The Government has launched a consultation on proposals to increase the weight limit of electric and gas-powered vans that can be driven using a normal driving licence.
At present, drivers with a normal driving licence can operate vans weighing up to a maximum authorised mass of 3,500kg, however, the Government has proposed raising this to 4,250kg for alternatively-fuelled vans.
Various bodies, including the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and Iveco have lobbied the government for the increase for a number of years, saying upping the weight limit would negate a loss in payload caused by a battery taking up more weight than a normal engine.
The lobbyists have argued that upping the weight limit would make running electric vans far more viable than at present.
The Government consultation also seeks to “correct a regulation anomaly” in which electric vans are currently exempt from MOT testing.
“We are promoting the uptake of cleaner and more efficient vans, but cleaner powertrains can increase a vehicle’s weight, potentially reducing the available payload,” said Jesse Norman, parliamentary under secretary of state for roads, local transport and devolution, in the consultation foreword. “This would allow category B licence holders to drive a slightly heavier vehicle, if it is powered by a low emission technology, effectively offsetting the additional weight of the powertrain.”
He added: “The Government is also proposing a similar exemption from operator licensing requirements for alternatively-fuelled vans used for own account haulage. This would help operators to avoid becoming subject to the full operator licensing regime if they invest in cleaner but slightly heavier vans.”
Speaking to What Van? before the launch of this consultation, David Sharp, head of Ocado Technology’s 10x department, said the online-only grocer would support upping the weight limit for electric vans: “The Government should absolutely be encouraging people to use electric and low-emission vehicles and a good way to do that is to say ‘oh, if you drive an electric vehicle we’ll let you drive a 4.5t van with your licence’ - there should be an incentive to do it because there shouldn’t be a difference because of the weight in batteries. It should be used to incentise people more to take on electric vehicles and that’s something the Government should quickly get around to activating.”
The consultation runs until 18 October 2017 and information and details on how to respond can be found here.