How zero-emission deliveries are set to become the new normal


With the rapid growth in online shopping, changes in the way we work and the introduction of strict low-emission zones across Europe, the number of electric delivery vehicles (or eLCVs) looks set to grow significantly in the years ahead. Mark Lovett, Head of Commercial Vehicles, explains how LeasePlan is well positioned to capture this growing market.

Online delivery boom

“Because of the pandemic, people are increasingly shopping online instead of going into stores,” says Mark Lovett, Head of Commercial Vehicles. “But this is really just an acceleration of a long-term trend. Online shopping has been growing for years but now it’s really having its moment – and that in turn is driving increasing demand for delivery vehicles or Light Commercial Vehicles (LCV), as we call them in the trade.”

But it’s not just more delivery vehicles that will be needed – sustainability is also a key concern for fleet operators, says Mark. “This crisis has made people more aware than ever that the environment we live in is very fragile. In that sense, electric LCVs (eLCVs) are a great way to meet the growing demand for online shopping and delivery services, without sacrificing air quality in our towns and cities. We’ve noticed that the ‘rise of the Green van’ is especially interesting to corporate fleet operators, who are looking to cut their own emissions footprints, as well as navigate the growing number of low-emission zones in urban centers that look increasingly unfriendly to older petrol and diesel delivery vehicles.”

‘Electric-first’ models

In response to growing demand, the big OEMs are rapidly beginning to introduce a new range of ‘electric-first’ mid- to large-size electric delivery vehicles, with traditional ‘converted’ models such as Fiat Professional’s Ducato and Renault’s Kangoo soon being joined by a new range of eLCVs, including the Mercedes eVito and eSprinter.

“When vehicles are originally designed and engineered to have a diesel engine, and are then converted to electric, there is a degree of compromise in the payload or the load volume,” explains Mark. “That’s a big issue for an LCV operator, because vehicles have to be the right size and carry the right weight. It’s therefore great to see a sustainable range of delivery vans coming onto the market that don’t need to make this trade-off.”

Moreover, says Mark, most new electric delivery vehicles also have an official range of around 160 km, with some manufacturers even claiming that their newest vehicles can achieve a range of up to 270 km – more than sufficient for the average range of a typical LCV.

Making the switch

Newer models will, of course, face challenges in winning customer trust. “Traditional manufacturers and models have a history and legacy, but I think we’ll see a transition in the years ahead as customers increasingly want to make more sustainable choices.”

Before making the switch, having a detailed discussion with fleet operators to understand exactly how the LCV fleet will be used is essential, says Mark. “It might not be possible or practical for a company to make a full transition from traditional combustion engine LCVs to eLCVs right away, but by discussing a customer’s needs, we can often identify at least part of the fleet where it would be good to make the first move to electric. It’s all about looking at every fleet on a case-by-case or even route-by-route basis,” he explains.

Even so, LeasePlan’s strategic decision to treat the LCV market as an important priority puts it in a strong position to benefit from the expected long-term growth in the market. “22% of our fleet is LCV, so we are committed to this market, and we understand its characteristics and that it’s inherently different to the traditional passenger-oriented lease car market. For example, in addition to keeping the vehicles on the road, things like custom configuration and compliance with local legislation are all important to our customers. Many leasing companies shy away from entering this market because of the complexity and different skill set required, but we have that knowledge and expertise.”

What’s next?

Mark is confident that the LCV market will continue to grow in the years ahead. “The charging infrastructure is increasingly there, the vehicles are there, and the costs are coming down. And as countries come in and out of lockdown, there will be a continuing and lasting need for delivery vehicles – especially electric ones. As with any new development, there’ll be a transition period but we’re ready to support our customers with that. LCVs – just as much as passenger cars – are in our culture.”

Read more in our White Paper: Why it’s time to transition to an e-LCV fleet

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