ENVIRONMENTAL initiatives have become commonplace among fleets, with new hybrids and alternatively-fuelled vehicles attempting to prove they are up to the task of modern motoring.
Several companies are now running electrically-powered vehicles as part of their fleets, ranging from electric taxis in London to police scooter fleets in Dorset.
Traditionally, electrically-powered vehicles have been criticised for their short battery life and lack of power, especially in commercial vehicles.
However, a new high performance electric delivery vehicle that reaches speeds of up to 50mph and runs for 100 miles before refuelling is to be trialled by Sheffield City Council.
The new vehicle, called the e-Mercury, has been developed by London Taxis International (LTI), which also manufacturers the London Hackney cab. The group claims fleets could slash £1,000 off average annual fuel bills by using the new model.
Jevon Thorpe, a director at LTI, said: 'We are proud to launch the e-Mercury which uses the latest technology in a vehicle purpose-built to fulfil the needs of fleet managers worldwide. It is the most economic, environmentally-friendly alternative to diesel and petrol delivery vehicles for inner city and urban use. We are pleased that Sheffield City Council has recognised the benefits to become the first to pilot these vehicles.'
The e-Mercury produces zero emissions, is exempt from congestion charges and road tax and boasts low 'fuel' costs and two-tonne carrying capacity.
Sheffield City Council is the first local authority to trial the vehicles in its fleet and the first batch will be on the road by 2006.
Gary Moore, head of transport and commercial services at Sheffield City council, said: 'We are focused on making environmentally conscious decisions for Sheffield's future and incorporating zero emission vehicles into our fleets is a great way to build on the positive work we are already doing to make Sheffield's environment even cleaner.'
Funding for the e-Mercury comes from the Energy Saving Trust's (EST) TransportEnergy New Vehicle Technology fund, which also funds the development of two other electric technologies and one hybrid system.
Other local authorities have also given support to electric vehicles.
Westminster City Council embarked on a huge promotion drive last summer for electric vehicles by offering fleets a number of incentives to use them.
These included offers to companies such as free parking arrangements in certain car parks, a discount for residents' parking and free recharging for the vehicles in five car parks (Fleet NewsNet, July 24, 2003)
Electric scooter owners in Camden have also been offered incentives for switching to environmentally friendly alternatives on a scheme which could be rolled out across other local authorities.