Fleet News

Do electric vehicles really work for fleets?

The pros and cons of electric vehicles and hybrids were debated by fleet managers at a recent Škoda-sponsored Fleet News Awards roundtable in London.

Many of the 2015 Fleet News Awards finalists who attended already have electric vehicles and hybrids  on their fleet, although some are running greater numbers than others.

Both Environment Agency (winner of the green fleet of the year award) and Transport for London (fleet of the year – 1001-plus vehicles) have ambitious plans to increase the number of low emission and electric vehicles they operate.

Environment Agency intends to increase the number of ultra-low emission vehicles (those which emit 75g/km of CO2 or less) to more than 100 while Transport for London has committed to running 120 electric vehicles by the end of the financial year.

What initiatives have you introduced to lower your fleet’s emissions?

Dale Eynon: We have been working on introducing low emission vehicles into our fleet for a long time, but in the last 12 months we have made a very significant push. We’re trying to introduce ultra-low emission vehicles into our commercial vehicle fleet. We’ve just received 69 Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in commercial vehicles and the business case stacks up beautifully. They cost the same to buy as the diesel variant, they cost slightly less to run and they’ve got a resale value that’s not dissimilar based on what we know at the moment. So actually it’s a win-win in terms of environment, cost and being fit for purpose.

Electric vans are more of a challenge for us because of range issues. We have just got some Nissan e-NV200s, which probably have the best range, but the reality is that 130 miles is more likely to be about 80 to 90 miles and that’s not under tough winter conditions. 

On the car side it’s slightly easier. We took a decision about six months ago to make sure that, by the end of this current calendar year, our car fleet had an average CO2 of less than 100g/km. It currently stands at about 108/109g/km so we’ve put a cap of 100g/km on everything that is coming in.


David Millar, procurement manager, REL Field Marketing

Rory Morgan, head of logistics support for Western Europe, Iron Mountain

Sarah Gilding, head of vehicle fleet management, South Yorkshire Police

Dale Eynon, head of fleet services, Environment Agency

Alisha Bird, services executive, Rugby Football Union

Ted Sakyi, fleet manager, Transport for London

Steve Thompson, head of transport, West Yorkshire Police

Robert Lindsay, driver risk manager, Balfour Beatty

David Turford, fleet supply manager,Royal Mail

Larry Bannon, national fleet services manager, NHS Blood and Transplant

Ian Leonard, group fleet services manager, Speedy Asset Services

Henry Williams, national fleet sales manager, Škoda

Helen Palmer Smith, contract hire and leasing account manager – south, Škoda

Apart from range, what is the main challenge with electric vehicles?

Dale Eynon: The challenge for us has been the charging network. It is the most complex area I have every dealt with in my life in terms of the number of different suppliers, the number of different charging posts, the number of different regimes for charging. It’s a complex market to try and get through and to understand what you’re actually buying.

The vehicles come with different charging types and then you’ve got charging posts which have different charging capabilities.

And the public infrastructure requires different cards for different types of system. Buying the vehicles is relatively easy but the networking is complex. 

Sarah Gilding: Last year we purchased 10 hybrid Vauxhall Amperas and had 13 charging points installed across the force. The main hurdle with the users was a perception that the car was just going to stop and you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere. Once we’d got drivers into the vehicles and done a handover with them, to train them to get over that perception, they absolutely loved them.

But we’ve experienced the same things with the charging points. We weren’t fully aware of the different types so we’re going through similar things in terms of learning and trying to build on what we’ve already done. 

Ted Sakyi: For us at Transport for London, I’m glad to say I don’t have problems in terms of trying to find a national network. We currently have 32 electric vehicles in our fleet and our requirements are purely within London, which is basically a 13-mile radius.  We looked at the different charge points and what we are trying to do is future proof, we don’t want to be changing these chargers or these posts in two or three years, so we’re trying to stay ahead of the game.

All of our vehicle users have gone through driver training. There is definitely the appetite for EVs – it’s very much the way forward. 

Larry Bannon: We’re only dipping our toe in the water with electric vehicles. We’ve got two on order and just for a specific location where we’ll have our own charging post on site and where we know the range of these vehicles is sufficient. What’s restricting our operation is range at the moment, particularly when you use a lot of electrical ancillary equipment like we do. Our vehicles have blue lights.

Ian Leonard: It’s horses for courses this, isn’t it? It’s about identifying which engine is right for which operation. A blanket approach doesn’t work, unless perhaps you are inner city and you’ve got your own depots where you can control the flow and the availability of the charge.

Steve Thompson: People are bringing electric vehicles on to the fleet to tick boxes.

Ted Sakyi: I disagree. From our point of view, it is not a box-ticking exercise. I know some of our vehicles are not ideal for electric vehicles. But others are.

Larry Bannon: It has to fit operationally within your fleet. That’s why we’re only looking at two vehicles because they will fit within a range for our operation.

Dale Eynon: Plug-in vehicles are filling that gap. Having 30/40 miles range on electric and then a normal engine is perfect for us because we work in rural areas so charging for us is more of an issue.

David Millar: Battery science has to change. If the technology vastly improves so it matches petrol and vehicles can be charged in a reasonable  time – say less than an hour – and you can get a 400-mile range, all those issues will go away.

How do you measure vehicle mileage and utilisation?

Steve Thompson: We’ve had telematics seven years and we thought we had exhausted everything we could do out of that and then we came up with geofencing. Every one of our police stations had a geofence programmed around it, and then we were able to work out over a three-month period how we were actually using our cars. That had a dramatic effect because we could go back to district commanders and show them over that period how many of their cars had actually been on the road and at what times of day but, more to the point, how many of them actually never left the car park. We took 71 cars off the fleet. 

Ian Leonard: Within the first year of us fitting telematics we took 172 vehicles out the system because they were just sitting there doing nothing.

Sarah Gilding: We have spent a lot of time reviewing the utilisation of our fleet. We don’t have telematics but we do have data on the miles that the vehicles are doing. It’s not as easy as it would be with telematics but we have still managed to reduce vehicles in specialist areas. We’ve pulled them into the central pool and then the specialist units book those vehicles for use for those specialist operations. So we have been able to reduce the fleet significantly through that. We’re doing that with general vehicles that aren’t doing many miles.  We’re pulling them into a central pool and, with our fleet management system, staff can go on and book that vehicle to use for a meeting or whatever they may need it for.

Larry Bannon: We’ve started to roll out a transport management system. It is dealing with the logistics side of our business – looking at optimum rosters and rotas for our drivers to meet the demand and requirements from the hospitals. We piloted it in Manchester, where I’m based, over a number of months and then we’ve rolled it out to three of our 15 centres. It’s starting to show results. We used to have 500 vehicles on our liveried fleet, we now have 440.


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  • matt_ecocars - 16/09/2015 15:33

    At Ecocars4sale we have seen a huge increase in demand for used Nissan Leaf EV's, this has been supported by the increase in the number of used cars coming to the market. This has made the Leaf the number 1 bestselling used EV. However more used electric cars have come onto the market https://www.ecocars4sale.com/category/electric-vehicles. The sales of new electric vehicles is also on the up. Europe’s Top 10 Selling EV’s and PHEV’s March 2015, 1st Mitsubishi Outlander 4306 sold, 2nd Nissan Leaf 3300 sold, 3rd Tesla Model S 2584 sold, 4th Renault Zoe 1343 sold.

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