Electric Commercial Vehicles: Who’s Using Them And Who’s Making Them?

There’s no denying the power of electric batteries. Besides, how else could you explain the rising number of commercial electric vehicles sweeping every nation on the planet?

And sweep they will, to a brighter future.

Companies worldwide, either through government intervention, or independent thought, are investing heavily in EVs. We’re seeing more and more news on established companies working with EV start-ups to develop fleets of sustainable vehicles.

It’s a two way street, too, with small to medium-sized companies getting in on the action. Tourism, for example, has seen a gigantic spike in EVs in recent years, thanks to the help of dedicated manufacturers.

Today we’ll be introducing commercial electric vehicles — outlining who makes what and who’s using them. Furthermore, we’ll be picking out a few electric-pledging businesses for reference; some will surprise you.

What we’ll talk about here applies to everyone, either directly or indirectly.

Why are Companies Investing in Commercial Electric Vehicles?

Simple answer: they have to.

The introduction of commercial electric vehicles in the UK should come as no surprise, what with the governments plans to scrap petrol/diesel cars entirely in the next few years.

It’s why they offer incentives like the low-emission plug-in grant, gifting potential buyers with up to £2,500 to go towards a better vehicle.

There is a moral standpoint, too, in that businesses are almost forced to showcase green practices to avoid alienating themselves against eco-savvy competitors. It’s not a bad thing, not at all.

Eco-friendly practices have more benefits than we can count.

Implementing eco-friendly alternatives is woven into the very fabric of some businesses. It could be considered ignorant otherwise given the transport sectors overall contribution to carbon emissions.

Besides, investing in electric vehicles has the potential to save these companies money in the long run. Electric cars, and to a lesser extent, electric trucks, have low maintenance costs compared to their emission-heavy counterpart.

Less moving parts under the hood means you spend less time in a garage and more time on the road. This is, obviously, ideal for delivery companies and those that rely on transport to distribute their products or people in the case of Uber.

Customers have access to a lot more information these days; finding out if a company has employed the use of electric commercial vehicles is but one click away.

Forbes found that 77% of people want to learn how to live more sustainably, meaning they might avoid businesses that don’t meet certain expectations.

To recap, companies are investing in electric commercial vehicles because:

  • They’re generally cheaper to maintain.
  • Governments have emphasised greener alternatives.
  • Some companies have a moral obligation to uphold.

What Types of Electric Commercial Vehicles are Out There?

Close your eyes and think of any vehicle; odds are there’s an electric equivalent, either in the works or out now.

Businesses big and small understand the importance of sustainable vehicles. People rarely stop to think about the benefits these vehicles can have in a commercial capacity. After all, every electric van/car could work as a taxi in theory.

However, some vehicles are made to be electric commercial vehicles, like BYD’s semi-truck range, for example. These vehicles are made for one thing and one thing only: to carry large containers.

You might have heard of BYD before, actually. After all, they’ve cornered the market on electric buses in countries like India and their native China. Orders for said buses continue to grow today — with countries like Finland and Germany next up.

BYD is a great example as they have plans to establish a bonafide army of electric commercial vehicles. Their plan is ambitious as hell, and could establish a decent foothold in the commercial space. Here’s a quick rundown of all electric commercial vehicles they hope to produce:

  • Taxis
  • Buses
  • Coaches
  • Tractors
  • Construction vehicles
  • Sanitation vehicles
  • And more!

You need only look at BYD’s EV wish list above to see what types of electric commercial vehicles are currently in development. We personally hope they develop an electric stair-car, similar to the one featured in Arrested Development.

Who’s Making Electric Commercial Vehicles?

Electric start-ups and established carmakers are responsible for the majority of electric commercial vehicles, each specialising in a different field for the most part. Although, electric trucks/vans appear to be the most common of the bunch.

Some companies simply offer an electric alternative to standard versions, like Ford’s E-Transit van. That’s right, Ford is working on a sleek electric van — set to launch in 2022.

