Whittam also called for electric van makers to be honest about the range capabilities of their vehicles and admitted the industry would hesitate to adopt plug-in LCVs until battery technology has advanced sufficiently to guarantee a range of at least 100 miles for a fully-loaded van.

He said range predictions based on car test cycles were not realistic for cargo-carrying lcvs.

Whittam outlined a number of changes that need to occur for electric vans to gain a real foothold in the market. He said operators need “residual value certainty” to invest in EVs and called for government support on this as well as demanding a charging infrastructure to reflect LCV and not car usage.

“Vans can be charged overnight, not on the high street for two hours during the day.”

He also predicted that the take-up of plug-in vans would gather momentum once the price of diesel reaches £1.65 per litre and when Transport for London raises the capital’s congestion charge to £25 a day.

Whittam pointed out short route vehicles are the least fuel-efficient and said operators should ask themselves: “How many vans do I have doing less than 100 miles a day?”

He said: “Diesel engines will develop but will not keep pace with the cost of fuel,” and predicted that within 10 years 30% of the UK’s vans will be electric.

But while he acknowledged operators “should not be penalised from a business sense by adopting green technology”, Whittam said the debate over whether to relieve electric van operators from having to get O licences and tachographs for breaching the 3.5-tonne threshold due to the weight of the battery was “somewhat premature” because of the dearth of heavy electric vans either “on the market or in the pipeline”.