Electric carmakers and distributors have called on the lease and fleet sector to work with them to accelerate the introduction of electric vehicles onto the UK’s roads.
The call follows the news that lease companies are avoiding putting any significant numbers of electric vehicles onto their fleets because of concerns over unknown residual values and fears that current battery technology may be superseded making vehicles already on fleets harder to sell on (see FN Dec 11).
According to Alison Bell, marketing manager for Venson Automotive Solutions, there are also other more practical issues, such as vehicle range, health and safety around charging points and even whether VAT can be reclaimed on the electricity used to charge vehicles, that suppliers need to address before fleets can consider widespread adoption of electric vehicles.
“We believe there is a future for electric vehicles, but we know that they would not have a role in every fleet – we need to look at the practicalities and this is why we are the first to begin a consultation with fleets,” she said.
Now Stewart McKee from the Zero Emission Vehicle Foundation has said that while he recognises the problems facing lease companies, there are several steps they can take to reduce their risk – and the cost to the end users.
“We do acknowledge there are difficult problems,” he said. “But they need to innovate, especially with their financial solutions.”
Mr McKee said much of the whole life cost of electric vehicles is loaded at the initial purchase cost, but running costs are relatively low.
He points out that there are also tax benefits for the purchase of zero-emission vehicles that can be passed on.
“Therefore there is room for innovation in the finance packages,” he said.
“We have already seen some companies transferring those tax benefits into their products.
"We would love to see other lease companies do this.
"We would also love for them to come to our open forums to discuss their problems.”
Mr McKee’s comments were made as Barry Shrier, founder of Liberty Electric Cars, launched the foundation’s campaign to put 20,000 electric vehicles on London’s roads by 2012.
The 20,000 electric cars challenge will speed up electric vehicle development and adoption, and aims to encourage the public sector and businesses to be early adopters of the technology.
There is already evidence of the capital’s fleets taking the plunge.
This week FedEx Express and Modec unveiled a new electric commercial vehicle, the first of 10 to be added to its UK fleet over the next few months.
The vehicles will operate in London and can travel up to 70 miles on one overnight charge.