Fleet News

Green transport: Current trends for city fleets

IMAGINE slashing a large part of your annual fuel bill to almost zero while at the same time eliminating congestion charge fees and reducing tax payments.

Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? But more companies, especially those with a strong green focus, are looking at electric-powered scooters, which offer all of the above and more.

The now old-fashioned image of electric bikes was dangerously slow contraptions which spent more time having their batteries re-charged than out on the road.

But times have changed, and so have the bikes. More re-charging facilities have boosted the practical appeal of electric bikes and fleets operating in congested British cities could do a lot worse than consider the options of electric power.

Electric scooter company ScootElectric is working with local authorities and recently introduced a ‘park and charge’ system in London. It is also working with large companies to introduce facilities in company car parks.

Tony Cheverall, marketing director at ScootElectric, says: ‘We have worked in conjunction with manufacturer Powabyke to devise a smart charging facility. This allows bikes to be charged at any time, which makes life easier for fleets.’

Information and advice on makes and models is available from the website www.newride.org.uk. The scheme is supported by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) which offers up to 60% grant funding. It hopes this will inspire other businesses and local authorities to invest in a New Ride scheme.

Electric scooters are not a practical option for high-mileage drivers, that is obvious, but there are plenty of city drivers who could realistically make the electric switch.

The belief that electric scooters will trickle out of energy after a couple of miles is also outdated. Bikes like the Vectrix P4 Maxi-Scooter have a 70-mile range and are capable of a top speed of 62mph.

And an electric bike can do wonders for your corporate image, as Tony Cheverall explains. He said: ‘Fleets can give themselves a marketing advantage by adding an e-scooter to the delivery fleet. ScootElectric scooters can be customised to carry a decent payload – a clean and green mobile billboard for an environmentally-aware business.

‘Beating the jams will cut delivery times, too. And with their exceptionally low running costs, fleets should see the benefit on the bottom line.’

Electric scooters start at about £1,000 but operators will immediately begin reaping the savings. Anyone with a full driving licence gained before February 1, 2001 can ride an electric bike without L-plates or extra training, although industry experts recommend riders complete a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course.

The Pros

  • No petrol
  • No road tax
  • No congestion charge
  • No exhaust fumes
  • Very quiet
  • Easy to ride and park
  • Virtually maintenance free
  • Equivalent of 1,000mpg Source: Newride Camden

    Fact file

  • Road transport is responsible for 30% of greenhouse gases, according to the Energy Saving Trust, and UK road traffic is predicted to rocket by up to 160% over the next 20-30 years.
  • The typical car emits one pound of carbon dioxide every mile it travels – that’s its own weight in CO2 in just 6,000 miles.
  • Three out of every five car journeys are less than five miles. Just imagine the pollution that could be saved by switching to an electric vehicle just for local trips or errands.
  • Petrol scooters may be seen as a route to quicker journeys around town but they can emit up to eight times more pollution than a typical car, according to Scientific American magazine.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electric vehicles are up to 99% less polluting than the cleanest fossil-fuel powered vehicles.
  • Carbon dioxide is just one of the cocktail of pollutants associated with the burning of fossil fuels. The others are benzene, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide. Of most concern are the fine particles that can penetrate into the smallest part of the lungs and have been linked to cancer.
  • Up to 24,000 people die prematurely in the UK every year from breathing-related illnesses, according to the Department of Health.
    Source: Newride Electric

    VECTRIX is offering a maxi scooter which it claims will be the first high performance electric bike. Available from this spring the Maxi-Scooter is expected to cost in the region of £5,000.

    Andrew MacGowan, CEO and president of Vectrix, said: ‘Our vision was simple – develop a practical, high-performance, zero-emission two-wheel vehicle to help solve today’s urban transportation and environmental problems.

    ‘At a time of increasing traffic congestion, rising levels of pollution, scarce and expensive parking and inadequate public transportation options, the Vectrix maxi-scooter is the smart choice for urban commuters and fleet operators.’

