Alternatively fuelled commercial vehicles (AFCVs) weighing up to 4.25t can now be driven by drivers with a category B licence, up from the 3.5t limit for regular LCVs.
The UK government has permitted the change for vehicles powered by electricity, natural gas, biogas or hydrogen, for the purpose of transporting goods, on condition that the driver has received a minimum of five hours of training from a registered instructor in operating such a vehicle.
Industry figures have lobbied for the change to compensate for the payload loss caused by the extra weight of battery packs in electric vehicles.
Eddie Parker, LCV consultant at leasing company Arval, welcomed the change. He said: “This derogation is important because it allows fleets to adopt large AFCVs, most likely panel vans, in the 3.5t sector without it affecting payload.
“Previously, anyone wanting to use a 3.5t AFCV would have had to carry less, because of the weight of batteries and other equipment.
“We believe this is a progressive step and we very much welcome it. Currently, there are few vehicles that fall into this category but we are hopeful it will create a new sector into which manufacturers will soon move.”
Parker said there was a need to create additional impetus behind AFCVs.
“While the amount of available models is increasing and we are starting to see some adoption, they very much remain a niche proposition,” he said.
“Having more panel van options would increase their appeal.”
Parker also welcomed the requirement for extra training that has been set out.
He said: “As a company, we are very much in favour of increasing penetration of driver training so, although this move could be criticised as being inconsistent because 3.5t drivers do not have to undergo additional training, we prefer to see it as an exciting opportunity and a valuable way of combining greater environmental focus and vehicle safety.”