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Mercedes launch the E-Cell

Van drivers in the UK will be looking on with interest as their German counterparts take part in trials, which will see the launch of the first battery powered light commercial vehicle, that is factory built, on the roads of Europe.

Mercedes have unveiled the Vito E-Cell, and are trialing the silent, emission free vehicle in Germany over the next few months, before going into full factory production, which will see the green van all over the countries of the EU including the UK.

The vans being built in Spain, are based on the long wheel base version of the Vito, with one big difference besides that of the engine, the E-Cell is front wheel drive. Other features of the new van are sliding doors as well as a tailgate, cameras to assist the driver in reverse parking and electronic stability controls.

Weighing in at just over 3,000 kg and capable of carrying a 900 kg load, Mercedes claim the E-Cell Vito will be seven times cheaper to run than a standard model, with the prospect of owners saving even more, if they charge the lithium batteries at off-peak times. A fully charged vehicle will have a distance range of 80 miles and a top speed of 50 mph.

The company plan to have over 100 vans on the roads of Germany in the trial, and expect the vehicles to travel over 50,000 miles in their first four years. Over 2,000 vehicles will be produced next year, so in the very near future, van drivers in the UK can expect to be getting commercial vehicle insurance on an electric van.

Speeding fines high in the West Country

A report published over the weekend shows van drivers in the West Country, along with ordinary motorists, are being saddled with higher motoring fines as a result of speed cameras than anywhere else in the country except for the capital.

The report by the Taxpayers Alliance group says that in 2008/9, the latest years available with data motorists in Avon and Somerset were fined a grand total of £3,491,340 after being caught exceeding the limit on speed cameras.

Jennifer Dunn an analyst for the Taxpayers Alliance said “Motorists in Avon and Somerset are forking out a huge amount in speeding fines. Fines would be legitimate if speed cameras made the roads safer, but they don’t and people are sick of being ripped off under the guise of road safety. Avon and Somerset need to scrap cameras all together.”

However, Dick Bowen of Safecam, the company responsible for placing the cameras in Avon, said “We’re removing cameras from locations where collisions have decreased. Nine cameras have been taken out in Somerset in the last few months – including the one in Tone Way, Taunton. We’re putting an increasing emphasis on driver education and the number of drivers attending our Speed Choice courses has gone up from 4,893 in 2003-4 to 42,285 in the past year.”

He went on to say that more cameras were due to be taken out of action as the council turned to a more educational approach to the problem of speeding motorists. Van drivers and motorists alike will be grateful for the shift in focus away from speed cameras as a tiny speed infringement can certainly affect a commercial vehicle insurance quote.

Ice cream van for dogs

Think of vans associated with dogs and the mind immediately goes to the council dog catcher or perhaps a mobile pet grooming business, well the world is about to see a new van designed for dogs starting this weekend.

It is well documented that the UK is a nation of animal lovers and owners of dogs in the capital have the chance to indulge their canine chums that little bit more than usual. This Saturday, July 24th at the Boomerang Pets Party in Regents Park, London, visitors will see the launch of the UK’s one and only ice cream van for dogs! Yes dogs. The name of the ice cream van, well naturally it has to be K99.

The van will be visiting dog and owner events all over the country this summer in a bid to cool both canine and human brows as the nation basks in the hottest temperatures for some time. Whether the vendor has to have special commercial vehicle insurance to serve dogs is another matter altogether.

Of course the canine gourmets will be offered a very special sort of ice cream. The van owners have researched the topic thoroughly and hit upon what they believe is the perfect flavour. What is the flavour? A scrumptious concoction of gammon and chicken ice cream served in a traditional cone and topped with that favourite treat, a biscuit bone. Enough to set the saliva glands of any family pet running at full pelt.

How exactly the dogs will handle paying for the treat and eating it will be a test no doubt and it’s to hope serviettes will be available.

Whatever next!

MP looks for radical change on UK motorways

The nations van drivers, especially those travelling long distances, could well be getting price quotes for individual journeys as well as their commercial vehicle insurance if the Government takes up the suggestion of one of its MP’s.

Tim Yeo, speaking in his role as Chairmen of the Commons energy and climate select committee, is advocating the Government sell off huge chunks of the country’s motorway network.

He believes the sell off would raise funds for a cut in fuel duty and, privatisation would in itself see large amounts of investment in the upkeep of the nation’s main highway arteries. Mr. Yeo pointed out the popularity of the M6 toll and forecast that privatisation and the toll charges that would lead from it could be targeted in many ways to be fairer on motorists. For instance, van drivers travelling at night would incur a lesser charge than those travelling at peak times. Vans with lower carbon emission levels could get a discounted rate, and van drivers not using the motorway at all would benefit from much smaller, if any, road taxation.

