The benefits of electric and PHEV vans for urban business owners are numerous. In areas with low emissions zones – which are only going to increase in the coming years – they avoid charges, and despite comparatively high purchase prices, the generous government plug-in van grant softens the blow by knocking 20 per cent (up to £8000) off. In the long-term, pure electric vans are also cheaper to run with low maintenance costs and the obvious benefit of charging being much cheaper than filling a tank with fuel.
In no particular order, here's what we reckon represent the top five electric and PHEV vans – of all shapes and sizes – currently on the market.
Scratch off the badges and these three are essentially the same vehicle underneath, using the PSA Group's EMP-2 platform and common powertrain. This means you get 134bhp and 192lb-ft of torque, and a top speed of 80mph which is plenty for a medium sized panel van. There are two battery size options depending on the length you go for: the 4.6m long XS gets the regular 50kWh battery with a WLTP range of 148 miles. Go for the 4.95m long medium and you can choose the 50kWh or a 75kWh unit and for the 5.3m long XL you'll get the 75kWh battery as standard, offering a WLTP range of 211 miles. Supercharging at up to 100kW, means 30 minute or 45 minute charging times, for the small and large batteries respectively.
Each of the options from the three brands has a load size of between 4.6 and 6 cubic metres. Maximum payload is 1262kg. Pricing is pretty reasonable as electric vans go, with the Citroën starting at £25,053 after the plug-in van grant and maxing out at £34,380. The Peugeot sells for similar figures with the Vauxhall coming in around £2000-£3000 more depending on spec.
Whilst the Kangoo Z.E. and Master Z.E. are stalwarts of the electric van market, and among the most popular, it's the new ZOE Van that intrigues us! Following a long tradition of small hatches turned into vans, the ZOE Van really does make a fantastic solution for multi-drop delivery drivers and urban businesses. It gets the ZOE R110 powertrain, meaning 50kWh and up to 245 miles, as well as a peppy 0-31mph time of 3.9 seconds. Of course, it's not capacious compared to larger vans, but at 1205mm long and 1110mm wide, with a payload of 387kg, it is fine for many applications.
Thanks to its basis as a car, the ZOE Van gets loads of kit and technology, though this does make it comparatively pricey, starting at £25,180 including the plug-in van grant, and topping out at £27,220. It's available now.
If you buy an eVito you are duty-bound to call it Danny. Now that's out the way, the Mercedes eVito is very much designed for short-range duties. It is available in two lengths – the L2 which has 6 cubic metres of cargo space and a maximum payload of 923kg, and the L3 which offer 6.6 cubic metres and 898kg of payload. It has a (comparatively) small 41kWh battery of which 35kWh is usable, providing a range of 93 miles on the WLTP cycle. In an urban setting this could be eeked out to 104 miles, and you might want to eek it out as three-phase charging at 7.4kW takes six hours. An 114bhp motor drives the front wheels, so don't expect it to be quick on the road either!
Price-wise, you're looking at around £40,000 before the PiVG – which should round down closer to £32k after it has been applied. Mercedes will be launching a T-Class in due course, however this is purported to be for private buyers as a family and leisure vehicle.
Better known for black cabs, the London Electric Vehicle Company has turned its iconic taxi into a van – and it's pretty cool! The VN5 uses the same PHEV powertrain as the TX taxi, but don't go thinking it suffers on the electric-only range front; it has a maximum EV range of 58 miles and with ICE-assistance, can travel more than 300 miles. Fast charging at up to 50kW DC means it's possible to remain in EV mode for longer, especially when used in urban environments. Like pure EV counterparts, the VN5 avoids ULEZ charges. Up to 5.5 cubic metres – equivalent to two Euro sized pallets – can be accommodated, with a maximum payload of 830kg.
LEVC typically leases its vehicles, and the VN5 is no exception, being available for £493.92 per month over 60 months at 20,000 miles per year (after a nine month initial payment). However, they can be bought from £46,500.
A second alternative to a pure electric van, the Transit PHEV is actually a range-extender rather than a traditional plug-in hybrid in which the engine has a direct connection to the wheels. This takes the form of a 125bhp electric motor which draws power from a 13.6kWh battery, backed up by a 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol engine. The setup is good for 35 miles on EV mode before the petrol engine kicks in resulting in 91.7mpg combined, and emissions of 60g/km. If you want to avoid using the petrol engine altogether, charging takes 2.7 hours using a Type 2 charger. It'll carry 1130kg and comes with the kudos of being arguably the UK's most iconic van!