“Vans account for around 15 per cent of carbon emissions from road transport but currently there are no mass market low carbon models on offer to the UK buyer, although the technology to create them exists,” says transport minister, Jim Fitzpatrick. “We aim to give investors and manufacturers confidence in the existence of a market for lower carbon vans, to encourage them to bring them to market more quickly than they would do otherwise.”

The Department for Transport is not favouring any particular technology at present; the only criterion is that it should be low carbon. Funding to encourage public sector fleets to, for example, trial electric vans or diesel/electric hybrids could be made available longer term, however. The Royal Mail the Metropolitan Police Service have already expressed interest in the programme.

Not surprisingly, Coventry-based electric van maker Modec welcomes the initiative. “It will help stimulate demand for zero-emission vehicles from public bodies operating in urban environments,” says strategy director, Trevor Power.

What Van?'s view is that while the initiative is laudable so far as it goes, it's disappointing that it does not include an incentive for private sector fleets to switch to low-carbon vans.

After all, a van run by Joe Soap Builders is going to cause just as much pollution as the same van run by the local town council. So why should the latter organisation receive preferential treatment?

A tender will be issued in two weeks to find a suitable firm to do the procurement work and the winner will be announced in early 2008. This could be a lease firm or even the Energy Savings Trust.