Explaining further he said “So far most politicians have been reluctant to embrace the huge potential which a truly radical road pricing system offers. Allied to the overdue privatisation of Britain’s motorways this could fund both more investment in better roads and the immediate development of high speed rail. Since it could also pay for a cut in fuel duty the upshot would be a cut in the cost of driving for drivers who make little use of motorways, a group which includes many rural residents for whom car ownership is a necessity, regardless of wealth.”

Council target prison vans

A London council have managed to upset van drivers, the company they work for and the general public at large with their policy on issuing parking tickets to a firm responsible for an unusual cargo.

Croydon Council parking attendants are issuing tickets to prison vans delivering and picking up prisoners outside Croydon County Court and although the council says it has only issued two tickets to prison vans, court employees say that vans are ticketed on a daily basis.

Serco, the company involved say, like their cargo, their hands are tied. The company insist they have to park as close as possible to the county court to facilitate a secure and speedy service so court business is not delayed. Furthermore the van drivers and escort staff have to stay with prisoners until they are dealt with by the court.

They went on to say that although they are working on government business, they have to pay the fines the same as any other business with a company spokesman adding “We would appeal to a local authority where this a lack of appropriate parking nearby to engage with us to find a local solution to allow efficient use of courts whilst minimising any disruption to local communities.”

Consumer group the National Taxpayers Alliance were infuriated by the information, a spokesman declaring “It is obviously ridiculous that with one arm our government is giving another arm parking tickets. The only people who are losing out are the tax payers, who are being made to suffer as a result of the stupidity of public officials.”

Fortunately for the van drivers involved the parking tickets will not adversely affect their commercial vehicle insurance.

Used vans a vehicle of choice!

A report from one of Britain’s universities suggests that more van drivers than ever could be looking for cheap commercial vehicle insurance in the future, as used vans could well be in high demand and the vehicle of choice for many businesses.

A team led by Professor Peter Cooke at the University of Buckingham’s Centre for Automotive Management, believe that second hand commercial vehicles will become highly sought after vehicles because of their career longevity.

The report was published by British Car Auctions (BCA), who sends significant numbers of light commercial vehicles through their auctions, and backs up their own findings.

Duncan Ward BCA’s general manager for commercial vehicles, said that vans were more and more becoming part and parcel of everyday business life, with used vans being the preferred choice of small and medium size companies who can’t justify expenditure on new vehicles. He went on to say “Used LCVs also have a significantly longer ‘business life’ than cars, two or three more businesses using them, whereas cars typically have just one business user before being sold to a private motorist.”

The average price for a second hand van going through auctions in June was around £4,300, a drop on the 2010 highs achieved in April which were a couple of hundred pounds more, but still healthy when compared to 2009 figures. In the same period, new van sales continue to grow as companies who have held on to old vehicles through the financial downturn are eventually returning to the showrooms to buy new motors.

Van Dealer in “clocking” scam

A van dealer in Bristol stands accused of “clocking” almost a million miles off of a number of vans he sold to unsuspecting members of the public.

A jury at Bristol crown court were told that a local motor dealer had made a lucrative business out of buying vans and motors with very high mileage on them, and then resetting the odometer on the vehicles to show a much smaller figure. It is claimed he actually deducted over 400,000 miles from one vehicle.

The case was brought to court after trading standards officers investigated a complaint by a member of the public in 2008, who said he knew a vehicle he bought from the dealer had been “clocked”. The following investigation led to the dealer being charged with 10 instances of fraud as well as ten alternative charges of selling goods with a false description.

Alan Fuller, prosecuting officer, said “We say that this defendant has, for some time, been ripping people off. He has been selling them vehicles that have been clocked, and by that we mean altering the mileage display to lower than the true mileage unbeknown to the punters.”

The prosecution says the evidence suggests that the defendant has been defrauding the public through the sale of those clocked vehicles.

“He had a practice of purchasing high mileage vehicles and then reducing the mileage to just the right side of 100,000 miles. He obtained MoT certificates to give some legitimacy to the mileage. Vehicles were advertised without reference to mileage and they were presented in very good cosmetic order.”

Local trading standards officers are still attempting to trace owners of some of the vehicles. It is highly likely that some owners will have entered wrong details on their commercial vehicle insurance and should contact the trading standards office without delay.

The court case still continues.

Parking problems in Cornwall

Council chiefs in Cornwall are putting their parking plans under review after locals protested about van drivers taking advantage of the system.

