Fleet News

Electric vehicles: a king without his clothes?

Tony Hulatt, managing director, CLM Fleet Management

The fleet industry embraces the strides taken by manufacturers over the years to harness new technology and deliver innovation through improved design.

Occasionally, however, it does become necessary to take a step back, take off the rose-tinted spectacles and consider the reality. In this instance, I am referring to electric vehicles.

I fully accept that we must develop alternatives to fossil-fuelled vehicles, but I believe that EVs are being launched some way in advance of the market being ready for them.

Unfashionable a view though it might be, at their current price premium EVs, especially cars, are a way off being a viable fleet option.

From whichever perspective, whether acquisition price, residuals, cost of ownership, charging infrastructure, or applicability, I cannot personally see the justification for the amount of time and space spent debating a technology that is, relatively speaking, just off the drawing board.

Cost of ownership is the key driver that determines fleet acceptability, especially in the current economic environment. So will someone please tell me who the target market to buy a used EV is, whether for 35% of its new value or something south of not a lot?

From our own experience of battery technology allied to commercial EVs, they are highly sensitive to poor husbandry and when something goes wrong it takes more than a spanner and your local dealer technician to put them right!

Even where fleets take EVs, their lifecycle has to be extended to recoup the high initial outlay and consequent depreciation, and who in the retail market is currently going to buy a five to six-year-old electric car where there is so much uncertainty about battery reliability, ownership, and potential repair/replacement costs that may exceed any chassis value the vehicle may have?

So, while this is not a ‘king is wearing no clothes’ moment, let’s get real.

By all means applaud the strides taken to develop the technology, but accept the reality that, until car and battery manufacturers can deliver a competitively priced, coherent product that has an after-life, EVs are an expensive distraction from the huge improvements being made to existing engine technology which are actually reducing fleet costs.
 

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