The Go Ultra Low Companies scheme was launched earlier this year to recognise organisations that commit to using electric vehicles. Andrew Ryan looks at how six fleets achieved the standard
Fleets are adopting electric vehicles in ever-increasing numbers. Up to the end of July, SMMT figures show they acquired more than 15,000 EVs: a 45% increase compared to the previous year.
This is largely down to lower fuel cost and CO2 emissions, as well as the opportunity to enhance a company’s environmental credentials.
To further encourage organisations to adopt EVs, the Go Ultra Low campaign launched its Go Ultra Low Companies initiative earlier this year.
The scheme is open to public and private sector companies which already have a 5% share of electric vehicles on their fleet, or commit to achieve this figure by 2020.
So far more than 60 organisations have achieved the status.
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is saving around £8,000 a year in fuel costs following the introduction of 15 Renault Zoe electric vehicles.
The organisation added the cars to its pool fleet in 2013 after securing £500,000 of funding from the Department of Health’s Energy Efficiency Fund and £75,000 from the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV).
At the same time, the trust installed 15 fast and overnight charge points at five locations and built solar panel farms to offset the electricity the cars use.
The funding was also used to introduce an online booking system for its pool fleet.
“We are a community NHS Trust where delivery of care to clients across Cornwall is required,” says Neil Hudson, transport manager at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. “To provide these services in a sustainable method, EVs were chosen as an excellent way of providing zero tailpipe emission travel.”
The Zoes, which form part of a 92-vehicle pool car fleet, travel a combined 80,000 miles a year (around 100 miles each per week) and are used by clinical staff to carry out their visits within the county.
The trust has calculated the EVs cost around 2p per mile to fuel whereas its conventionally fuelled cars cost around 12ppm, creating a total cost saving of nearly £8,000 a year.
The organisation has pool cars based in 26 locations, with the electric vehicles at five of these.
“They sit pretty much through the spine of Cornwall,” says Hudson. “We’ve got them at sites in Penzance, Redruth and Liskeard, as well as at two sites in Bodmin.
“We’ve got plans to add 15 more EVs – Nissan Leafs – to our fleet by the end of the year and it is my long-term aim to convert as much as 75% of our pool fleet across to EVs.
“A small number of conventionally-fuelled vehicles will remain for long distance travel and for teams who have occasional high travel requirements.”
Each of the five EV bases has a 43kw fast charging point, so a car can be driven 50 or 60 miles in the morning, plugged in over lunchtime and then be used again in the afternoon.
Hudson says the main benefits the trust has found of introducing the Zoes is the zero tailpipe emissions, the relaxed driving experience and regenerative braking efficiencies.
The EVs also promote sustainable travel and increase awareness of the technology to the 1,200 staff who are registered to use them.
“Staff buy-in was initially slow, but this is explained relatively easily,” says Hudson. “We have introduced the EVs to staff who predominantly own and drive conventionally fuelled vehicles, which means they have a lower acceptance towards the charging requirements of the vehicles compared to private drivers who are early adopters themselves and are willing to embrace EV charging.
“However, through good education this has improved and we tried to explain to them that they need to adhere to the rules so the car is ready for whoever the next driver may be.”
Hudson says drivers also receive training before using a Zoe to ensure the transition to an electric vehicle is as smooth as possible.
“They have a number of differences to our conventionally-fuelled pool cars,” he adds.“They are automatic with one forward gear, near silent in driving and operate via a key card rather than a traditional ignition key.
“These cause a level of uncertainty for the drivers when using a Zoe. To overcome this we undertook a programme of awareness training and continue to invest heavily in training new employees to remove the barriers of unfamiliarity.
“Staff are strongly encouraged to choose an EV over a conventionally fuelled car.”
Saville Audio Visual
Saville Audio Visual includes the exact cost of electricity used while charging plug-in hybrids to calculate the sum their drivers are invoiced for private use.
The systems integrator currently has 11 plug-in hybrids on its fleet of 80 company cars.
These are five Mitsubishi Outlanders, four BMW 330e models, an Audi A3 E-tron and a BMW i8. It also operates 40 vans.
“Our drivers have fuel cards and the rate we charge mileage back for personal use is the actual cost of fuel,” says Sarah Waller, fleet controller at Saville.
The business has charging points at its office in York and, when a driver has charged their car, the amount of electricity used is noted on a spreadsheet.
Together with data reported from the fuel cards, this is used to calculate the mileage reimbursement rate.
“It’s accurate,” says Waller. “Because people live varying distances away from the office and use their cars differently, it seemed like the only fair way we could do it across the board.
“The better our drivers are with their recharging, the cheaper it is going to be for them and us. So, if they want to benefit from a lower reimbursement rate, that will benefit us as well.”
The plug-in hybrids are expected to travel around 60,000-miles over three years, and the main benefits of using them has been reduced fuel and tax bills, as well as lower CO2.
“I’m sure we will be ordering some more plug-in hybrids before the end of the year,” says Waller. “We didn’t just go out and say we were going to replace diesel vehicles with electric vehicles. It’s been very driver-led.
“We can show employees what they could be driving and how much they could save, but the biggest influence has probably been that our drivers have seen how colleagues have benefited from the technology.”
London Fire Brigade
London Fire Brigade’s entire frontline car fleet will consist solely of plug-in hybrid and range extender vehicles by the end of the year.
This will be the result of a managed process to introduce electric vehicles by head of sustainable development Nicole Fletcher.
This process began in 2012 with an Energy Saving Trust analysis to produce a cost benefit analysis for EVs.
