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The future of light commercial vehicles
Light commercial vehicles (LCVs) are key to British businesses, with UK government statistics showing the country’s 3.9 million vans comprise 10.4% of all licenced vehicles (compared to cars, 82.7%, and HGVs, 1.3% of the total).
As tax changes and trends like online shopping and home delivery have made vans more popular, their numbers are increasing – since 2000, road traffic statistics show their numbers have increased by 38%, compared to a 7% increase to Britain’s overall vehicle parc. With more vehicles on the roads and more likely to follow, manufacturers are making strides in improving the safety, reliability and efficiency of vehicles, but how will road users, pedestrians and businesses benefit from these LCV innovations?
Improved safety features
There are plenty of safety improvements being introduced by LCV manufacturers, aiming to keep drivers and pedestrians safe from accidents while protect businesses from the accident-related costs. Some have been around in cars for some time but only relatively recently have been mass-adopted by manufacturers – assisted braking systems and side airbags, for instance – while others are more innovative.
Preventing accidents by circumventing slow human reaction times, Electronic Stability Control involves wheels automatically braking if their sensors detect sliding or wheelspin in order to resume control. Autonomous emergency braking systems take this concept further, using radar, lidar or conventional cameras to detect hazards near the car, braking when collision is imminent – these are commonplace in HGVs, but are beginning to be introduced to LCVs too.
Less of an issue with lower-profile cars, crosswinds can be a big problem for vans, especially large models. Crosswind assistance technology tackles this issue – when high crosswinds are detected by on-board sensor systems, the computer automatically (and very carefully) applies the brakes on one side of the vehicle, as well as applying tiny amounts of force to the steering. Various iterations of this tech are installed on new VW, MAN TGE, Ford and Mercedes-Benz models.
A whole list of driver assistance tech is being introduced to the newest vans. New Vauxhall vans, for instance, feature lane keep assist, hill descent control, automatic cruise control, driver drowsiness alerts and speed sign recognition, lessening a whole range of accident causes.
Emergency QR codes
For when the worst occurs, Mercedes-Benz vans are also equipped with Rescue Assist QR codes located on the fuel filler cap and B pillar. The codes allow emergency services quickly see the technical layout of the vehicle, allowing them to cut free trapped occupants without damaging dangerous systems like high-pressure cylinders and fuel tanks.
It’s likely more manufacturers will introduce similar systems, reducing the emergency services’ reliance on potentially out-of-date vehicle schematics.
Improving the security capabilities of LCVs has a direct impact on business’ bottom lines, saving money and time, not just by reducing the risk of theft or damage, but by lowering insurance premiums.
Hi-tech security systems
Many manufacturers are improving the security of their vans by including security measures highly rated by the well-regarded Thatcham Research institution.
The best of these are Category 1 systems. These include an electronic alarm that can detect ignition, and perimeter, windscreen and window movement; a battery-powered siren; and a passively set immobiliser that has an isolated control unit or operating system. Category two systems have all these aside from the alarm, while lower categories include more-vulnerable mechanical devices.
Electronic GPS trackers are another useful addition, allowing van owners to track the exact locations of their vehicles, and when coupled with recovery systems, allow owners to immobilise the van remotely.
Lastly, to protect vehicles on the road, dash cams can help solve culpability issues in the event of an accident, saving time working with insurers in instances where the cause of the incident is difficult to ascertain.
While it’s often the case that innovations go hand in hand with complex maintenance, manufacturers and third parties are working towards making future vans cheaper to run. Many makes are now being released with rugged features that benefit drivers and fleet managers wanting quick and easy upkeep.
To help fleet managers better understand their vehicles, oil analysis services like Total ANAC allow businesses to compare their engine oils against millions of oil records to identify the engine’s state of wear, whether contaminants are present, and the overall characteristics of the lubricant.
Lubricants, too, are becoming more hi-tech. Total’s range of light commercial vehicle lubricants offer businesses lowered costs and improved performance thanks to increasing fuel economy, resistance against component wear and drain periods.
According to a recent report by the Urban Transport Group, 96% of registered vans in the UK are diesel-fuelled. Recent diesel models have improved emissions, and this will continue to be developed over time. However, van still contribute 30% of the overall nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions and 16% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from road transport, having a significant effect on human health and the environment.
To combat this, councils across the country are being instructed to create Clean Air Zones (CAZs) to limit the number of polluting vehicles entering urban areas. Some, like the one proposed in Leeds AZ, exclude LCVs, although there’s evidence that CAZ proposals are already influencing the make-up of LCV sales, with Euro 6 vans – the standard serving as the basis of councils’ CAZ requirements – selling well.
As time going on, these pressures are only going to become greater, so it’s no surprise that manufacturers are releasing a range of hybrid and fully electric vehicles to meet the future demand – Nissan’s E-NV200, Renault’s Z.E. 33 and the Iveco Daily Electric are just some examples.
Whole fleets are going electric too. Royal Mail is trialling Arrival’s 3.5, 6 and 7.5-tonne vans, and priced the same as equivalent diesel vehicles, these sorts of LCVs could become a no-brainer for urban operators unphased by the rapidly improving, but still low, battery ranges.
With a wide range of developments in motion across the LCV market, the future looks cheaper, safer and cleaner for van operators in the UK. To find out how Total can help your van fleet become more efficient, view our range of business solutions. As always, let us know your thoughts about the future of the van on our Facebook page.