Best hybrid vans

Electric cargo carriers that are fully flexible: plug-in hybrid vans combine cheap battery power with an engine for long-distance driving

Leon Poultney
Jul 11, 2018

A plug-in hybrid van could be the perfect set-up for business users with regular short hops around town, access to a charging network and a desire to reduce fuel bills.

With a battery that can be charged up, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) can typically drive for 20 miles or more on electric power alone.

And when you need to go further, there’s a petrol or diesel engine under the bonnet too, so you don’t need to worry about waiting for hours to recharge.

Despite the many benefits of this greener technology, there’s currently just one hybrid commercial vehicle available: a version of Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV with the rear windows blanked out and seats removed.

But that won’t be the case for long. Ford is already testing a hybrid version of its Transit Custom van, and you can expect other manufacturers to be following closely behind.


Best hybrid vans on sale now

The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is the best-selling plug-in hybrid car in Britain, and the Commercial version (above) retains all of that car’s major selling points.

Customers get the same impressive 33-miles of all-electric range (that will reduce if you’re carrying a heavy load at high speed), the same low emissions and the same four-wheel drive system for impressive performance on rough terrain.


The Mitsubishi is best if you’re going to take full advantage of its electric range on short journeys and regularly recharge it to minimise fuel use. You’ll find that the fuel costs will mount up the more you rely on petrol power during longer trips.

And without the fuel savings, the Outlander is a less appealing choice. Without rear seats, it has a load area of around 1.6m3 in volume, which is larger than a Ford Fiesta van or Vauxhall Combo but not quite as spacious as the load area of a Ford Transit Courier.

However, with new prices starting at more than £21,000, excluding VAT but including a £2,500 government grant, it’s £5,000 more expensive than a Transit Courier.

The current model comes in either 3H Commercial trim or slightly more expensive Juro Commercial specification, which includes some additional niceties such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto software for easier control of phone apps and dictation of messages through the dashboard touchscreen, as well as a rear view camera.

The very latest version of the Outlander goes on sale in September with some small improvements to the interior quality and a more comfortable ride.

Access to goods is through the standard side doors and rear boot, which can make loading bulky items tough, and suitable lashing points are scarce.


New hybrid vans coming soon

Mitsubishi might currently be the only manufacturer selling a plug-in commercial variant but Ford recently unveiled a PHEV Transit Custom van that’s currently being tested in Britain.

A 12-month trial is currently underway with Transport for London, which manages the capitals’ major roads and public transport network. It involves 20 test vehicles that combine a small 1-litre petrol engine with batteries and a motor, which can power the car for up to 31 miles on electricity alone.

Ford claims the vehicles will be set for commercial production in 2019 and says they will likely feature geo-fencing technology that is capable of automatically modifying vehicle settings based on each van’s current location.

This means battery charge could be stored for use in future if the technology senses the van is entering any of the zero-emissions zones that are being proposed in European cities, including Oxford and London.

The total range of the battery and engine without recharging or filling up is claimed to be 310-miles and the PHEV is said to have an increased payload capacity compared with battery-only electric vehicles.


Fully electric non-hybrid vans

Customers looking for green transportation solutions have the option of several fully electric vans, without any petrol or diesel engine at all. These include some which have a range of at least 100 miles before needing to be recharged.

The latest Nissan e-NV200, has an official range of 174 miles, which should equate to at least 100 miles in real-world driving with a heavy load. The Renault Kangoo Z.E. 33 has an official 170 miles range, which is estimated to be around 124 miles in real-world use. In both cases, cold weather is likely to reduce the range to below 100 miles.

Peugeot and Citroen also offer electrified versions of their near-identical Partner and Berlingo models. Their official range is 106 miles on a single charge, but anything over 80 miles in real-world conditions would be a bonus.

A larger option is Iveco’s XL Daily Van that offers a range of 174-miles on a single charge. This should equate to at least 100 miles in the real world and it can be topped up in around two hours via future fast chargers, which are expected to be installed from next year.

New electric van buyers can benefit from a government grant of up to £8,000 off the price, but may find that their vehicle has a reduced maximum payload capacity compared to a model with a petrol or diesel engine.


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