Electric van payloads explained

Electric van payloads are similar to normal vans, but not identical. We explain in full

When it comes to maximum payloads, electric vans are regulated in exactly the same way as petrol and diesel vans: that is to say, the maximum given payload must not be exceeded at any time.

However, because electric vans tend to be heavier than conventional vans (largely due to the use of lithium-ion cells in their batteries), the amount of weight they can legally carry is usually less.

For example, the conventionally fuelled Nissan NV200 allows a payload of 728kg, while the all-electric e-NV200 can only muster 705kg. Meanwhile, the diesel-powered Renault Master has a maximum payload of 1,536kg; 436kg more than the electric version. A trend for smaller purely electric vans has emerged as a result of this payload issue – including the taxi-based LEVC VN5.

Plug-in hybrid vans are still emerging, with the only one currently for sale being the Ford Transit Custom PHEV. But this model isn’t as badly affected as a fully electric van, because the combination of its smaller battery pack and petrol engine is roughly similar in weight to a diesel-auto set-up. As a result, the Transit Custom PHEV can carry up to 1,130kg, which isn't much less than the diesel Transit Custom is capable of.

As a rule of thumb, an electric or hybrid van probably won’t be able to carry as much weight as a direct petrol or diesel equivalent, although most electric models currently for sale are designed for jobs that focus more on payload volume than maximum weight.

What licence do I need to drive an electric van?

To combat the discrepancy in payload weights, the Government announced a temporary, five-year derogation in 2018, applying to the 3,500kg Maximum Allowable Mass (MAM) of vehicles driven by holders of the standard B and B1 driving licences issued from 1 January 1997 onwards.

It covers alternatively-fuelled vehicles only, and raises the MAM (or gross vehicle weight) of electric, plug-in hybrid, range-extender or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles to 4,250kg.

However, if you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you'll already have the C1 entitlement that allows you to drive anything with a gross vehicle weight of between 3,500kg and 7,500kg.

It’s worth noting that while the MAM has been raised for electric vans, this also means that they're subject to additional restrictions, because they fall into the heavy goods vehicle (HGV) sector. That means a tachograph must be fitted to log driver hours at the wheel, while a 60mph speed limiter is compulsory, too.

In theory, the move allows heavier electrified commercial vehicles to compete on an even playing field with petrol and diesel vehicles, with the authorities hoping to encourage drivers and businesses towards less polluting modes of transport.

It’s worth double-checking how much weight you’re allowed to drive on the road before you get behind the wheel: anyone caught exceeding the legal limits can be fined and face prosecution.

In addition, if you’re using your electric van to tow, then you can tow a trailer of up to 750kg, as long as the overall MAM remains within the temporary maximum of 4,250kg. Remember that a standard driving licence only provides you with a provisional licence to tow, you need to take the B+E test to do it legally.