Electric Milk Trucks Still Working in Jolly Old England

1947 Brush Pony electric milk float parked in front of a house

Heritage Images / Getty Images

They call them milk floats, we call them milk trucks. The difference is that the English ones are electric. First invented for milk runs in 1889, no one seems to know why they are called "floats".

By the 1940s many local dairies were using the battery-powered electric vehicles; there were thousands on the streets in England and Scotland delivering milk and bread. In the last twenty years they have practically disappeared, probably because people buy their milk at supermarkets now.

Benefits of Electric Milk Trucks

Electric milk float from London Dairies parked along the sidewalk
Mark Hillary / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

There are many benefits. They are free from road tax as they are fully electric and they don't pay the congestion charge in central London. The trucks are pollution free and very quiet. There are no gas costs and the price of running them electrically is about 10p (15 cents) per mile. On one charge they can go 60 to 80 miles. They travel at the excessive speed of 15 to 20 miles an hour. The floats last over thirty years.

The days of this simple and environmental truck are not quite over, as people are rediscovering these benefits. Some dairies are still using them. One company, Bluebird, is still making them. Growing Communities, an organic box scheme and social enterprise, is using ‘Maisy’ the milkfloat to deliver fresh veg in the east London area.

They're Used in Other Ways

The Old Milk Float is a small company that rents out its old milk float for charity and fun events. They initially bought it to support an old people's charity--as a way for them to get around cheaply. Then they wisely realized that it was a quintessentially British vehicle, a totally 'green' machine, and free from congestion charge.

Their float is a registered Morrison D6 from 1956 and was used as a rural milk van until 1991. Now it is leading a rock and roll life, going to festivals, weddings and film shoots.