The UK looks to improve accessibility and safety for electric commercial vehicles

09 April 2018

9 April 2018

The UK Government has moved to improve opportunities for businesses using electric commercial vehicles while also increasing safety for members of the public.

Following a public consultation, the government has changed the law surrounding driving licences in the country, in a move it hopes will improve the uptake of alternatively-fuelled vans. As these vehicles have to carry extra weight, due to the size of the batteries within, the plan is to increase the weight limits on ′Category B’ licences from 3.5 tonnes to 4.25 tonnes.

Category B restricts drivers who passed the country’s driving test after 1 January 1997 to certain weight limits, currently 3.5 tonnes maximum authorised load (MAM), which means the total weight of a vehicle, anything being towed and the objects on board – as long as they don’t exceed the vehicle’s weight restrictions. Drivers who passed their tests before 1 January 1997 can drive vehicles with a MAM of up to 8.5 tonnes.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the law change is necessary because these vehicles often have higher kerb weights than their conventionally fuelled counterparts, which effectively limits their payload.

By giving drivers an extra 750kg of weight to use with a hybrid or electric van, though, the DfT says it is removing the ′payload penalty’ of these vans, and the government hopes it will encourage fleet operators to use more low-emission vehicles.

In response to the proposal, a government statement read: ′Due to the positive response to this consultation and interest amongst operators, the Government intends to proceed with implementing this policy.

′It is intended this approach will increase access to cleaner alternatively-fuelled vehicles for operators, without incurring a commercial penalty through constrained payload. This step will help us meet our greenhouse gas emissions and air quality targets as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008 and Air Quality Regulations 2010.’

The same consultation has led to the removal of exemption laws on electric vans in the UK, which previously did not need an MOT to operate on the country’s roads.

This is due to historic legislation which covered electric milk floats, prominent on British roads up until the 1990s. Electric cars in the country are covered by existing MOT laws which state a vehicle must be presented for inspection by a qualified tester three years after its first registration, then every 12 months after.

The move to include electric commercial vehicles in this legislation is, according to some fleet management companies, long overdue. Arval fleet CV consultant Eddie Parker said: ′The legislation covering electric vans is lagging some way behind the current situation is really designed for a time when the only common electric commercial vehicles were milk floats. Our view is that this loophole will, and should, be closed quite quickly by the authorities but in the meantime, it does create an operational difficulty.

′Because fleet vans are often run into three, four and five years, the MOT provides a useful structure for fleets when it comes to maintaining vehicles, as well as proving they are being looked after to legal standards.’