Fleet News

Guest opinion: New green grants will improve choice

YESTERDAY, the Energy Saving Trust launched its new grants for transport refuelling and recharging infrastructure, with the aim of increasing the number of alternative refuelling and electric recharging stations for road vehicles across the UK.

So what does this mean for the average fleet manager?

The provision of improved infrastructure for clean, alternatively-fuelled vehicles is intended to encourage the uptake of the cleanest, low carbon road transport vehicles in the context of the UK Climate Change Programme and of the UK Air Quality Strategy.

In simple terms, this programme aims to increase the market for alternative fuels such as hydrogen and biofuels, bioethanol and biogas, which in the long term it is hoped will provide businesses with more options for ‘greening’ their fleets outside of the current switch to diesel.

This will become more important if and when fiscal incentives and/or legislation is introduced to encourage the further reduction of CO2 emissions from the business sector. For example, bioethanol – depending on how it is produced – in general will deliver between 50 and 70% savings in CO2 for well-run production.

Hydrogen, through fuel cells, and electric vehicles offer the cleanest tail pipe emissions, but both need to be produced using renewable energy sources to deliver the least environmental impact of all fuels.

In countries such as Brazil, the US and Sweden, bioethanol is widely used and vehicle manufacturers produce modified production vehicles capable of running on high-percentage (85% bioethanol/15% petrol) blends at a vehicle costing less than £200 over the petrol version, making it cheaper than the diesel version.

The purpose of this programme is to work with fleets to develop a specific infrastructure that will allow them to continue to transform markets and provide additional opportunities with new environmentally beneficial fuels.

Under European Commission State Aid guidelines, the Energy Saving Trust’s transport refuelling and recharging infrastructure programme will offer grants of between 30 and 60% of eligible costs for the installation of the infrastructure within the UK.

Alternative fuels eligible for grant funding under the new programme include natural gas, biogas, bioethanol, hydrogen and electric recharging points. Other non-traditional fuels, where limited networks exist, will also be considered if a case can be made for them. A requirement of the programme will be that vehicles should be available which run on the fuel intended and that these vehicles have demonstrated emissions savings over equivalent petrol and/or diesel fuelled vehicles.

The programme will not, however, fund refuelling sites for biodiesel, which is already available at more than 100 filling stations in the UK, including a number of major supermarket sites.

The decision not to include biodiesel is based on the fact that it can be delivered using the current refuelling infrastructure at no extra cost.

By supporting the alternative fuels market the Energy Saving Trust hopes to offer yet another option for reducing the UK’s total CO2 emissions from road transport and improve air quality. The programme should encourage manufacturers to produce more diverse vehicles that will ultimately lead to more business and consumer choice.

It is the EU and UK Governments’ desire to help the diversification away from our dependency on crude oil-derived fuels and this programme is designed to help deliver that goal.

  • For more information, visit www.est.org.uk/fleet.
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