Vans: what they are and why they are so important

Vans are key players in the logistics chain, enabling the ‘last mile’ delivery of goods in urban areas. Largely used by SMEs as business tools, vans power the European economy, helping businesses to thrive.

What are vans?

  • Vans are part of a category known as ‘light commercial vehicles’.
  • The European classification system defines vans as “motor vehicles with at least four wheels, used for the carriage of goods and having a maximum mass not exceeding 3.5 tonnes”.
    • They are classified as the N1 category.
    • This category is further broken down into Class I, II and III vehicles, depending on vehicle weight.
  • Light commercial vehicles can also be used to transport people, in which case they are treated as passenger cars under the M categories.
  • A wide variety of models and sizes of light commercial vehicles are sold and used across the EU, serving a broad range of specific purposes.
  • Many light commercial vehicles are registered through multi-stage type approval. This means that the manufacturer produces an incomplete vehicle, which is then completed by a bodybuilder. Thousands of different build-ups are available to satisfy customer needs (for instance camper vans, broadcasting vans, freezer boxes, etc).

Why are vans so important?

  • Thanks to vans, businesses can deliver goods right to their customers’ doors. This is all the more important given the surge in online purchasing by consumers, who expect rapid and direct deliveries.
  • Vans are of utmost importance for the economy and society. They enable a broad range of activities, including:
    • Construction
    • Postal and courier services
    • Ambulances
    • Policing and rescue operations
    • Mobile workshops
    • Passenger transportation, think for example of school buses or the transport of disabled people
  • Vans are key players in the logistics chain, enabling the ‘last mile’ delivery of goods in urban areas.
  • Largely used by SMEs as business tools, vans power the European economy, helping businesses to thrive.
  • As they are business tools, the total cost of ownership is extremely important.
  • Fuel consumption, price and maintenance costs are decisive factors for customers.
  • Van-derived cars are the most effective means to carry small groups of less than eight passengers.
  • Serving very specific purposes, vans cannot be easily replaced by other transport services (such as public transport or carsharing).
  • Due to weight, size, and number of specific usage requirements, some technological solutions available for passenger cars are not directly applicable to vans, and the lower production volumes do not allow for the same economies of scale.

Vans are key players in the logistics chain, enabling the ‘last mile’ delivery of goods in urban areas. Largely used by SMEs as business tools, vans power the European economy, helping businesses to thrive.

In figures

  • 28,110,951 – There are more than 28 million vans on the EU’s roads today.
  • 11.6 years – The average age of the EU van fleet is 11.6 years and rising.
  • 1.4 million vans were registered in the European Union in 2020, a decrease of 17.6% compared to the previous year.
  • 80% – Vans represent more than 80% of sales (in units) in the commercial vehicle market (which also includes trucks, heavy trucks, buses and coaches).
  • 38 – There are 38 assembly plants in Europe that make light commercial vehicles.
  • 1.7 million vans were produced in the EU in 2020.
  • 374,918 – European vans are increasingly popular around the world. In 2019, 374,918 vans were exported, worth almost €4 billion.
  • 92.4% – Diesel vehicles continue to make up the vast majority of new van registrations in the EU, accounting for more than 92% of sales.
  • 4.2% – Alternatively-powered vehicles (battery electric, plug-in hybrid, hybrid and alternative fuels) together represent 4.2% of new van sales in the EU, but only 1.9% of all light commercial vehicles on the road today.
  • 158.4 gramme – In 2019, average new van emissions were 158.4g CO2/km in the EU.

European vans are increasingly popular around the world. In 2019, 374,918 vans were exported, worth almost €4 billion.

Content type Fact
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