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Are you thinking about replacing all or part of your refrigerated van fleet? In the past, you’d have had pretty much one fuel option open to you – diesel. But now there’s a new kid on the block – electric. If you’re thinking about going for an electric refrigerated van (or vans), then read CoolKit’s guide first to find out everything you need to know…

What is an electric refrigerated van?

Forgive us for answering what seems like a question with an obvious answer, but with all the varied talk about hybrids, mild-hybrids and EVs things can easily get a little confusing.

Here at CoolKit we define an electric refrigerated van as a van which runs entirely on electricity via a series of lithium-ion based batteries (which usually sit within a single battery pack).

This battery pack is connected to one or more electric motors which then drive the wheels of the van. The battery pack is also responsible for powering the van’s auxiliary systems such as the refrigeration unit, dashboard electronics etc.

A 100% electric refrigerated van does not use any diesel or petrol as some hybrid electric vehicles do.

Electric refrigerated vans can be recharged using charging points (these tend to be either wall mounted, or individual units installed in a car park). Because of the properties of lithium-ion batteries, electric refrigerated vans can withstand repeated charging, with some estimates suggesting that an electric van battery will last between 10 and 15 years.

Things to think about before you make the switch to electric refrigerated vans

Before you take the plunge and invest in a new fleet of electric refrigerated vans, there are a few things you should take into account.

It’s inevitable!

The first, and most important thing to think about, is the fact that the sale of diesel and petrol-powered vans is set to be banned from 2030.

That means that your eventual transition to a fully electrified fleet of refrigerated vans is inevitable.

Until 2030 however, the Government is encouraging early adoption of electric vans by offering a wealth of financial incentives – so, we’d recommend starting the transition of your fleet early and tapping into these benefits before it’s too late (we’ve provided more information about these financial incentives below).

Charging infrastructure and fleet charging strategy

You will need to ensure that your depot or fleet storage facility is equipped with enough charging stations to ensure that your fleet can maintain maximum uptime.

You don’t want excessive numbers of your refrigerated vans off the road because they are waiting to access a charging station.

In order to make your fleet charging work, you should calculate the charging curve for each vehicle. These charging curves represent the variation in speed at which a van will charge. This is particularly important if you’re going to have several different models of electric refrigerated vans in your fleet – as they’re likely to each have different charging curves.

Get your fleet charging strategy right though and you’ll find that running a fleet of electric refrigerated vans is as easy as running traditionally-powered vans.

A note on split metering and charging cards

If you don’t always store your van fleet at a single depot or storage site – but allow employees to take vans home with them, then there’s a great charging solution; split metering.

By installing charging points at your van drivers’ homes, you can simultaneously install split metering, which will allow you to see how much electricity has been specifically used to charge the van and pay accordingly.

If you don’t want to go to the expense of installing chargers at drivers’ homes, it’s also possible to provide them with charging cards which can be ‘topped up’, so that they can charge their vans at public charging points.

The range factor

For many fleet operators, their overriding concern regarding the switch to electric refrigerated vans is regarding range (or rather perceived lack of it).

Fortunately, the issue is just that – perceived.

For the majority of businesses that use refrigerated vans, range isn’t going to be an issue. In fact, manufacturer research has found that around 70% of Europe’s van users don’t cover more than 60 miles in a daily shift – well within the range limit of nearly all electric vans.

What’s more, the range of electric vans is expected to significantly increase as manufacturers focus ever more of their R&D efforts on electric vehicles, away from internal combustion.

Lower running costs

What are the maintenance costs of your current fleet? If you switch to electric refrigerated vans, then you can expect these costs to diminish significantly. In fact, according to advocacy body Consumer Reports, electric vehicle maintenance could be 50% cheaper.

Why? Because electric refrigerated vans are so much simpler than traditional internal-combustion powered vans.

According to some sources, electric vehicles only have around 20 moving parts in their power plants (covering the battery and motors etc). This compares to around 2,000 in an internal combustion power plant.

With so few moving parts, you can expect your electric refrigerated van fleet to require far less maintenance.

You will, admittedly, need to use mechanics who have experience of working on electric vehicles, but if you partner with an electric refrigerated van company like CoolKit that has a dedicated service division, this won’t be an issue for your fleet.