Moreover, Ford can provide businesses/buyers with the hardware needed to set up depot charging, ensuring these electric commercial vehicles are topped up at all times and ready for work.

Names like Ford and Volvo will sound familiar, whereas Rivian and Arrival might not around casual ears.

Arrival, in particular, is working on some pretty incredible projects that include an electric taxi — or ride-hailing vehicle, an electric bus in The Arrival Bus, and a streamlined van fit for the future of deliveries.

Like Ford’s E-Transit, Arrival’s plans are yet to come to fruition. In other words, it’s still in the development stages, although they will test out their electric bus at some point this year.

Arrival is a mere English start-up, backed by the likes of Hyundai and Kia. It shows that if you have an innovative idea or method, investment will arrive nonetheless, especially when it comes to electric commercial vehicles.

Even Tesla is working on an electric semi-truck. In fact, it’s already received well over 2,000 pre-orders, and it hasn’t even rolled into production yet!

You can discover more electric commercial vehicle companies by checking out our ultimate guide to electric transport.

What Could Hinder the Sales of Electric Commercial Vehicles?

The price and lack of options limit the number of electric commercial vehicles you see out in the open. To small businesses, the thought of buying an all-electric van can be tough given the popularity of standard vehicles.

Public opinion, especially in the UK, remains split. However, the number of electric vehicles on roads/charging stations is on the rise.

As we said in our guide of buying an electric vehicle now vs later, the tech here is still in its infancy in a sense. Batteries will get better in time, but for now, many would rather invest in PHEVs to guarantee work is completed whilst feeling a part of the electric revolution.

Plug-in hybrids will complete any task with the greatest of ease, only they aren’t 100% carbon neutral, which is a big turn off for businesses.

Moreover, the majority of electric commercial vehicles mentioned here are still in development/production stages. They all sound/look excellent on paper, and pre-orders look promising, but how they perform in day-to-day activities remains to be seen.

Large businesses like Amazon, Uber and UPS can all afford to take the risk, but a local florist/builder might not be so lucky.

This is the reason why only a small number of grassroots businesses have yet to make the jump. However, we have seen multiple Uber drivers riding around in early model Teslas.

Whether some actually make it to market is another question entirely. The amount of money spent would say otherwise, but you never know. Companies could run out of funding before getting a chance to showcase their work.

That being said, electric buses have more than lived up to the hype. The success of BYD’s electric buses proves that.

Which Businesses are Looking at Electric Commercial Vehicles?

Many companies have already joined The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, which looks to make electric transport the new normal by 2030. Take a look on their site if you get the chance; you’ll be surprised to learn how many members there actually is.

Some haven’t joined the initiative, relying on their own instead. Every name we’re about to mention is recognisable on a national, even global, scale.

We’re sure small to medium businesses have adopted their own electric commercial vehicles in some way or other.

For now, though, here’s three big companies, each representing their own lane, looking to bring the future to your front doorstep:

Amazon

No wonder Amazon is focusing more on greener practices; do you know how many deliveries they make a year?

Amazon is working alongside the aforementioned Rivian to release 10,000 electric delivery vans by 2022. By 2030, they want to have an additional 90,000 vans on the road. Moreover, they’ve begun to install thousands of charging stations across North America and Europe.

In fact, their custom delivery vehicles are already in the testing stage in parts of Los Angeles. The van itself comes with Alexa (no surprise there) and can provide hands-free navigation alongside weather updates.

They delivered more than 20 million packages to customers in electric delivery vehicles last year.

In 2019, Amazon co-founded The Climate Pledge. Their goal? To achieve net-zero a decade ahead of the outlined Paris Agreement date.

Uber

Like Amazon, Uber Is committed in becoming a zero-emission platform by 2040. Their current roadmap looks like this:

  • 2025: Drivers transition to electric commercial vehicles through their Green Future programme.
  • 2030: Uber operates as a zero emission mobility platform in major areas globally.
  • 2040: Every trip you take with them is in a zero-emission vehicle.

