An initiative aiming to promote electric vans has launched with 16 fleets signing up.

The Clean Van Commitment, backed by the Department for Transport, has seen the operators sign up to source 2,400 electric vans by 2020.

Organisations involved include electric utility firm Engie, Tesco, Anglian Water, Leeds City Council, Network Rail and Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

There is a further commitment to more than 18,000 zero-emission vans in total by 2028, on condition that sufficient charging infrastructure and competitively priced electric vans are available.

It is hoped this will not only help bring down the price of new electric vans but also stimulate the second-hand market in four to six years, potentially helping independent van owners to adopt them.

To help more van fleets go electric, the operators involved in the commitment are calling for more charging points, tax changes that support electric vans, a greater choice of electric van models, and permissions to add charging infrastructure to their depots.

The commitment is being led by green charity Global Action Plan, in partnership with Engie.

Global Action Plan head of air quality Bex Bolland said: “For the first time we know just how quickly van fleet leaders aim to adopt electric vehicles.

“Their collective purchasing commitments show manufacturers that demand is thriving, and will help energy sector, local authority and central government planning.

“These 16 fleets will pave the way for the national fleet of four million vans to become zero-emission, significantly improving the air we all breathe.”

Research by the University of Oxford and University of Bath has found that the health effects of pollution from older diesel vans costs the NHS and society £2.2 billion a year – three times more per vehicle than cars.

Roads minister Jesse Norman said: “This latest research further highlights the very serious potential impacts of nitrous oxide pollution, and underlines the importance of the transition to greener transport. That is why the Clean Van Commitment is important, encouraging some of the biggest van fleet operators in the UK to switch to cleaner vehicles.”