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Van market’s willingness to go electric thwarted by weak EU targets

March 31, 2022

Study finds e-vans are cheaper to own and run than diesels, but poor availability is holding back decarbonisation of van sector

Van operators are keen to buy e-vehicles, a new T&E survey shows, but they are being thwarted by a lack of supply. T&E says the EU’s proposed CO2 emissions targets for vans must be significantly increased in the 2020s to require manufacturers to sell more e-vans this decade.

As well as being far better for the climate, electric vans are cheaper overall than diesel vehicles, according to a new T&E study also released this week. Although electric vans are more expensive to buy, the average electric van is 25% cheaper per km than the average diesel van after five years when the total upfront and running costs are taken into account. T&E analysed six countries which account for 76% of new vans sold in Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK.

A survey of 745 fleets across Europe by Dataforce for T&E suggests the message has already reached those who buy vans. More than a third (36%) of van fleets already have at least one electric vehicle while almost another third (32%) plan to buy an e-van this year, with a further 16% considering buying one in the next five years.

Yet the potential of this willingness to go electric will be largely unfulfilled if the EU’s CO2 target for vans remains untouched, as is currently proposed. Sales of electric vans are rising extremely slowly – just 3% of new van sales were electric in 2021, marginally up from 2% in 2019 – compared with a 9% share for electric cars. Yet vanmakers don’t have to have electric vehicles accounting for 10% of the market until 2030.

T&E’s freight manager James Nix said: “There’s nowhere near enough supply of e-vans. EU lawmakers can change this at a stroke by increasing the CO2 target, which will require vanmakers to sell more e-vehicles. Higher electric van targets will help cut our oil dependence and save European businesses billions of euros even in this decade But the drip feed of e-vans on to the market has to end. Member states and MEPs must ensure that EU van CO2 targets rise significantly and quickly.”

T&E has calculated that, if the EU were to require a 45% reduction in average van CO2 emissions by 2027, it would bring 1 million extra e-vans to Europe’s roads, thereby saving 5.6 Mt of CO2 emissions in 2027. 

But it says a 45% reduction will only be achieved by 2027 if a 25% reduction for 2025 is imposed now, with an 80% reduction set for 2030 if the EU’s plan for all vans to be zero-emission by 2035 is to remain on track. Tighter standards would also reduce the annual oil consumption of European vans by 7% in 2027, an important step towards ending dependence on Russian imports.

Nix added: “This should be a no-brainer because more ambitious targets would save European businesses €13.1 billion over 2025-30 due to the lower costs of running e-vans. Anyone who argues that the benefits of reducing emissions are outweighed by the need to avoid imposing costs on industry is being disingenuous.