Petrol vs diesel vs hybrid vs electric - which van is right for you?

18 November 2020

Struggling to decide between switching from petrol to diesel, upgrading to hybrid, or going electric? You’re not alone.

In the old days, it used to be pretty simple: most cars had petrol engines, and most commercial vehicles used diesel. These days we've got a whole range of engine types to consider when choosing a new van, whether you're leasing a van or buying it outright.

There are currently more than four million vans on the UK's roads with only a small percentage of petrol vans so it looks like this trend is passing in favour of diesel, which is an obvious current norm when it comes to commercial vehicles. The other van choices include hybrid vans, either diesel hybrid or petrol hybrid, and the new normal - electric vans, which are continuously growing in popularity among our commercial van leasing customers. With such a variety of options, it makes the decisions for fleet managers and business operators much harder when it comes to choosing the right van leasing deal. In this article, we will help you choose the best commercial fleet or van by explaining how each vehicle operates and the pros and cons of each engine variant.

 

Electric and hybrid vans explained

Petrol and diesel vehicles have been around for so long that there is no need to explain them. Hybrid, including plug-in hybrid and mild hybrid, and electric vans, even though they are not exactly new, might still confuse as to what each entails so we've prepared this quick guide to help you understand them.

ELECTRIC VANS

Often referred to as an EV, these vans are purely powered by electricity and require charging to drive them - they simply won't move when the battery is flat. The driving range has its limits though and depends on the battery size, payload, and other factors, including the climate. They are becoming more popular, especially since Government grants, tax relief, and electric vehicle infrastructure improves. We've seen an increase in Renault Kangoo electric van and Mercedes eVito van leases for both commercial fleet van leasing and small business owners.

HYBRID VANS

A hybrid van is a type of vehicle that is powered by two different sources: petrol or diesel and an electric motor with a battery.
There are three main types of hybrid vans: full hybridsmild hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

  • Full hybrid (HEV) vans can run on just the combustion engine (diesel/petrol), the electric engine (power from the battery), or a combination.  A full hybrid van doesn't need plugging in as the battery is recharging during regenerative braking.
  • Mild hybrid (mHEV) vans have an electric motor and combustion engine which always work together, it is not possible to run the van is just electric or just combustion engine mode. 
  • Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vans have the battery that is charged the same way as with the electric van (plugged in) but it doesn't have the same driving range. The pure electric mode works for the first miles (the range depends on the model) and after that, the petrol or diesel engine takes over.

As you can see, all of these engines use electricity to power them and the only difference is that hybrid, mild hybrid, and plug-in hybrid vans use the electric battery partially, while the full electric vans rely on it completely. You can find out more about each type of these engines by reading our "Electric van guide - everything you need to know" and "Hybrid vehicles in detail" articles.

Now we understand the differences between the engines, let's talk about the pros and cons.

 

Petrol vans

There is no doubt that petrol vans are becoming history but that doesn't mean that there are no more petrol vans available. As of today, the petrol-engined vans below are currently available to lease from CVC:

You'll notice that all these vehicles are from our small van category. Some manufacturers have recently brought out petrol options on larger vans, only to withdraw them from sale after a short period (e.g Volkswagen Transporter) because there is a lack of interest in a petrol engine in the world of commercial vehicles.

Even though petrol vans are usually cheaper to lease or buy, they also have lower residual value (how much the van is worth after a period of use), which negatively affects the whole-life cost of running a petrol van and a chance of selling it on for the price you would expect. Petrol vans also consume more fuel when compared to diesel engines so most won't be eligible for free operation in ultra-low emission zones.

 

Diesel vans

Every manufacturer of commercial vehicles has a diesel van in every range they have on offer. Listing them all would need several pages of this blog so it's safe to say that any van you can think of most likely has a diesel engine. There is a good reason that diesel vans are so common. These engines are both efficient and powerful, offer excellent fuel economy and the Euro 6D engines are also quieter. There are no restrictions on the driving range, they keep their residual value well and most diesel vans offer the highest payloads. All this makes diesel vans a convenient choice for commercial vehicle fleets and van leasing.

