Sector Analysis: Small vans

Date: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

TfL asks manufacturers ‘how low can you go?’ as it dangles the carrot of exemption from the London Congestion Charge zone for vans that cut CO2 emissions. James Dallas does the maths
Late last year Transport for London finally announced that it intends to reverse its controversial decision to exclude the greenest commercial vehicles from exemption to the London Congestion Charge when it brings in a revised scheme in June 2013.
The only trouble is, only electric vans such as the Renault Kangoo and Mercedes Vito E-Cell qualify  under the new more stringent rules – and they already get into the zone for free anyway under the existing Greener and Electric Vehicle Discount.
TfL plans to replace this with an Ultra Low Emissions Discount (ULED), which exempts all vans and cars, whatever the powertrain, from paying the £10 daily charge (£9 through an automated payment system) to enter the controlled central London zone – so long as they emit no more than 75g/km CO2, down from the current 100g/km.
At the moment the cleanest small van is the new Ford Fiesta Van, with CO2 output of 87g/km, which is marginally lower than the Vauxhall Corsavan’s 89g/km.
It is to be hoped that opening up the ULED to vans will provide an incentive to the likes of Ford and Vauxhall to redouble their efforts to cut emissions, but reducing them by more than 10g/km is a big ask.
Despite believing the threshold of 75g/km is too low, the BVRLA welcomes TfL’s proposals. Boss John Lewis says: “A technology-neutral approach is something we have been lobbying on for some time, in addition to the need to offer van operators a low-carbon incentive.”
He also reiterates his call for rental vans to be made eligible for the exemption.

Manufacturer models

Ford, meanwhile, recently introduced a facelifted Fiesta van. The manufacturer has added its new 1.5-litre 75hp TDCi engine to the line-up. The Dagenham-built powertrain has official CO2 emissions of 98g/km and delivers 76.3mpg on the combined cycle. There is no place in the range, however, for the Blue Oval’s 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol unit, which was crowned the 2012 International Engine of the Year.
Fiat revealed its revised Punto van at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April. It is powered by a 1.3-litre diesel engine with power outputs of 75, 85 and 95hp. With stop/start fitted as standard, the most efficient 85hp model delivers fuel consumption of 80.7mpg. The Punto van is not as slick as its main rivals, the Ford Fiesta van and Vauxhall Corsavan, but it comes in at about £750 cheaper – with prices starting from £10,990 for the 75hp entry-level van.
The small van sector will welcome back the Piaggio Porter to its fold in 2013. The microvan, which its previous importer Perodua withdrew from the market more than two years ago, will be made available in petrol, diesel and electric guises, according to Piaggio Commercial UK boss Rob Dixon. The Porter is currently only built in left-hand drive, but Dixon says Piaggio UK has found a partner to convert the vehicle to right-hand drive. This is likely to add £1000 to the starting price of £7995, but Dixon claims the company “can absorb some of that”. He adds that RHD versions should be on offer from mid-2013.
The sector will be further swelled in 2013 by a newcomer in the shape of Ssangyong’s small 4x4 van the Korando CSX. Described as being ideal for delivery drops or as a go-anywhere vehicle for service engineers, the CSX has a 433kg payload, a 2.0-tonne towing capacity and a 1.3m3 load volume. A 2.0-litre, 149hp diesel engine, which emits 157g/km of CO2, powers the van. A steep price tag of £15,995 is partially offset by high levels of kit inherited from its passenger car sibling. This includes tinted glass, rear parking sensors, cruise control and leather trimmings. It also gets ESP, hill-start assist, and mud and snow tyres as standard.
What Van? alerted small van operators towards the end of last year to be wary of a lack of clarity surrounding speed limits. We learnt that the Citroen Nemo, Fiat Fiorino and Peugeot Bipper are subject to lower speed limits on single-lane roads (50mph) and dual- carriageways (60mph) than car-derived vans of similar size and weight (sub-2.0 tonnes), which are subject to the same controls as passenger cars. The anomaly has arisen because the three vans, despite having passenger car versions, were initially homologated for sale as commercial vehicles.


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