Hybrid Vans

Hybrid vans should make complete sense for stop-start urban deliveries, but they don’t have a high profile like hybrid cars, so do hybrid vans exist?

The answer is yes, hybrid vans do exist, even though the vast majority of vans sold today are conventional diesel-powered models, and the purchase of hybrid vans can be subsidised for public sector fleets.

Hybrid Technology for Fuel Savings and Less Pollution

The main company that is producing hybrid vans in the UK is Ashwoods Automotive. Ashwoods sells a hybrid Transit van, which is based on similar technology to hybrid cars such as the Toyota Prius.
As in hybrid cars, the idea is that a hybrid van runs on the internal combustion engine – a diesel engine in this case – most of the time, but there’s also a battery and an electric motor/generator, which provides extra assistance under heavy load conditions.

ford transit hybrid van

Ashwoods claims that its hybrid vans result in an overall fuel saving of 15%, or more in urban driving. The same principles that apply to cars apply to hybrid vans – if you’re driving a van up and down a motorway then the extra cost of the hybrid technology won’t offer any particular advantage. However if the van is being driven mainly in urban areas then the hybrid system can offer real benefits. This is because the system can capture energy that would otherwise be lost when braking or decelerating, and the vehicle can re-use this energy when needed for acceleration.

As well as the cost benefits from the fuel saving, hybrid vans also help to reduce pollution in urban areas. In cities such as London, air quality is a huge issue, and any vehicle technology that can help with reducing emissions such as particulates should be welcomed.
Of course electric vans such as the Renault Kangoo ZE van have zero tailpipe emissions, but they also have a limited range – in practical terms between 50 and 100 miles. Hybrid vans have no range limitations – as long as they can be refuelled with diesel.

Plug-in Hybrid Vans – not quite yet

A half-way house between a hybrid and an electric vehicle is a plug-in hybrid – in such vehicles the battery can be charged by plugging it in to the mains, providing greater battery capacity, more ability for the electric motor to be powered by the battery, leading to greater fuel savings. In the world of cars, the Volvo V60 plug-in diesel hybrid has an official fuel economy figure of 150 mpg. Plug-in hybrid vans aren’t currently commercially available but they are under development.

Subsidies for Hybrid Transit Van Buyers

Earlier in 2012, Ashwoods Automotive became the exclusive supplier into Phase Two of the Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme (LCVPP), the UK’s largest programme for low carbon commercial vehicles, administered by OLEV, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles .
The programme means that a subsidy is available for public sector fleets to buy hybrid Transit vans, from a total fund of £1.7m, and up to 500 vans will take part in the initiative. Ashwoods was the only supplier approved for phase two of this programme.
The grant subsidy is designed to cover the price difference between a hybrid and a conventional diesel Transit, and can be used to buy hybrid Transit Panel vans, Chassis Cabs, Dropsides and Tippers. Prices for an Ashwoods hybrid Transit van start from £24,819 plus VAT, compared to £17,745 for a standard Transit, in other words the hybrid system carries a £7,000 premium.
Ashwoods claims that based on covering a mileage of 20,000 miles per year and current fuel prices, 500 Ashwoods Hybrid Transits would save the public sector £1.4m and lower carbon emissions by 1,072 tonnes over three years.

In the earlier Phase One of LCVPP, almost 200 hybrid and all-electric vans were delivered to a range of councils, government agencies and universities.

Further Reading:

Green vehicle technologies explained – The Green Car Guide to the differences between petrol, diesel, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric and extended-range electric.

See today’s and tomorrow’s hybrid vans in the metal at Cenex LCV2012 – the UK’s most important low carbon vehicle event.