In America, Uber has implemented a Zero Emissions Incentive that gives drivers an additional $1 on every trip up to $4,000 annually, as long as they drive a battery-powered EV.

Uber Green, a bid to reduce emissions in London, has proven itself quite helpful for riders.

When choosing which type of ride, you simply select the Uber Green option and wait. Prices are more than reasonable, too, according to customer feedback. They’re actually looking to expand this option into other areas, perhaps, other countries.

UPS

United Parcel Service, or UPS, is no stranger to electric alternatives. They’ve placed orders from multiple electric experts in the past, most notably from Workhorse Group. Initially, UPS ordered 50 but would later add an additional 950 electric EVs.

Last year, UPS continued their sustainable efforts when they asked Arrival to make 10,000 trucks for them, in a whopping £339m deal.

“For the first time, electric trucks are expected to cost UPS no more than regular diesel vehicles,” is what they said back in 2018, after announcing their electric commercial vehicle strategy. And look at them now.

Other delivery services looking to implement electric commercial vehicles include FedEx and DHL.

Pledging Businesses in the UK

The UK alone, as mentioned, is still growing in terms of engagement with EVs. Not a lot of people are convinced yet. However, just because the general public is undecided doesn’t mean UK-based business are waiting around.

Many eco-conscious companies in the UK have made themselves known in recent months, ahead of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow.

Like the above companies, those we mention below represent their own medium. We’ve done this on purpose to emphasise how diverse electric commercial vehicles are to a wide range of businesses.

BT Group

BT Group is one of the frontrunners in the transition to net-zero and are one of the standout members of the EV100 initiative.

Never question their dedication; they’ve actively reduced emissions by more than 80% since 1996. They’re always looking at new ways to reduce customer emissions and their own. How many businesses can say the same?

Moreover, they have implemented measures affecting staff and employees, giving them better access to charging points.

Openreach, a subsidiary of BT, ordered 270 all-electric Vivaro e-vans from Vauxhall last year. That, coupled with several electric van tests over the years, puts BT Group ahead of their peers/competitors in our book.

BT’s current plan is to “become a net-zero emissions business by 2045.”

Lloyds Bank

Now, we know what you’re thinking. What does a bank have to do with electric commercial vehicles in the UK? Well, Lloyds are another member of the EV100 initiative. Currently, they plan to turn their entire corporate fleet into an EV haven by 2030.

Did you know that Lloyds owns a vehicle leasing company? That’s right. Lex Vehicle Leasing is an integral part of their wider network. And an aspiration of theirs is to achieve net-zero across all 350,000 owned vehicles — in line with the UK Govs EV roadmap.

Like BT, Lloyds has shown interest in installing more charging stations for customers and their own workforce. This would need to be in areas close to parking points, but we’re not complaining.

Will more UK banks do the same?

Tesco

Ever had your shopping delivered?

Supermarket titan Tesco is looking to fully electrify its delivery vans by 2028. They currently own around 5,000 vans at the moment, for context (that’s a lot of cheese).

It gets better. Tesco launched a partnership with renewable energy investor Low Carbon to create three solar farms in the UK, generating up to 130GWh as a result!

Anyway, back to EVs.

Tesco added around 400 charging stations at stores last year alone, with plans to add hundreds more in the coming months.

A trip to Tesco has never felt cleaner (emissions-wise) after learning this!

In Short: Electric Commercial Vehicles: Who’s Using Them and Who’s Making Them?

We’re heading in a greener direction with personal vehicles, but big companies are also along for the ride; remember that. The fight to net-zero is one we can only win with everyone on board.

We could be looking at a completely different landscape in the next few years if everything goes to plan. In other words, businesses big and small should have no excuses for why they haven’t sought out electric commercial vehicles yet.

Companies like Uber, Amazon and UPS have already gotten the ball rolling. Expect others to follow suit soon enough.

You’ll more than likely see electric buses make a complete transition before any other electric commercial vehicle in places like the UK. Many have already set off on their journey.

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