Fleet News

Fleet200 Roundtable Views - March 2012

Topic: Alternatives to electric

  • What are the other alternatives to EVs that are worth pursuing?
  • Consider hybrids, CNG, LPG and biofuels
  • Have you trialled any of these alternatives, if so what were your findings?
  • Are they are a viable option for long term use on fleets in the future?

It is clear there is no ‘one size fits all’ - every fleet will have different requirements and objectives
There seemed to be a clear distinction between car and van fleets in considering fuel types.

Car fleets will consider electric vehicles – it’s mainly down to driver choice but range is always a deciding factor.

Comments from the group included the clear opportunity to use on city driving (short journeys) but if you had to embark on an emergency trip, e.g. to Newcastle from London, you would look for an alternative form of transport.

It was highlighted that diesel and petrol are still firm favourites and petrol seems to be having a new lease of life due to price of diesel and tax savings.

“There is a growing case for petrol as the emissions come down,” said one fleet.

There were also comments about moving the emissions from the vehicle to the power station – plus issues over the extraction of lithium - while concerns were raised about whether we have the renewable resources to allow charging off the network if the number of EVs rises significantly.

LPG is seen as the fuel of the past. The environmental benefits are not significantly while the infrastructure is poor and the cost of fuel isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

Hybrids are gaining support but CNG/biofuels not top choice for car fleets. The story is reversed when it comes to van fleets, with the group all singing the praises of CNG.

CNG has many positives; efficient running costs and residual values, noise levels low and claims to reduce Co2 by as much as 25% however there are one or two considerations which do need to be taken into account:

  1. Drivers can be slightly apprehensive around re- fuelling vehicles
  2. As no filling stations companies have to install depot based refuelling facilities on-site which can throw up its own challenges due to size/space and health & safety
  3. There was concern that these vehicles appear to stall more easily.
  4. Tend to be larger vehicles which for one fleet meant more deliveries per vehicle – in some instances one CNG powered van had replaced two diesel vans. However, vans at this size do require an O Licence.

One fleet commented: “CNG seems to fit – there are no negatives. It offers good environmental benefits, it fits our business model and it is not expensive to buy.”

He is considering moving his entire van fleet across to CNG this year.

The group were quite cynical when it came to Hydrogen cell vehicles – ‘always five years away’ as many companies are still working on the technology of this fuel source – but not a serious contender today.

Concerns were raised over the sheer number of alternatives. One fleet said: “We don’t want to invest too heavily now and then the technology changes. There is uncertainty over which technology will be the way to go.”

Fleet200 Debate, costs vs. environment which is winning the argument?

Consensus

Certain fleets have two objectives, the primary focus being to deliver yoy cost savings, typically 5-10%. The second objective is to reduce their carbon footprint (in some cases the fleet plays a very small part in this).

In relation to the core fleet objectives , the link between cost reduction and environment is managed through the car choice list.

Typically manufacturer products are offering compelling arguments to downsize (engines) due to improved performance, the fuel cost argument and tax benefits.

In some instances fleets are actively incentivising their drivers to choose a lower co2 vehicle.

Two examples of this, one the driver is offered a green bonus if they select a vehicle that is lower than the companies average to co2 performance.

A second example is to incentivise/penalise drivers based on the co2 profile, in relation to the rental rate. So for example if a driver selects a 140g pk car against a company performance of 130g pk then the monthly rental rate will reduce, if however the driver selected a 120g pk car then the monthly rental rate will increase.

Fleets are also policing their choice list better by reducing the number of manufacturers on the choice list, producing a green choice list where all the low co2 models are listed and editing the choice list.

In addition fleet policy changes have been made to discourage the selection of high co2 emitting vehicles both through the core fleet and cash allowance scheme. One example on the latter is a reduction in the age profile and mileage of a cash allowance car.

Environmental measures

  • Co 2 limits, cap co2 and deliver yoy improvements.
  • Companywide carbon footprint agenda.
  • Trials of alternative fuel technologies to determine a longer term fuel reduction programme – investment in this is not under the same scrutiny of the core fleet.

Note there was little evidence that fleets have targeted a reduction in their actual grey fleet size (cash allowance) as part of either cost cutting or environmental targeting.

Questions on EVs

Technology is even more complex than imagines with different types/sizes of charging points and options for tariffs.

Will there be too many charging points and pressure on the infrastructure?
Rising cost of fuel will ultimately persuade people to choose EVs as savings against petrol and diesel become more obvious.

EVs could be ideal for councils, university campuses and police fleets, but potential customers would like to see range greater than 100 miles.

Maybe car manufacturers could work more closely – form alliances – with battery manufacturers. Ensure more charging points are supplied by renewable energy sources. More use of solar panels on top of vehicles.

Customers/users need to spend more time with vehicles to understand better how they work and how to get the best out of them.

Offer free insurance on electric vehicles.

Lower rates from rental companies to help persuade more people to try them.

Equip recovery vehicles with power source to recharge if charge runs out.

EV Trials

SUMMARY

  • Those who have carried out electric vehicle trials support the technology – but they recognise it is still early days for the market.
  • The right vehicle for the right job is key for all fleet vehicles – and the same goes for electric vehicles
  • There is an appetite for deployment for commercial vehicles, pool cars and in niche environments, such as shuttling between sites
  • However, all the indications are that there will only be a low level of take-up for the short-medium term at least
  • Driver training is vital for a number of reasons. Firstly for safety, particularly in town and secondly to maximise the range an electric vehicle can achieve
  • To increase demand, electric vehicles need 100 miles ‘true’ range – in all weather conditions
  • The charging point infrastructure needs to be fully developed
  • Leasing companies have to provide greater levels of help and support, certainty on RVs is important
  • Cost will always be a key factor and to achieve volume demand, electric vehicles must benchmark at the same wholelife cost as an equivalent diesel, or preferably cheaper.
  • Greater volume and choice is needed to drive down prices
  • Long-term certainty on BIK rates and other taxation is critical

Commentary

“Our electric vans cover 25 miles a day and they do just what we need. If there was a better charging infrastructure, we would take more.”

“It can be a bit like driving a go-kart as acceleration is so good, so training is important in town.”

“It is no different to managing a regular car, particularly in terms of efficiency, so driving style can have an impact on range.”

“Winter range drops to 50 or 60 miles, particularly with cab heaters, so range does need to increase. We have tried heated seats, as these use less power than cab heaters by heating the driver, not the rest of the cab.”

“In van fleets, where there is a driver at home with a van, then the charging point infrastructure is important.”

“Leasing companies tend to be risk averse, but we are expecting a 40% reduction in SMR costs because there is no clutch or gearbox in an electric vehicle.”

“Customers want to see you doing something for the environment and electric vehicles achieve that.”

“We will see growth. I particularly expect that with range-extender vehicles that are coming out this year.”

“I am concerned that only certain dealerships will be able to do the SMR work on electric vans.”

“Manufacturers need to provide volume and choice to drive down the price is they want mass take-up of electric vehicles.”

“I need to be able to say to management that, in the worst case scenario an electric vehicle will cost the same as a diesel. Ideally, there would be a discount. You have got to be seen to be doing the right thing, but not at any price.”

“We need grants and benefit-in-kind benefits to continue, as drivers and vehicles are committed for four or more years.”

 

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