Improvements in diesel engine efficiency in commercial vehicles could make the economic case for running electric vans even more difficult, says a major manufacturer.
Steve Bridge, managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans, believes the technology used in van diesel engines has significantly advanced over the past few years, as a number of manufacturers have been using some of the fuel-saving features already available on cars.
He told Fleet News that there was a danger that fuel savings with diesel would make it more difficult to identify potential savings with electric vans.
He said the next-generation Vito would be available with an electric E-Cell version as in the current range, but its appeal could diminish alongside more efficient diesel power.
“With the Vito E-Cell we were pretty rigid on price when it was introduced three years ago, but since then we’ve been able to add a little more flexible,” he said.
“We’ve realised that they work very well for some operators and we have satisfied customers particularly in places like London.“
But for other van operators, even if we could give them away, they wouldn’t want them.”
He added: “As we go further down the road of optimised diesel engines, it might become more difficult for pure-electric vans to demonstrate their cost effectiveness.”
The new Vito, due to arrive in the UK in 2015, offers fuel consumption improvements of up to 20% with the new entry-level front-wheel drive model using a 1.6-litre diesel engine.