How to buy an eco-friendly van
Leading van expert Peter Lee breaks down the considerations to take into account when buying an eco friendly van.
DL4B: What features do eco-friendly vans or environmental vans have?
Peter: Environmentally-friendly credentials are an increasing priority for van drivers looking to reduce the carbon footprint of their vehicles and avoid charges like those imposed in the Low Emission Zone (LEZ). This LEZ was introduced to reduce the number of polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in Greater London.
With fuel prices continuing to escalate many van owners are looking at ways to reduce the long term running costs of their vehicles.
Many van manufacturers are making their petrol and diesel models more efficient, though the real 'eco-vans' fall into two categories:
Electric vans use battery packs that can often be charged from a standard domestic plug socket or a dedicated vehicle terminal. This is still a relatively new technology, and a single charge is likely to have a range of up to 100 miles. This limits them to only being ideal for local deliveries.
Hybrids vans are the second option, which combine a petrol engine with an electric motor. This option enables drivers to travel longer distances and faster than those afforded by purely electric vehicles.
DL4B: What classifies a van as ultra-low emissions?
The age, weight and engine size are some factors that can determine the level of emissions a van produces. Gov.uk have published an in depth pdf detailing what classifies a van as low emissions, so this would be a good place to find out more about what classifies a vehicle as ultra-low emissions.
The market for eco-vans is very likely to grow rapidly in the next ten years as ever tighter emissions regulations are to be introduced.
It's not just in the area of emissions where manufacturers are making improvements. Companies are also streamlining the production process to reduce waste and using increasing quantities of recycled materials when manufacturing vans.
DL4B: What considerations are there around emissions, especially if you buy an older vehicle?
Peter: Even if you don't buy an electric van or a hybrid, it's vital you check up regulations around vehicle emissions. If you don't, you could find yourself facing some hefty costs. This is especially important if you live or work in and around London.
In 2008 a Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was introduced to reduce the number of polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in the Capital.
To drive within it without paying a daily charge, vehicles must meet emissions standards, which limit the amount of particulate matter (a type of pollution) coming from their exhausts. So if you are purchasing an older vehicle it's worth checking that it meets the LEZ standards.
For more information on the LEZ standards, head over to the Transport for London website.
DL4B: Does the LEZ work like the congestion zone, just a certain times?
Peter: Van drivers should note the LEZ is not like the congestion charging zone. It covers a much larger area and operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including weekends, public holidays and bank holidays.
Charging days run from midnight to midnight, so if a van driver was to enter the zone with a non-compliant vehicle between 11:30pm and 01:00am the next day they would need to pay the charge for two days.
DL4B: Will this be rolled out across the UK?
Peter: At present a number of regions are looking at establishing low emissions zones and conducting feasibility studies with a view to introducing these controls. Emissions limits are within the direct control of local authorities, who can use traffic regulation orders and agreements to control pollution.
At present there is no national framework, but it is a definite consideration for those looking to purchase a new or second hand vehicle. Any roll out is likely to help drive sales of 'eco vans'.
It's also worth mentioning that the Government has extremely tough emissions targets to hit and may look at establishing a national LEZ to help control emissions, especially reducing levels of nitrogen dioxide.
DL4B: Where can I find reviews of eco friendly vans?
Peter: Be wary of online reviews as unfortunately many of them can be fake or inaccurate. Buying an eco van is a serious financial commitment whether it is new or second hand, so be sure to do your research before you buy a low emissions van.
If you want to find good quality impartial advice I would recommend checking the likes of Auto Express, Parkers or What Van. Read a variety of sources and check for where the opinions of reviewers meet to form a consensus.
For further tips and advice from Peter when buying a van, read his guide to buying a second hand vehicle.
Once you have purchased your van, find out more about insuring your van.
Peter Lee is a leading expert on vans and the founder of the Transit Van Club. Visit www.transitvanclub.co.uk for more information.