A multi-million pound fund to drive the uptake of plug-in vehicles across eight UK cities could have a “momentus impact on business travel”.
Nottingham, Bristol, Milton Keynes and London will share £35m to promote plug-in technology, while a further £5m has been awarded for initiatives in Dundee, Oxford, York and the north-east of England.
Martin Quail, chief commercial officer at Alphabet, told Fleet News: “These changes could have a momentous impact on business travel, offering significant advantages to businesses and public sector organisations who take a progressive view on their fleet and mobility strategy.”
Public and private sector fleets have certainly been identified by the winning bids as having a role to play in the wider adoption of plug-in vehicles.
Bristol has been awarded a grant of £7.5m from the scheme, after Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council and Bath and North East Somerset Council joined forces with Business West to bid for the cash.
The four local authorities plan to use some of the funding to convert between 20-25% of their light commercial vehicles to ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) – vehicles emitting less than 75g/km CO2.
Business West and 35 West of England employers have also committed to invest in 100 ULEVs by 2020.
Councillor Tim Warren, leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council, said: “As a council we’ve already started greening our fleet, which reduces our vehicle running costs at the same time as improving air quality. This scheme will enable us to further develop the potential of ultra-low emission vehicles.”
There are also plans to establish 50 new ULEV car clubs and the four authorities will be working with businesses to encourage them to switch to ULEVs and build more charge points.
Nottingham, which will receive £6.1m, also identified fleets as having a vital role to play in its winning bid, which was submitted by Nottinghamshire County Council and Derby City Council.
It will be supporting businesses to invest in ULEVs through grants and incentives and taking a leading role in supporting the public sector to convert its fleets.
It also wants to create a city that enables easy ULEV use through the introduction of a rapid charging infrastructure for buses, taxis, cars and vans at workplaces, key destinations and its park-and-ride sites.
Milton Keynes, which will receive £9m to open a city centre electric vehicle (EV) experience centre, also proposes to open up all 20,000 parking bays for free to plug-in vehicles and give them same priority at traffic lights as local buses, while also having access to bus lanes.
Quail said: “Innovative approaches such as opening up thousands of free parking spaces for EVs and allow- ing access to bus lanes will incentivise drivers to choose plug-in vehicles.”
Fleet registrations of ULEVs in 2015 were 106% up on the previous year, according to industry figures:18,250 units registered to fleet out of 28,188 plug-in vehicles – almost 65% of the market.
Poppy Welch, head of Go Ultra Low, said: “Led by rapid increases in the fleet sector, the sustained level of plug-in vehicle registration growth shows that ULEVs are becoming the norm for drivers who want to buy a fun, economical, stylish new car.”
However, taking on board the fact that fleet registrations hit 1.4m units last year, those 18,250 units equated to just 0.01% of the fleet market.
Recent research from Alphabet has showed that there are still significant barriers to the uptake of EVs.
Nine out of 10 mid-sized fleets said they thought EVs were unsuitable for long distances and well over half (53.8%) highlighted the lack of available charging points.
Quail added: “This announcement brings a welcome investment in infrastructure to make EVs more practical for business travel as well as making them more attractive to drivers.”