The electric van market could be well placed for growth following the coronavirus lockdown, it has been said.
The effects of the lockdown on the motor industry were unsurprisingly a hot topic at today’s SMMT International Automotive Summit, which took place online.
Among the speakers was Peter Stephens, head of UK and external government affairs for Nissan, who said that the increase in door-to-door deliveries resulting from lockdown was creating market opportunities for electric vans.
He said: “The focus and the growth in last-mile delivery that we have seen as a result of the lockdown offers a real growth opportunity, as 100% electric vans are a great option for last mile delivery.”
Stephens also said that some of the tangential environmental benefits of lockdown would be likely to drive further interest in electrification.
“There was a strong focus on net zero even before we went into lockdown, and I think that is only going to continue as, as a society, we appreciate the cleaner air and quieter streets that we have experienced,” he said.
Another speaker at the event, Ford of Britain chairman and executive director for business transformation Graham Hoare, said that his company was committed to a clean future, but added that there would need to be a more diverse approach to alternative fuels in the CV market than for cars.
He said: “[These are] high mileage vehicles, and cost of ownership is very, very sensitive, so we’ll see a range of technologies coming in.
“Our diesel engines now have got a mild hybrid system, we’ve got the plug-in hybrid, and we’ll have a fully electric Transit starting in 2021, so a range of electric choices.
“But the diesel engine is going to be there for the decade, I am sure, because it is very practical – it has got this breadth of capability.”
Another speaker at the event, Andreas Zachariah, CEO and co-founder of software firm Travel AI, said that newcomers to the CV market, such as Rivian, Tesla and Arrival, were also likely to play a big role in electrification.
He said: “When enterprise or corporates get into the game and decide to commit towards something you have a huge force, and that force is money and willpower, and then things can accelerate.
“I think we are going to see quite a lot of change, and the opportunity there as well is if you have branding. If you are a bus or a delivery company, and your vehicles are greener or electric and not spewing out anything, as far as your brand is concerned that is completely coherent, and that is the sort of thing that is going to add a value.”