Fuel costs

It’s not just maintenance where you’ll be able to accrue savings with electric refrigerated vans.

You’ll also benefit enormously from a reduction in your fuel bills.

With UK diesel prices hitting a record 199p a litre in June 2022, the cost of fuel is now seriously impacting the operating costs of refrigerated logistics companies.

When it comes to the cost of charging though, things fall decidedly in favour of electric vans.

For example, Renault states that their electric Kangoo van – which has a range of 170 miles – has a cost of 0.024 pence per mile (based on an electricity rate of 12.50 pence per kWh).

Compare this to a diesel Kangoo van which has a claimed fuel consumption performance of 65.7mpg. If we then look at the pence cost per mile (based on diesel being £1.99 a litre), then the diesel Kangoo will have a cost of 0.114 pence per mile – significantly higher than the electric version of the same van.

In short, it makes economic sense to electrify your fleet of refrigerated vans. This brings us nicely to our next point…

The Plug-In Van Grant

As we mentioned earlier, the UK Government is attempting to drive the adoption of electric vans by offering a financial incentive to commercial van operators.

That incentive is the ‘Plug-In Van Grant’.

This is currently available until April 2024 and depending on what size van you go for (based on Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)), offers different levels of support:

  • Small vans up to 2,500kg GVW – up to 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £2,500.
  • Large vans between 2,500kg – 4,250kg GVW – up to 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £5,000.
  • Small trucks between 4,250kg – 12,000kg GVW – up to 20% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £16,000.
  • Large trucks that are heavier than 12,000kg GVW – up to 20% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £25,000.

EV infrastructure grant for staff and fleets

In addition to offering grants to help you fund the transition to an electric refrigerated van fleet, the UK Government is also offering what it’s calling the ‘EV infrastructure grant for staff and fleets’.

This fund is designed to provide grants towards the cost of charge points for fleets, as well as the cost of installing said charge points. Note, this grant funding is primarily aimed at small and medium-sized businesses.

Guide – for more information on government funds for electric van fleets, read our complete guide here.

Congestion and ULEV charge exemption

Another consideration to take into account when thinking about electrifying your refrigerated van fleet, is the fact that electric vans are exempt from congestion charges and ultra-low emission zones (ULEVs).

If you think that combustion charges and ULEVs are only an issue for London-based logistics and delivery companies then think again.

Birmingham has already introduced a Clean Air Zone in 2021, which requires vehicles such as diesel-powered vans to pay a charge whenever they enter the city centre. Bath also introduced a similar scheme in June 2021.

Other areas that have already started to introduce Clean Air Zones, or are planning to, include:

  • Portsmouth.
  • Newcastle Upon Tyne.
  • Bradford.
  • Oxford.
  • Greater Manchester.
  • Bristol.
  • Liverpool.
  • Edinburgh.
  • Glasgow.
  • Dundee.
  • Aberdeen.

The chances are, your refrigerated vans either deliver to – or pass through – at least one of those cities or urban areas, so unless you switch to electric refrigerated vans, you could quickly find yourself totting up the cost of multiple congestion and Clean Air Zone charges.

Improved cooling performance

A particularly important consideration for operators of refrigerated van fleets is the fact that electric refrigerated vans offer better cooling performance than their diesel-powered siblings.

Why? Because in diesel or petrol powered refrigerated vans, the ability of the refrigeration unit to keep the cargo hold cool is largely governed by engine speed (i.e. the number of revolutions taking place in the engine). So, when the van was stuck in traffic, or stationary and idling, cooling performance wouldn’t be as good.

With electric refrigerated vans, the cooling unit receives a consistent level of electricity from the van’s battery – meaning that it can provide consistent cooling performance – regardless of whether the van is stationary or driving down the motorway.

Time to switch?

If, having read this guide, you’ve decided the time is right to switch your refrigerated van fleet to electric power, then speak to CoolKit today.

We’re the experts at creating high-performance electric refrigerated vans. In fact, we’ve invested in R&D to understand how we can convert the new electric vans that are entering the market into highly-functional, reliable and durable refrigerated vans.

As the UK leader in electric temperature-controlled vans, there’s no one better to speak to about the electrification of your refrigerated van fleet.

Speak to CoolKit about your electric refrigerated van fleet requirements today

For more refrigerated van information and advice, explore the CoolKit blog