The UK has experienced a significant increase in demand for electric vehicles in recent years with new registrations of plug-in cars surging from 3,500 in 2013 to over 80,000 in December 2016, according to SMMT figures.

On the other hand, EV take-up among van operators has been slow in comparison, with only 5,000 live registrations for plug-in vans. So, why are the majority of light commercial fleets reluctant to make the switch to electric, despite a record-breaking 29,784 new vans being registered in November 2016?

Research recently revealed more than half of fleet managers had little to no knowledge of specific details relating to the Government grants available, choice of vehicles on the market, recharging networks or SMR savings for EVs.

Despite the limited choice of electric vans available, the class-leading Nissan e-NV200 offers some impressive features. It has a range of up to 106 miles and can be fully charged in 8 hours overnight using a home charging unit, or 4 hours with the optional on-board charger.

If range anxiety is an issue on long distance journeys, drivers have access to 964 rapid public charging devices, available at 693 locations nationwide, providing up to 80% battery charge in just 30 minutes. 95% of the UK’s motorway services provide these facilities, offering the convenience of a top-up charge, en route to your destination.

The prohibitively high costof acquiring EVs, compared with their diesel and petrol counterparts, has been overcome by the Government’s plug-in grant scheme, offering 20% of the cost of an EV, up to a maximum of £8,000. The cost of leasing an electric van is also favourable, starting from less than £280 per month for the Nissan e-NV200 Acenta, based on a 48 month, 40,000 mile agreement.

Advancement ofnew technology is key to the increased take-up of electric vans in the UK. Wireless charging will soon offer the convenience of topping up your battery by simply parking over a floor pad charging unit, installed in your garage or a parking space at work. UK technology firm Augmented Optics has also discovered a revolutionary new material capable of fully charging an EV in the same amount of time it takes to fill a vehicle with fuel.

The recent autumn statement by Chancellor Philip Hammond announced measures to encourage a move from diesel to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). Stricter emissions laws could see fleet managers left with depreciating diesel vans that are costlier to run than their electric equivalents, as well as restricted access to city centres, unless they start making the transition now.

One thing is certain: the age of electric vehicles is upon us and fleet managers need to start leading the charge.

Joe Howick is chief operating officer at FleetEurope.