New van market maintains growth in May

The UK has seen a robust 15.3% surge in light commercial vehicle (LCV) registrations in May, compared to last year, reaching a total of 25,359 units. This data, as revealed by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), marks the fifth month of consecutive growth, suggesting a strong rebound following a challenging 2022. However, registrations are still trailing 13.0% behind the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.

In terms of vehicle size, the largest LCVs, those between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes, reported an 8.3% rise to 17,173 units, accounting for nearly 70% of new vans. Medium-sized vans, ranging from 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes, witnessed a significant uptick of 57.2% with 4,143 units. Conversely, registrations of smaller vans, those of 2.0 tonnes or less, dropped by 42.3%. Registrations of pick-up vans and 4x4s showed an increase of 13.3% and a staggering 698.7% respectively, indicating the wide array of LCVs sustaining the UK’s mobility.

A noteworthy trend emerging is the shift to greener options. Battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations rose by 19.7% to 1,041 units, representing nearly one in 24 new vans. This surging demand has resulted in 7,028 all-electric vans hitting the roads in 2023, a 15.5% rise from the same period last year. Operators now have over 25 different electric van models to choose from, yet demand for electric vans is still lagging behind the new car market.

The introduction of the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate next year, which imposes a minimum quota for new ZEV registrations for manufacturers, is expected to bolster this shift. However, concerns about charging infrastructure availability, known as “charging anxiety”, still pose a significant challenge, particularly for commercial vehicle operators.

To expedite the transition to zero-emission vans, a comprehensive national plan is essential. This could involve creating a supportive fiscal environment, streamlining planning processes, enabling faster grid connections, and providing a widespread network of reliable and affordable charging stations. Infrastructure targets that align with new vehicle registration mandates could alleviate operator concerns regarding the feasibility of BEVs for their business needs.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, sees the van market recovery as a golden opportunity to foster an eco-friendly resurgence and stimulate the economy. “To truly leverage the upcoming ZEV Mandate, we need a comprehensive national plan for public charging infrastructure,” Hawes stated. “This will boost confidence in plug-in van uptake and ensure a stable, successful transition for businesses across the UK.”

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