZE and the Smith Electric 3.5-tonne Smith Edison.

At an event held in central London last month, transport secretary Justine Greening said: “Climate change is a global challenge we have to meet head on – it cannot be ignored or sidestepped.”

She said a small electric van would typically save £100 in fuel costs over every 1000 miles driven compared with an equivalent diesel model.

Greening stated that many commercial vehicles were well-suited to plug-in technology due to their predictable routes, frequent stops and the fact that the vans could be returned to base for re-charging overnight. Despite this, the Government did not introduce the Plug-in Van Grant until 12 months after it brought in a similar incentive of £5000 for passenger cars.

She told BusinessCar’s sister title What Van?: “We were still learning the policy. The car market was more focused in terms of options. There are now more viable [van] choices for businesses.”

Business minister Mark Prisk was also at the event. He said: “Vans are essential to the smooth running of many businesses and contribute enormously to the UK economy. An upfront purchase grant, when combined with lower running costs and tax benefits, can make switching to an ultra-low carbon van an attractive choice.”

However, Prisk was coy when it came to predicting the number of electric van sales the grant would stimulate, saying it was “too early to judge take-up”.

To be eligible for the grant, vans must emit less than 75g/km CO2, be capable of at least 60 miles between charges (10 miles in electric mode for hybrids), have a top speed of at least 50mph for safety purposes and meet European Type Approval standards.

The move has predictably been welcomed by manufacturers.

“Schemes like this help businesses to do their bit – and to join us in working hard to lower vehicle emissions,” says Steve Bridge, van sales and marketing director for Mercedes-Benz UK.

“These incentive schemes are absolutely vital if UK motorists are going to be encouraged to make the switch to zero-emission mobility,” adds Mia Electric’s head of UK sales, Richard Deslandes. “Our vehicles are designed specifically for inner-city environments, and commercial vehicles account for a significant proportion of traffic in urban areas.”

Smith Electric Vehicles Europe was another welcoming the boost to the EV industry. “This grant will help our fleet customers to achieve a faster return on investment, making the economic case for electric vans as compelling as the environmental case,” comments MD Geoff Allison.

The Government claims there are more than 2500 EV chargepoints in the UK, of which 765 have been delivered through its Plugged-in Places scheme and the remainder through private sector investment. It adds that private sector organisations are committed to creating a further 4000 points by the end of 2012.