Fleet decision-makers must future proof their vehicle operating decisions as the default fuel choice is no longer diesel, says Puddy Vehicle Solutions (PVS).
The Government’s recently published consultation document on measures to improve air quality highlights the potential introduction of clean air zones across towns and cities nationwide and calls on Whitehall departments and public sector fleets to take the lead and “choose ultra-low emission vehicles where possible” and “avoid purchasing diesel vehicles wherever possible”.
As a result, PVS, which was launched two years ago by Marcus Puddy, has published a new white paper called Shaping Fleets for the Future: What Fuel Choice Will You Make With Your Next Vehicle?.
PVS argues that there is no definitive right fleet fuel and, while diesel, petrol, pure electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars all have their merits there were also drawbacks - financial and operational - that had to be taken into account.
Puddy, who prior to launching PVS held several large leadership roles within the leasing industry and managed some large fleets, said: “There are many pros and cons for fleets regarding all vehicle fuel types.
“Ultimately it comes down to vehicle whole life costs based on the type of journeys company cars will be undertaking.
"The white paper gives fleet decision-makers food for thought and raises various factors that must be considered for each fuel type that can be used as a starting point in the decision-making process.
“Many employees that have fleet responsibility today are not full-time fleet professionals so may not be aware of all the nuances that must be taken account of when reviewing vehicle replacement.”
The 2002 introduction of a company car benefit-in-kind tax regime based on CO2 emissions and subsequently other motoring taxes, Vehicle Excise Duty and capital allowances also being linked to CO2, drove fleets along the diesel car route.
As a result, said Puddy, businesses automatically replaced diesel company cars with more diesel models when replacement was due.
However, he said: “Current and future vehicle taxation, fuel prices, residual values, improving electric vehicle technology including increases in mileage range, whole life costs and government strategy in respect of Clean Air Zones, which are due to be in place before 2020, with entry criteria that will favour ultra-low emission vehicles, made fuel choice far less clear cut when considering company car replacement programmes.”
But, Puddy is not predicting the death of diesel as a fuel option for company car fleets. Instead he argues, diesel was likely to remain the preferred choice for high-mileage motorway driving and where a large number of journeys were made in non-urban environments. Alternatively a mix of motorway and urban driving was likely to lend itself to the petrol option.
Meanwhile, for company car drivers focused on largely urban driving, plug-in hybrids, pure electric and range-extended electric vehicles were likely to prove to be the optimum fuel choice with hybrids proving to be a halfway house.