OPERATIONAL restrictions and uncertainties surrounding new 4.25 tonne electric vans are creating issues for fleets adopting them, says the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP).
The Department for Transport created a special concession in 2019 for electric light commercial vehicles. Normally, the holder of a standard B licence would only be able to drive a van up to 3.5 tonnes but recognising the extra weight added by batteries, this was extended to 4.25 tonnes. Such vehicles are also exempt from O licence rules.
However, fleets are finding that a range of other restrictions still apply. Because the van is classed as an HGV, it needs an MOT test after 12 months and is also speed restricted, while tachograph regulations come into effect if the vehicle travels more than 100kms from base.
Additionally, the 2019 licence derogation technically lapsed in May and has not been renewed. Although it seems likely it is still in effect, this has not been officially confirmed. Also, for fleets operating in Northern Ireland, the 4.25 tonne exemptions stop at the border for those travelling from the North into the South and the vehicle needs to be covered by an international O licence.
“The whole 4.25 tonne concept is a sensible one, we believe, meaning that operators who would normally adopt 3.5 tonners can easily use larger electric vans while avoiding the central compromise on payload caused by battery weight. However, the real world experience of fleets is that there are still serious obstacles to clear.
“In many cases, commercial users of 3.5 tonne vans are engineers of different types who travel across relatively wide areas, so the speed and tachograph restrictions are especially difficult in day-to-day terms while, we believe, adding nothing in terms of safety for a vehicle of this type.
“If the idea of the concession is that fleets can easily choose a 4.25 tonne electric van instead of a 3.5 tonne diesel one, then that is not currently possible. There are just too many additional responsibilities and regulatory uncertainties.”
AFP chair Paul Hollick
Paul said the AFP would lobby for the rule to be changed because the present situation served as a disincentive for fleets looking to acquire larger electric vans.
“As the AFP has detailed in recent months, electric van adoption is generally proving much more difficult for many fleets than electric cars. This is especially true given concerns over range and payload, while unnecessary problems such as these 4.25 tonne issues create additional hurdles that are often difficult to resolve. We’ll be campaigning for the necessary changes and asking other industry bodies to support our efforts.”