Diesel vans have their cons though. They are not the most environmentally friendly with their high CO2 emissions, their DPF (diesel particulate filters) get clogged in urban use and also they may not be allowed to operate in ultra-low emission zones free of charge. Despite all of this, diesel vans are the current trend - at least until they are banned from being sold in the UK, which may happen in as soon as 2030 years.

Even though there are so many diesel vans available, here is the list of our five most popular diesel van lease deals from each van size category.

small diesel vans
medium diesel vans
large diesel vans

 

Hybrid vans

Hybrid vans have improved in recent years but the fundamental principle of a commercial vehicle containing both a combustion engine and an electric motor remains the same. How much the electric motor is used varies from van to van - more basic models have an electric motor that provides some extra power when needed, while plug-in hybrid vans will be able to cover a reasonable distance using the electric motor alone.

A hybrid van is a good choice if you and your business are environmentally conscious but can't commit to a full-electric van because of the need for charging points (a potential limitation) or simply because of the regular long distances. They offer lower pollution than petrol and diesel vans and also lower running costs since they partially use the electric motor, which cuts fuel consumption and conserves energy. Hybrid vans are quieter which helps if you're doing night deliveries for example.

They are particularly good for urban driving and most will be able to enter low emission zones free of charge. Because hybrid vans still have a conventional engine, there is no range anxiety involved when you need to make a longer journey. They keep their residual value well, hence the resale price is high but they are generally more expensive to buy or lease in the first place.

However, maintenance on a hybrid van may prove more expensive and require specialist skills, while the battery is expensive to replace. They also emit more emissions than pure electric vans if that's your main focus. If you're going to lease a plug-in hybrid van you need to consider that it will need a dedicated charging infrastructure too. Lastly, hybrid vans generally come with smaller engines so produce less pulling power - bear this in mind if you carry heavy payloads.

If you think that the hybrid van would best suit your business needs, then we recommend the following van leasing deals:

 

Electric vans

Full-electric vans are continuously growing in popularity. We have already seen big fleets taking orders on all-electric vans but have also noticed a rise in interest in electric vans among smaller businesses, including sole traders.

The biggest benefit is the cost-saving - electric vans work out much cheaper to run than petrol, diesel or even hybrid vehicles and are cheaper to maintain. Renault Kangoo Z.E, for example, costs approximately £5 to charge in full and can over up to 134 miles on a single charge - no doubt why it's currently the most popular electric van and the top choice for van fleets. If you use it mostly in cities and don't regularly cover long distances, the electric van should prove to be very cost-effective.

Electric vans are also exempt from the London Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge. There is no Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to pay on electric vans either. Compared to a diesel van, it will save you thousands in the long run. The driving ranges have improved massively compared to early electric vans and the battery packs no longer take space in the loading bay. They are quiet, very environmentally friendly and to sum it up - a perfect van leasing choice for businesses wanting to go green and save money.

The negative sides of all-electric vans still exist. The most important factor to consider is range anxiety. Even though this has improved in the newest models, there is still a limit on how far you can go before having to re-charge the battery. It's also worth thinking about where you'll charge your electric van. It will most likely be charged overnight - either at home or at a depot. Installing a dedicated charging point will be essential to ensure the van is fully charged in the morning.

Another thing to consider is the reduced payload. Right now the electric vans offer variable payloads but they are still considerably lower than those of the diesel vans - although they are continuously improving. Battery durability is also not widely tested but the manufacturers offer long warranties so there is no need to worry too much, especially if you're leasing.

Finally, the cost of purchasing an all-electric van is higher than petrol or diesel variant and because the technology is still quite new, it reflects in the uncertain residual values - however, if you're leasing an electric van, you don't need to worry about these costs.

If you're interested in leasing an electric van or modernising your commercial fleet, explore our current van deals:

 

Which van is right for your business?

As you can see, there are many pros and cons of running a business with any one of these vans. The decision of which fuel type and which type of vehicle is up to each individual business and should be based on its particular needs and expectations, with the type of travel they do being one of the most important factors to consider. We hope that this article has given you some insight into the positives and negatives of each fuel type, helping you to make the right choice when leasing your next van.



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