    There are other options and for those fleets less concerned about burning rubber, there are cheaper bikes to be had.

    Costing £1,850, the EVT168 from ScootElectric has a top speed of 29mph and a range of 30 miles – ideal for city fleets. It takes eight hours to re-charge so operators would need access to a charging bay.

    The group is also about to launch a new long-range Oxygen Cargo Scooter with a range of 80 miles. This is being trialled next month by a major parcel delivery company and a fast food delivery chain.

    ScootElectric’s marketing director, Tony Cheverall, says: ‘In London, Islington Council runs a fleet of electric scooters to patrol its green spaces, but they could be just as useful on duties such as traffic enforcement.

    ‘Another London borough, Camden, is encouraging the use of electric scooters.’

    Hydrogen

    THE Emissions Neutral Vehicle (ENV) uses a hydrogen fuel-cell to generate electricity for its electric motor.

    Unveiled at the Design Museum last year, the bike is expected to cost about £3,000 and should achieve 100 miles from a £2 tank of hydrogen.

    It is capable of reaching speeds of up to 50mph, it is virtually silent and like most electric scooters, has no gears so is easy to ride. The added benefit over some electric scooters is that it only takes five minutes to refuel and on a full tank can be used continuously for four hours.

    Nick Talbot, director at Seymourpowell, the design company behind the ENV, explains: ‘The bike has no gears and is strictly defined as a motorbike, although it feels more like a very quick and responsive mountain bike – ENV is light, fast and fun.’

    The only big problem is the current lack of hydrogen re-fuelling depots. There is one location in Essex which offers the hydrogen the bike needs but Seymourpowell believes the problem will be alleviated by the time the bike goes into production in 12 months’ time.

    Powabyke

    FOR fleets wanting to encourage a healthier workforce as well as making their contribution towards the environment, the ‘Powabyke’ is an electric bicycle that has been designed to give all the benefits of traditional cycling without the effort, according to its producers.

    A large slice of Powabyke’s sales go to local authorities and police forces, who use the bikes as alternative forms of transport for employees.

    They are cheap to run, costing about 1.5p per mile (20 miles for 30p) and are apparently fun to ride.

    No licence is required to ride one and, as of last July, Powabyke announced that all its euro-bikes will feature aluminium frames, making them lighter and easier to handle.

    A spokesman for Powabyke said: ‘With a weight reduction of 4kg, the new euro six-speed and 24-speed commuters will prove to be an even bigger hit on the roads, with an increased range and a higher average top speed compared to the steel-framed bikes.’

    There are also benefits for fleets if they can persuade employees to swap their company cars for electric-powered bicycles. Powabyke offers schemes which can slash the overall cost of a bike by half.

    According to Powabyke: ‘The bikes are also eligible for the salary sacrifice scheme. This is where an employer can provide an employee with a bike of their choice and the employee pays the employer back over a period of time.

    ‘At the end of the time agreed, due to the VAT and NI savings that can be made to both the employer and employee, the bike ends up costing about half of the suggested price.’

    On the road with Powabyke

    IN principle, the idea is superb – all the benefits of low cost, fitness and absolutely zero emissions, without traffic jams, noise and refuelling.

    In concept, the idea of making cycling more attractive (by reducing the bulk of the physical effort) is fantastic. It offers a great deal for journeys that are short and do not involve motorways or other crowded roads.

    Unfortunately, the demonstration machine overcame virtually all these advantages because of poor design of the basic bicycle infrastructure. The frame is solid. Why, in this day and age revert to old designs and materials when a basic mountain-bike frame could have been adapted?

    The whole thing is so heavy and unwieldy (even without the battery) that it’s difficult to use without the power assist – which rather defeats the objective. In fairness, I was told that the Mk II addresses many of these concerns, so while I obviously was not a lone voice, at least the makers have listened.

    Stewart Whyte

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