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Cenex trial shows positive results for electric vehicles in UK fleets

Cenex has announced the results of a five month trial incorporating electric vehicles (EVs) into twelve major fleets across the UK. Run by Cenex and funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills the Smart Move Case Studies trial included fleets from Asda, national car club Commonwheels, the Groundwork regeneration charity, Indesit and Stagecoach.

The success of the trial has brought forward the plans of participants to incorporate EVs into their fleets. 68% of fleet managers said that trial involvement had accelerated their company’s interest in EVs, with 63% seeing that EVs could be integrated into their fleets before 2013, compared to just 25% prior to the trial. Three quarters of fleet managers said their opinion of EVs improved over the course of the trial, demonstrating the importance of experiencing the new generation of electric vehicles.

The trial, which used the smart ed (electric drive) and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV (Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle) aimed to establish both driver and fleet manager attitudes to electric vehicles in a real world setting, as well as measuring the technical, economic and emission performance of the vehicles.

The trial comes at a pivotal moment for electric vehicles in the UK, with 2011 seeing the introduction of a new generation of refined and reliable vehicles from mainstream manufacturers. Combined with UK government grants for both vehicle purchase and the creation of charging infrastructure it demonstrates the potential for growth in EV adoption.

The fleets that gained the highest benefits from EVs were those of companies such as Stagecoach which adopted an ‘opportunity charging’ policy, recharging during the working day rather than relying on a single overnight charge. Over a quarter (26%) of Stagecoach’s daily deployments used over 100% state of charge (SoC) per day, with the highest daily SoC being 160%.

Economic analysis of the trial findings shows that the premium for EV ownership is falling, and can deliver future cost reductions. Taking current energy prices and the mileage experienced in the trial, the average annual EV ownership cost premium is £462 per vehicle, which reduces to £202 when the daily mileage is stretched to 62 km (representing 12,000 miles per annum). Based on a modelled linear rise in energy costs, a marginal and in some cases significant operating cost reduction is available from the EVs, especially when combining high annual mileage with off-peak electricity prices.

Key findings from the trial include:

  • Individual EV drivers were enthusiastic about their vehicles, with average performance rated as better than a conventional vehicle
  • 75% of drivers said they would be happy to change working procedures to use an EV
  • However drivers wanted a higher real world range (up to 130km) than those experienced during the trial, where the range averaged under 80km
  • 100% of fleet managers rated environmental aspects and low running costs as the main advantages of using EVs
  • Fleet managers recognised that purchasing EVs cost more, and were willing to spend up to 50% more to buy one, attracted by lower operating costs and emissions
  • Using the Cenex Fleet Carbon Reduction tool, modelling showed emissions savings of up to 15% were achievable even when compared to the best-in-class diesel smart Cdi (which has an emissions figure of just 86 gCO2/km)

“The Smart Move trial shows an increasingly promising forecast for electric vehicles within UK fleets,” said Robert Evans, CEO at Cenex. “The opportunity to try the latest vehicles has helped positively change perceptions with drivers, fleet managers and company management, with a greater number now looking at rolling out electric vehicles before 2013. This real world data, combined with government grants and increased infrastructure points to a low carbon future for UK fleets.”

"Trialling an electric vehicle at Asda House enabled colleagues to see how the technology performs; and it also answered questions over speed and range. Working with Cenex was very useful when considering the use of electric vehicles in our pool car fleet" said Julian Walker-Palin, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Asda.

"We were pleased to work with Cenex on this project as part of our ongoing review of alternative fuels for all vehicles within our business. The project has provided a useful insight into possibilities for our ancillary fleet as we go forward" commented Robin F Knight, Commercial Director at Stagecoach North East.

This trial is the final element of the two year Smart Move EV programme, a suite of EV studies carried out by Cenex which tracked the performance of electric vehicles through laboratory testing, track testing and real-world usage and provided this key information to help advise and support early market adopters of EVs.

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