Retailers, utilities and local authorities are pledging £40 million in the next two years alone.
Taxis aren't the only diesel-hungry vehicles going electric in the UK. A coalition of the country's sixteen largest fleet operators just announced a massive commitment to electrification that will single handedly buy more electric vans in the next two years than the entirety of those purchased by all UK industry last year.
But that's just the beginning. In addition to promising to spend £40 million on van electrification in the next two years alone, the signatories—which include supermarket giant Tesco, Engie, Anglian Water, Leeds City Council, Network Rail and Yorkshire Ambulance Service—are also promising to complete electrification by 2028 of more than 18,000 vans, as long as sufficient charging infrastructure and competitively priced electric vans are available.
Taken by itself, that's a pretty bold commitment that will make a significant contribution to cleaning UK air. But as is often the case with pledges like these, the real leverage lies in sending a massive signal to the markets that electric vans will have buyers—potentially bringing down costs and increasing availability for the UK's 2 million independent van owners. For those not in the know, vans in the UK are used kind of like pick up trucks here in the US—so much so that "white van man" has become a kind of derogatory stereotype for a certain blue collar, tradesperson demographic.
Bex Bolland, Head of Air Quality for the non-profit group Global Action Plan which is heading up the pledge put the importance of the announcement like this:
“Today marks a significant moment for the UK’s van sector. 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 4 million vans to become zero emission, significantly improving the air we all breathe.”