The problem is occurring in West Cornwall where camper van drivers are parking overnight in lay-bys and roads that have no parking restrictions. Local residents are concerned because some of the campervans are stopping there for a whole fortnight which in turn is stopping them from taking advantage of the free parking.

One area where this has become a problem is Marazion. The sea wall along the stretch of coast that overlooks the beautiful St Michaels Mount is free to park, which is unusual for sea fronts in Cornwall, however, local resident Charles Brown said “The holidaymakers stop here for a full fortnight in their campervans preventing locals from parking, its time the council started looking after local residents after all we do live here”

Councillor Sue Nicholas was aware of the problem and said “I’ve had a lot of telephone calls and emails from residents who are really concerned. But it’s a catch-22 situation, because if you resolve the problem of parking for any length of time it affects other people who call in for just an hour. And it’s not a problem if it’s just for one night, if they’ve travelled and need a rest. Campervan enthusiast Tom Longden, on holiday from Yorkshire said “I park up here every year when I come down. I have paid my road tax and am fully insured (campervans do not need commercial vehicle insurance) so why shouldn’t I park here, it’s not illegal”.

The dispute raises the possibility that a county which is already known for its high parking charges will be acquiring even more parking attendants in the near future.

White Van Man Mark II

It appears that the city of London is discovering an altogether different breed of White Van Man, and the new species has been brought about due to the ever spiralling cost of living in the capital.

Apparently converting the common or garden white van into ones home from home is de rigeur for some of London’s residents. Kit Hesketh-Harvey, a columnist for the London Evening Standard, has become one of the latest converts himself saying the white van accommodation has many great features.

The cost of buying and converting a white van comes in fantastically cheaper than any permanent residence in the capital can possibly be, he reckoned the purchase and conversion for his vehicle came to around £6,500, whether commercial vehicle insurance was included in this wasn’t clear. In his light-hearted column he goes on to describe why he needed to change his address to a mobile one.

“As a cabaret performer — one half of Kit and the Widow — I regarded my London bookings as a poisoned chalice. On the one hand, London is a wonderful place to be, on the other, how do you make any money once you balance the cost of living in this city? So the idea came to me: what about a gentrified version of gypsy life? Why not buy a van and turn it into a travelling hotel? This is what I have in my van: a proper bed, goose-down duvet, Egyptian cotton sheets, and a brushed aluminium reading lamp. Pukka. To Westminster MPs now stripped of their second-home allowances, may I suggest a stylish solution to your predicament? White Van Living is the clear way forward”.

Going Green to be made easier

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond revealed yesterday the details of two new schemes that are aimed at helping both public bodies and bus companies to increase their green vehicle fleets. Mr Salmond announced that a fund of almost £8 million is available to get many more green vehicles on the roads.

£4.3 million will be given to Local councils which will help them cover the cost between buying normal petrol /diesel vehicles and the better for the environment electric cars and vans. The rest (£3.4) will go to bus companies to help them buy green vehicles.

The First Minister was at a climate change conference in Scotland and said “The two schemes would significantly help public bodies and bus operators. The low-carbon vehicle scheme will enable local authorities and other public agencies to invest in eco-friendly vans and cars this year and help drive down air-polluting emissions. The green bus scheme will also provide a fresh incentive to operators to purchase eco-friendly vehicles for their fleet.”

A firm in Dundee is hoping to gain from the incentive, given that Scottish councils have been awarded some of the cash. Scotland’s only automotive lithium-ion battery maker is in a strong position to help local councils meet the tough climate change targets. Vans and cars which are powered by the firm have already driven nearly a million miles on European and USA roads and are manufactured in the United Kingdom.  The firm can also help companies with fleets of vans make the transfer to eco- friendly vans. At this stage it is unknown what effect the changeover will have on commercial vehicle insurance but it is hoped it will be positive.

Dr Sam Gardner, the charity’s climate change policy officer, said it was a “very welcome first step by the Scottish Government to jump-start the transformation to electric vehicles.  the cash would help reduce emissions, which Holyrood has agreed to slash by 42 per cent by 2020 and by 80 per cent by 2050.If we are to meet our challenging emission targets, the transport sector must play its full part, and that means a future where electric vehicles are the norm rather than the exception. The public sector has an important role to play in driving demand for electric vehicles and helping to bring them to the public’s attention. We hope today’s announcement of financial support by the Scottish Government will be backed up by committing the public sector to an entirely low-carbon vehicle fleet by 2020. This is the ambition we must see if we are to hit the targets required by the Climate Change Act.”

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