Diesel vs electric vans: Which should you choose?

Diesel vs electric vans

Of the four million vans in the UK, 96 per cent run on diesel – and with good reason. It produces efficient, powerful engines capable of carrying heavy payloads, and with relatively low running costs.

Nonetheless, electric vans are becoming more popular – as of December 2019 there are some 8,500 registered in the UK, according to nextgreencar.com. And they too have many advantages – more than just the environmental benefits.

Diesel vs electric: environmental impact

Global warming, to which the burning of fossil fuels contributes, is an ever greater problem; and it's now accepted that diesel vehicles are the worst for producing poisonous nitrogen oxides. That said, if you want to look after the environment, it’s not enough just to buy an electric vehicle – you need to look at where your electricity comes from, as unless your electric van uses renewable electricity at least some of the time, fossil fuels are still being burned to generate that electricity.

Diesel vs electric: costs

Electric vans should be cheaper to run than diesels: their engines are more efficient still, and electricity is taxed at a lower rate than diesel. Plus fully electric vans are exempt from road tax, the London congestion charge and the London ultra-low emissions zone charge, while diesel drivers seem to be facing ever higher costs, even including higher parking charges in some places.

But: diesel vans tend to be much cheaper to buy than electric vans. Electric van technology is still new, and some of the components are expensive. And because of their newness, and the fast-developing nature of the technology, it’s hard to know how well electric vans will hold their value. Plus there’s always some uncertainty about long-term reliability and durability with anything that isn’t long established.

Diesel vs electric: range

The other big downside with electric vans is driving range. They typically have an official range of around 100 miles – and that can vary according to, for example, the load you’re carrying and the weather, so it might often be only 60 to 80 miles in practice. That said, insurers Admiral found that one in three vans only covers around 80 miles a day, so an electric work van would be suitable if you’re one of those drivers. That’s assuming of course that you can charge it at home or at a depot overnight. And if you do more driving than that, charging is likely to be an issue – both finding a charging point, and the time it takes.

Diesel vs electric: payload

Electric technology adds weight to a van, which can reduce its payload capacity. Because of this, the government has actually changed the law so that standard car licence holders can now drive electric vans weighing up to 4,250kg, instead of the normal limit of 3,500kg.

You’ll find a wide range of makes and models on sale at used van dealers Vanwise – including used electric and hybrid vans as well as traditional petrols and diesels. You can see all the used vans we have in stock right now online – to book a test drive, just call our Kent dealership on 01622 233151 or our Essex dealership on 01279 216163. Don’t forget to ask us about our vans on finance and van contract hire deals too.