Is a van just a van?

Gone are the days where you wouldn’t expect to see anything more on a vans dashboard than an unread copy of The Sun, now its laptop stations and Bluetooth earpieces. The modern face of UK van businesses is one of mobile offices and increasing technological integration. Just as The Sun itself has gone digital in recent times, so too has the ‘van man’ and manufacturers attitudes towards their needs. The new Renault Trafic is one such example of a technologically studded super van, with features such as Medianav, hands free key card access and R&GO integration, its more futuristic starship than drivable tool box.

Renault’s R&GO leads the new wave of technologies available to the van man, this is a clever little application where iOS & Android phone users can download it to their smartphone or tablet to provide access to navigation, telephone commands, multimedia files and vehicle trip information. Who would have thought just ten years ago that a manufacturer would be launching a van, aimed at the everyday van driver, that played up the opportunity to sync computer devices and develop sophisticated insights into their business. Perhaps they are just using these new advances to read The Sun online? Perhaps there is no appetite for ‘integrated Bluetooth solutions’ in the horn honking, flag hanging cliché that stand-up comedians will tell you drive vans in the U.K.?

The cliché does not exist in truth, U.K. van drivers want and need smart technology in their vans, why else would manufactures be rushing to fill their vans with it, when surely their absence would lower costs in a largely price driven market? Everywhere you look, van manufactures are cramming gadgets into their product, the new Vauxhall Vivaro prides itself on a 7-inch colour touchscreen, enabling the driver command a panoply of features from multi-channel Bluetooth and climate controls to a rear mounted camera.

Following its popular NV200 van, Nissan launched their e-NV200 last year, their first all-electric van for the mass market, which saw them named ‘Green Van Manufacturer of the Year’. Nissan’s new van IS a van, with a payload of 703kg, it could fill in for many of its fossil fuel counterparts, but it is also a another rolling mass of computer screens and gadgets. With a range of 106 miles, no one is saying that electric vans are about to take over the van trade, but likewise no one is betting against them spreading as they improve. The bacon rolls aren’t going anywhere, nor are the football flags or early starts, but the van trade is changing, being upgraded with new technologies. A van is no longer just a van!