Europe and the US are very different markets and therefore vans are very different.

While in Europe, three main climate types rule (Oceanic, Mediterranean and Continental) the US faces a wider array ranging from the Subtropical Climate to the Artic one (Alaska) which induces very different needs when it comes to vans.

Approach differs

When you think about the US you thing about size, everything is big on the other side of the pond. Whether you look for a car, a house, a van or even just a coke you cannot find anything that’s small. The main difference between European vehicles is due to the urbanisation; while in the US, roads are wide in Europe we lack space and our roads are much narrower.

Therefore we cannot afford to have the huge American vans. But, let’s have a closer look to this.

If you take the smallest GMC Savana it’s 4.53 tonnes (empty) for almost 5.7 metres while the biggest Mercedes Sprinter is 2.7 tonnes (empty) for 4.7 metres. It gives you a fair idea about what BIG means.

What you should also consider are the environmental standards which are very tough in Europe.

The GMC has an MPG of 10; the Sprinter does 32.1 in its most powerful version. CO2 emissions are not to be forgotten, the GMC produces 329g/km while the Sprinter reaches only 269g/km.

A major element to consider is the standards and processes required for a van to be considered road-worthy.

Standards differ

While most countries in the world use international standard UNECE, the only countries that are not signatory of these are the US and Canada. Also, these markets use an incompatible system of standards called the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for the US and CMVSS for Canada. The major discrepancies between these standards are:

  • Laws, they have a major impact with the protectionism they impose, such as the Buy American act from 1933 or the EU custom duties.
  • Certification process in the U.S. and EU blatantly differ: meanwhile U.S. manufacturers self-certify their compliance with the vehicle standards, in Europe, vehicles must be granted a “type approval” from a government before bringing out a new model.
  • Safety Standards are extremely different such as; the colour of turn signals, the positioning of crash test dummies, the crash test technique (deformable barrier in the EU vs fixed barrier in the U.S.), the difference of goals in the analysis also make a major difference.
  • Emission standards: the EU has set up extremely tough emission standards. (In Europe the average CO2 output for light vehicles is of 140.3g/km, in the US it stands around 268.5g/km)

The final element to consider is the driving habits.

Habits differ

When it comes to habits the U.S. and the EU do not seem to be different countries, they look like different planets.

Europeans have very different habits when compared to the Americans

  • Our cities have narrower streets therefore we need smaller vans.
  • Petrol is more expensive in Europe (£1.01 on average in the EU vs £0.65 in the US).
  • Public transport is more developed in Europe than in the US.
  • Walking is way more common.
  • Bicycle and EV car rental schemes are being developed in major European cities.
  • Distances are smaller.
  • In Europe, Driver’s distractions are very limited and strictly regulated aboard vehicles (e.g. use of phones while driving); in the U.S. legislation is depending on each state and fairly relaxed.

To sum it up, a van in Europe needs to tick the boxes for the following questions to be considered as a realistic choice:

  • Will it fit on European Roads (Size)?
  • Is it fuel-efficient?
  • Is it urban-friendly (European style)?
  • Is it safe?
  • Is it eco-friendly? (Environmental grants)

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