Fleets need educating on how to introduce low carbon vehicles and the planning required to gain a real-life insight into the performance and potential savings they may bring.
That’s the view of Cenex, which says many companies are trialling electric or hybrid vehicles without first considering vehicle utilisation.
“The key thing is planning and analysis upfront rather than taking a vehicle from a manufacturer as a demo for a month and seeing how it goes,” said Chris Walsh, head of technical support and consultancy at Cenex.
“Fleets need to think about the characteristics of the vehicle, how to manage recharging and utilisation and, crucially, how to measure success.”
Cenex, the centre of excellence for low carbon and fuel cell technologies, is a delivery agency established to promote UK market development in low carbon and fuel cell technologies for transport applications. It receives support from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
While an increasing number of fleets are employing hybrid technology, electric vehicles are yet to be adopted in large numbers, with range and purchase cost remaining the biggest stumbling blocks.
The latest figures available from the Department for Transport reveal that 1,706 claims have been made through the Plug-in Car Grant scheme while just 99 claims have been made through the Plug-in Van Grant scheme.
Nevertheless, Cenex believes that more fleets would embrace the technology if they employed more thorough trials when testing vehicles.
For example, it says that many companies will introduce electric or hybrid vehicles into their fleet on trial without placing them into the fleet’s usual operational cycle, which means they do not see the benefits of replacing their current vehicles and find it hard to justify because of the increase in outright cost.
“The safer route for many companies is that they keep things the way they are as their current fleet works, but if they do not run the vehicle like the rest of the fleet they will not see the full benefits,” said Walsh at the Cenex LCV 2012 event last week.
In the case of electric vehicles, the return on investment can take substantially longer if the vehicle is not properly utilised, as even with the various procurement schemes available, the lower the mileage, the longer the payback period will be.
“EVs are expensive vehicles to buy and save you money when you drive them,” said Walsh. “The more miles you drive, the more you save to offset the initial cost.”
The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership also believes the Government should be doing more to educate companies on the benefits of low carbon vehicles.
“The Government has a key role to play in educating fleets on vehicle utilisation to try and think differently about how the vehicles are used,” said Andy Eastlake, from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. “There is more fragmentation of the vehicle market today and utilisation is much more important.”