“At the time, the cost difference to conventionally fuelled vehicles wasn’t close enough for us to consider,” says Fletcher.
The adoption of EVs was also hindered by a charging infrastructure that was not mature enough.
However, in 2014, the brigade spotted an opportunity to make progress in this area.
“We were able to apply for charging point installation funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), which was encouraging the installation of these facilities on public sector estates, for use either by staff or the public,” Fletcher says. “We wanted to get those charging facilities into as many sites as possible.”
The £790,000 project – 75% funded by OLEV, with the remaining 25% funded by EV charging-point specialist Chargemaster – was able to provide charging points by 2015 at 73 of the brigade’s 103 locations.
A follow-up to the original EST exercise took place in March 2015, using journey profiles and actual mileages from vehicles.
“We were finally at a point when the cost of the vehicles and the technical capability of vehicles on the market met our minimum requirements,” says Fletcher.
The brigade was able to apply for further OLEV funding to introduce its first five EVs on to fleet – two Volkswagen Golf GTEs and three Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs).
By the end of this year, the organisation will have completed the transformation by replacing its Vauxhall Astras with 52 BMW i3 range-extender models.
University of West England - Bristol
A desire to improve air quality for students has helped drive the uptake of electric vehicles at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).
The university has a fleet of 45-50 vehicles dependent on the time of the year, with 13 of those full electric or plug-in hybrids.
“It was the local air quality which really started selling the benefits of EVs to us,” says Chris Donnelly, head of travel and access at UWE Bristol (above).
“A lot of our fleet use is fairly short distance: we’ve got a big campus environment and they are also used locally between different areas so we would have vans buzzing around campus all day, chugging out diesel fumes and we would have students breathing in that air.
“We realised that zero tailpipe emissions had to be better for them, and then you see that the economic case really stacks up because the EVs have low fuel costs.
“The other unseen benefit is the maintenance. For example, I’ve just serviced two e-NV200 vans and spent £99 on each of them. Even if you were doing your first service on a normal van, you are probably going to be talking a couple of hundred pounds at least, so there are big savings to be made.
“EVs also have fewer oily bits so there’s less to go wrong.”
The electric vehicles on the UWE Bristol fleet are a mixture of Nissan Leafs, e-NV200s, Mitsubishi iMievs and a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV. These vehicles are either on the pool fleet or allocated to particular staff.
“We run our pool vehicle fleet almost like a car club,” says Donnelly. “People can book the cars through a web portal and they are activated with staff cards. One of the reasons we brought in pool car usage is because we’ve got 30-odd thousand students but only 3,000-4,000 parking spaces, so not everyone can park here.
“What we say is that if you need a vehicle as part of your day-to-day study or work, there is no need to bring your own in, there will be one here for you.”
UWE Bristol has 16 publicly available charge points which are free to use, although all cars, whether electric, petrol or diesel, are charged a small fee for parking, says Donnelly.
The organisation’s commitment to electrification also extends outside its vehicle fleet: its utility vehicles used by ground staff are all electric, as are their tools such as lawnmowers and strimmers.
“We are also investing heavily in the green infrastructure on site, and on one of our buildings we’ve got the largest roof-mounted solar array of any UK university, which will create more than 400MWh per year of electricity – equivalent to the power created by nearly 200 homes with solar panels,” says Donnelly. “We’ve also invested in a combined heat and power (CHP) system, while all the electricity we buy off grid is now on renewable tariffs, so all the energy we use on site is from renewables.”
The CHP will operate like a small power station and will burn gas to generate electricity for use on the university’s Frenchay Campus. The heat generated by burning the gas will be captured and distributed to buildings on campus through underground pipes.
The university hopes the solar panels and CHP will save 1,300 tonnes of CO2 a year.
“I’d love to get to the point where at least 50% of our fleet is electric by 2020,” he says.
Taking on more than 100 plug-in hybrids has helped Galliford Try lower the average CO2 emissions of its 1,850-strong company car fleet to 102g/km.
The housebuilding and construction group currently has 124 plug-in hybrids – Volkswagen Golf GTE models and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs, which make up the vast majority of them – which is nearly 7% of its car fleet.
It also operates two fully-electric Tesla models and 160 hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Auris.
“Drivers benefit from electric cars in terms of lower tax and fuel savings while they also enable us to meet our carbon reduction commitments, so they make sense all round,” says Alan Baker, fleet manager at Galliford Try.
Maximising a plug-in hybrid’s efficiency relies on drivers ensuring their batteries are charged before use, and Galliford Try has changed its fuel reimbursement policy to encourage this.
Drivers of diesel cars have a fuel card but pay for any private miles they do, meaning the cost of fuel used on company business is reimbursed.
However, drivers of the plug-in hybrids do not have a fuel card but claim back their business mileage at a fixed pence per mile rate.
“Effectively, you get a lower reimbursement from the company to reflect the fact that it is providing electric chargepoints,” says Baker.
“This means that charging the vehicles has become self-policing because if you are going to be doing high mileage then you are likely to be paying for the fuel out of your own pocket and you won’t get the full reimbursement for the fuel cost unless you are charging the battery.
“This has put some people off the plug-in hybrids because they are obviously doing the maths and are realising that it will cost them some money, but on the other hand they would be benefiting from lower benefit-in-kind tax.”
The company has installed charging points at five of its sites – Uxbridge, Newton Abbot, Hinckley, Coventry and Solihull – and is looking to add them at bases in Exeter and Edinburgh.