For companies operating a fleet of light commercial vehicles (LCVs), the transition to electric vans is far from straightforward. 

To fully understand the issues facing LCV operators, Grosvenor Leasing, the UK’s largest privately-owned contract hire and fleet management specialist, held an electric van round table panel discussion in June, bringing together transport managers from a diverse mix of operations, alongside electric commercial vehicle specialists. 

The overriding view was that change needs to be driven from board level, as the electrification of a company’s van fleet is not a task that sits with the transport team alone.

Rather than see how electric vans can fit into a business’ current operating model, this is far more a case of how the business needs to adapt to electrification. There is an impact on operations, finance, human resources, property, facilities management and customer service.

“Companies have built their operating models around diesel commercial vehicles,” explained Scott Durno, who heads up Grosvenor Leasing – Scotland. “The geographical areas vehicles cover, their daily mileages, the loads they carry, the numbers of stops they make – everything is based on operating a diesel.

“Trying to fit electric vans into that same model is the classic square peg in a round hole, and the consensus from our panel was that this is an opportunity to review, and re-engineer, your operations for a zero-emission future.”

Delegates also detailed how much work there is to be done, the consensus being that anyone who has not started planning their transition to an electric light commercial vehicle fleet should do so urgently.

Detailing the capabilities of the electric vans on the market, and developing a comparison table of which may be most suitable for your business model, is key. Trialling as many vans as possible is also essential to see which will provide the best fit, and whether a mix of vehicles with different attributes will be required for different parts of your operation.

Combining real-life trials with route analysis and operational data will help transport managers begin to see where electric vehicles (EVs) will fit with the existing business model, but also how that business model needs to adapt to EVs.

From this, the charging infrastructure can begin to be mapped out, and with home charging being ruled out by certain members of the panel, as well as concerns over reliance on public charging, a plan is needed to decide how and where vehicles can be charged to avoid problems with downtime and the inability to meet key performance targets and customer commitments.

“The reality is that everyone’s business operations are different. However it highlights the need for some lateral thinking and to adopt a fresh viewpoint,” continued Scott.

“For public charging, there were concerns about height restrictions and parking bay dimensions in many car parks that meant that, for some delegates, only half of public charge points in their local area were actually accessible to their van drivers. There was also a concern about brand reputation, with some businesses receiving complaints from the general public when one of their branded vehicles was left in a charging bay designated for shoppers or local people.”

Driver education was also very high on everyone’s list, with one panel member saying: “Do not set your drivers up to fail in an electric vehicle by just giving them an EV van and saying ‘off you go’.”

It is also important to build flexibility into any fleet strategy to allow for emerging technology as the commercial vehicle switch gathers pace.

The Grosvenor Group offers a wide portfolio of solutions for commercial vehicle operators, including advice on charging infrastructure, telematics, driver education and vehicle suitability.

To discuss your light commercial vehicle fleet and its transition to electric, please contact us on 01536 536 536 or email