What is a van? The history of the van

A van is a vehicle used to move people and goods from one place to another. In the UK, they are usually based on a sedan or a saloon car, and can come with an open back much like an American pickup truck. Vans come in all sizes and shapes, from the larger classic model to the Mini-styled van. The word "van" comes from "caravan", which was originally a kind of covered vehicle.

People in Britain regard passenger minivas as MPVs (multipurpose vehicles) or people-carriers, and they call large passenger vans "minibuses". There, Ford makes a line of vans with short hoods and different body styles, and minivans are exactly the same but in a smaller size. In reference to the reputation that British van drivers have earned over the years, Top Gear TV did a test with a panel van, where the driver had to tailgate as closely as possible at 60 mph.

MinivanIn the US, a van is also a semi trailer or box trailer used to transport goods. There are dry vans, used to carry the majority of goods, and refrigerated vans, or "reefers", used to keep things cold. Railway luggage cars are also called vans. American full-size vans are usually larger, boxy vehicles that have truck-style powertrains and platforms. They are sold with front seats only (for cargo use), or fully furnished by either the manufacturer or a third party.

Cutaway van chassis are sold for use by third-party manufacturers. These normally come with the front end of a van, including the driver controls and up to the point behind the front seats. From there back, only the running gear and frame rails are included, and the third party adds their own components for use as a school bus, RV, minibus, ambulance, or delivery truck.

The word "van" also refers to the sometimes-maligned minivan. However, these are usually set apart by their smaller footprint and front-wheel-drive powertrain; newer models come with four wheel drive sometimes. They offer a similar seating capacity to a conventional van, and better fuel mileage, but it comes at the expense of towing and carrying capacity and power. Typical minivans come equipped with sliding doors on both sides.

Read more about the advantages of a van over a classic sedan on this website. Or get yourself familiar with the green cars of today on the car blog of Laurent Van Dessel.

A couple of links

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