The Pros and Cons of Low Emission Vans

Why choose an eco van for your business?

For van drivers and fleet owners, upgrading vehicles can be a big deal. It requires planning, research, and a large investment – which is why choosing the right model is essential. But how do you pick the right electric van or hybrid van for your business?

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.

The government is trying to make the decision a little easier as it pushes forward with efforts to lower the UK’s emissions and make our air cleaner. While that might mean your current van will soon start costing your business more, it also gives you an opportunity to cut costs and future-proof your fleet.

London Congestion Charge for low emission vans

If you’re driving a van in London, the Congestion Charge can seriously cost your business. It costs £11.50 a day, which really adds up if everyone in your team has to pay. But there are ways to avoid the charge – if you have a van with London Congestion Charge exemption.

Starting in April 2019, if your van meets the Euro 6 emission standard, emits 75g/km of CO2 or less and can travel 20 miles without emissions, all you’ll have to pay is an annual £10 registration fee – and nothing else. To put it into context, if you drove in London every day in an older van, it would cost you almost £3000 a year.

In many cases, hybrid vans will tick these boxes, and could save your business thousands of pounds in charges every year. Don’t write off electric vans just yet, though. The Congestion Charge rules are set to change again in April 2021 so that only fully electric vehicles will be exempt from the charges – you might want to think about this when you’re considering a new vehicle.

Low Emission Zones (LEZ)

Another thing to think about in London is the Low Emission Zone, or LEZ. This zone, which covers most of the city and expands out to the M25 in places, applies 24 hours a day, every day. The charge applies to vans that don’t meet the Euro 3 diesel standard – you can check whether this applies to you on the TfL website.

Clean Air Zones (CAZ)

While this charge only applies in London right now, other cities – including Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton – will introduce Clean Air Zones in 2019. Driving in these areas may cost van drivers if their vehicles don’t match environmental standards. With more cities across the UK following suit in 2020, there has never been a better time to consider a green van.

Ultra Low Emission Zone

London isn’t stopping at the LEZ, though. From April 2019, TFL is rolling out an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the centre of London. Inside this zone, petrol vans must meet Euro 4 standards to avoid a charge – which means vans registered with the DVLA from January 2006. For diesel van drivers, vehicles must meet Euro 6 standards, which generally means vans bought since September 2016.

TfL will expand the size of the ULEZ in 2021, and you’ll have to register to pay a daily charge, or risk a £160 fine if you enter the zone in a vehicle that doesn’t meet the standards. Cameras capture your number plate automatically, and check vehicle databases to find out whether you’re liable for a charge.

If you travel in London a lot, a van that ticks those environmental boxes could save a lot of money for your business.

Diesel tax for vans

While there is no single tax called ‘diesel tax’, it’s now used as a catch-all term when discussing emissions charges and parking surcharges for diesel vehicles in city centres. As we’ve discussed, these charges mainly effect drivers using older diesel vehicles, sold before the end of 2016.

The parking surcharge applies in some London boroughs, in an effort to discourage diesel drivers from travelling into the city centre. In some locations, it can be up to 50% on top of a standard parking charge.

Advantages of eco vans

  • Hybrid vans are cheaper to run as they offer better fuel economy than traditional petrol and diesel vehicles.
  • Electric vans are even cheaper to run, as electricity is cheaper than fuel, and in some cases you can recharge your vehicle without paying the full 20% VAT on the electricity you use.
  • The government offers tax breaks for low-emission vehicles. For example, electric vehicles don’t incur fuel duty, and may not incur vehicle excise duty.
  • Zero-emission vans are currently only liable for a proportion of the full van benefit charge, which means employees can drive work vans for private use without paying as much tax.
  • Low-emission vehicles are exempt from congestion charges in London, and meet LEZ and ULEZ standards, saving company costs if you drive in London.

Disadvantages of eco vans

  • Even with buying incentives from the government, hybrid and electric vans can be expensive – they’re likely to cost much more than a petrol or diesel equivalent.
  • The range of electric vans is limited, and the UK’s charging infrastructure is still being developed. As a result, electric vans are currently only effective for local business, rather than long journeys.

The government have detailed what classifies a van with low emissions. So, this would be a good place to find out more about what classifies a vehicle as ultra-low emission.

Should you invest in an eco van?

Choosing to update your van or fleet is a big decision, and weighing up the costs and benefits is essential before you make a purchase. Consider your options, investigate whether the benefits of an electric van outweigh the extra initial outlay, and think about the longevity of your choice.

We spoke to Peter Lee about some of the considerations to take into account when buying an eco-friendly van.

‘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.

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 for more information.

Whatever kind of van you choose, you need to make sure you’ve got the right business van insurance in place. We can help. Take a look at our van insurance page to find out how we can help you tailor your policy to your needs.

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Added: 19 Jun 2019