Light van sales have bounced back and demand for electric models could drive further growth, James Dallas reports.
Light van sales are currently providing a snapshot of the unpredictability that has surfaced in the LCV sector.
Over the first eight months of the year vans weighing from 2.0 to 2.5 tonnes belonged to one of just two categories, the other being pick-ups, to register sales growth – up 11.4% to 34,830 units, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. In August alone, sales leapt 40% year-on-year to 3,049 units. These figures contrasted with 2016 when light van sales dipped 2.5% in an LCV market that grew by 1% overall.
The sector of the market covering medium and large vans (2.5 to 3.5 tonnes) was down by 4.0% in the year to the end of August, so perhaps there is an emerging tendency for some operators at least to consider downsizing if they can get away with tighter load dimensions and a reduced payload.
The UK’s most popular light van, the Ford Transit Connect, was the third biggest-selling model overall in July and August and the fifth in the year-to-date, where it was joined in the top 10 by two competitors: the Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo.
Where the light van sector is really setting the pace is in alternative fuels – especially electric powertrains where the Renault Kangoo ZE and Nissan E-NV200 have for a long while led the way.
It’s Renault that is now looking to seize the initiative and move the technology on. In November its facelifted Kangoo ZE, called the ZE.33 after its new 33kW battery, will hit UK showrooms. Renault claims to have increased the plug-in van’s range by 50% to 124 miles under real-world conditions in summer with the new and improved battery and up to 99 miles in winter. The Kangoo ZE.33 will cost from £14,195 excluding VAT and after the 20% Plug-in-Van grant, but not including the battery lease, which adds from £49 a month. Full battery charging time has been reduced from eight to six hours, but rapid charging is not offered as the brand claims it reduces the lifespan of the battery. Renault adds, however, that a one-hour charge can top-up the range with an extra 22 miles.
At the end of the year the brand says it will launch a version of the Kangoo ZE Maxi with an expanded load volume of 6.0m3 to meet the growing demand for parcel delivery operations in cities.
Nissan, meanwhile, has recently supplied 10 of its E-NV200 vans to the Port of Southampton where they are being used by employees of Associated British Port. The organisation took on the electric models after Southampton was named as one of the UK cities required to establish Clean Air Zones by 2020. Earlier this year Nissan supplied 48 E-NV200 Combi vans to Portsmouth Naval Base.
Volkswagen has pledged to offer an electric version of all its models by 2025 but in the meantime the brand is exploring another alternative fuel for its light van.
The brand has developed a new version of its Caddy powered by compressed natural gas (CNG). Badged the Caddy TGI, the model is based on the 1.4 TSI petrol Caddy. VW is testing the water before committing to a production model for the UK but claims the TGI Caddy in manual mode has a range of 391 miles on CNG with CO2 emissions of 112g/km, with the LWB Caddy Maxi delivering 534 miles and 116g/km of CO2.
Several manufacturers have included light vans in their scrappage schemes to persuade drivers out of older diesel vans.
Ford is offering £2,000 off all its vans plus incentives for individual models. It claims up to £5,000 can be saved this way on a new Transit Connect.
Renault says customers can save up to £3,000 on a new diesel Kangoo, VW is offering owners trading in a Euro4 vehicle a £1,000 discount on a new Caddy, and Fiat Professional claims savings of up to a whopping £8,500 are up for grabs on a Doblo Cargo. The Fiat scheme, however, only ran for the plate-change month of September while the others continue until the year end.
Renault Kangoo ZE.33 (November 2017)
VW Caddy TGI (Date unknown)