Almost two-thirds of fleets believe implementing a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 is too soon, new research suggests.
The Government had previously said it would end the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and vans by 2040.
However, in announcing a 10-point plan to tackle climate change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the Government was bringing forward the ICE ban by 10 years.
A Fleet News survey completed by more than 600 fleet decision-makers showed that fewer than a third (29%) agreed with the implementation date for cars.
One-in-five fleets (21%) would have preferred the ban for cars to be introduced from 2035, with a similar number (22%) suggesting a start date of 2040 – the original date chosen by the Government.
"Many fleet operators are unable to source appropriate electric vehicles for their needs," Gerry Keaney, BVRLA
One-in-10 fleets (11%) believes 2040 was still too early, favouring 2045, while one-in-20 (6%) wanted the ban on the sale of new ICE cars to start five years earlier, from 2025.
The online survey, which ran from November 24 to December 2, found an even greater proportion of fleet decision-makers were unhappy with new diesel and petrol vans also being banned from sale, from 2030.
Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said 2030 is too early to ban new petrol and diesel vans, with just one-in-five fleets (21%) agreeing with the Government’s new start date.
A ban on the sale of new ICE vans from 2035 was preferred by one-in-four fleets (24%), while a similar number (25%) opted for 2040.
One-in-20 respondents (5%) would have been even more ambitious than the Government, choosing a start date of 2025, instead.
The UK Electric Fleets Coalition, run by the Climate Group in partnership with BT Group, has been calling on the UK Government to set a 2030 target for 100% electric vehicle (EV) sales.
The coalition, which includes five of the UK’s six biggest business fleets (Royal Mail, BT Group, Centrica, SSE and DPD) among its almost 30 members and collectively runs half a million vehicles on UK roads, welcomed the Government decision.
Helen Clarkson, CEO of the Climate Group, said: “This is what UK businesses are committed to and calling for through the UK Electric Fleets Coalition.”
However, Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), labelled 2030 as an “extremely aggressive phase-out target”.
He explained: “Many fleet operators are unable to source appropriate electric vehicles for their needs, while others have a business model that struggles to absorb the additional cost and charging constraints of running EVs.”
Zero emission miles
Hybrid cars and vans, which can drive a “significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe”, will be banned from 2035.
The overwhelming majority of fleets (80%) agreed with the Government not implementing the ban on the sale of new hybrids at the same time as that for ICE vehicles. Just one-in-five (20%) would have preferred the ban implemented at the same time.
Natasha Robinson, head of the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV), said: “From 2035, all new cars and vans will need to be fully zero emission at the tailpipe and between 2030 and 2035 all new cars and vans must have significant zero emission capability.
“That means, for example, plug-in hybrids and what are called full hybrids would count, but what are known as mild hybrids, which just help with acceleration and deceleration, wouldn’t necessarily count as having significant zero emission capability.”
What constitutes significant zero emission miles hasn’t been decided yet, she said.
“We will be talking to industry and talking to others more widely around defining that more tightly over the coming months.
“But, at the moment, just to be clear, what we are looking at is those plug-in and full hybrids.”
Full hybrids include the likes of the Toyota Prius and the Kia Niro, while mild hybrids are rapidly becoming the norm on most engines.
Keaney said the 2035 extension for hybrids would provide an “essential lifeline” for those facing a greater zero-emission challenge.
However, he said that vehicle rental companies and van fleet operators would need “clarity on exactly what types of hybrid are in scope”.
Almost half (47%) of the respondents to the Fleet News survey already operate electric cars or vans on their fleets.
However, when asked about the biggest barrier to operating more electric cars, two-in-five fleets (40%) said a lack of charging infrastructure.
"Fleet managers need increased support as they face sustainability demands and start their journey to electrification," Chris Black, LeasePlan UK
One fleet decision-maker said: “Charging infrastructure, price and range all need to be addressed more quickly in order for fleets to fully embrace the 2030 timeframe.”
Another survey respondent said: “There is no way the Government will have the necessary infrastructure in place UK-wide to enable this to happen.”
Barriers to EV adoption
A limited driving range for electric cars was seen as the biggest barrier to adoption by almost a quarter of fleets (24%), while close to the same proportion (23%) cited vehicle price.
In terms of electric vans, almost a third (32%) of respondents said limited driving range was the biggest barrier; 29% were more concerned about charging infrastructure and 17% price.
The National Infrastructure Strategy, published by the Treasury on November 25 to coincide with the Spending Review, says that the Government will “kick-start” the delivery of a core rapid charging network across motorway and key A road service stations.
By 2023, It expects to see a high-powered charging hub at every motorway service area, installed by the private sector.
To help with the expansion of the network, the Treasury says it will invest £950 million to future-proof grid capacity along motorways and will also extend support for charge point installation at homes, workplaces and on-street locations. It has also committed £90m to fund local EV charging infrastructure.
Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), said: “Technical and commercial challenges remain in establishing the electric charging infrastructure required for mass EV take-up.
“This is particularly apparent at petrol forecourts where many of our members have abandoned plans to install ultra-rapid charging points. This is due to a lack of local power sub-stations, onerous regulation and lack of return on investment.”
When asked about the most important thing Government can do to help fleets adopt more EVs, six-in-10 respondents said it should invest in charging infrastructure.
The first of more than 100 electric forecourts, being built by Gridserve in a £1 billion programme over the next five years, was opened in Braintree recently.
Drivers charging at the new purpose-built site will initially pay 24p per kWh of energy (including VAT), meaning a typical charge from 20% to 80% will cost less than £10.
Furthermore, in trying to understand future charging infrastructure needs, electricity network operator UK Power Networks has launched its White Van Plan research project.
More than two million small businesses from across London, the south-east and east of England are being asked to voice their future needs for transport, whether they operate vans, trucks or passenger vehicles.
Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “Each company is different, with a unique set of needs and pressures.”
After infrastructure, fleets also believe the Government must maintain grants for plug-in vehicles and continue to provide tax incentives to help operators switch their vehicles to electric power.
Almost one-in-six respondents to the survey said the most important thing to promote fleet adoption was providing the tax breaks for both employer and employee.
Furthermore, around one-in-eight wanted the Government to maintain the plug-in car and van grants.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, confirmed in the Spending Review that the Government will continue the plug-in grants until 2022-23, increasing funding by more than £200m compared with Budget 2020, to £582m in total.
No confidence in deadline
Separate research from LeasePlan UK, reveals that although the majority (82%) of UK fleet managers are interested in having an EV fleet, one third (33%) have stopped preparing for the government’s ban on ICE vehicles as they don’t have confidence in the deadline.
The study of 502 fleet managers showed that that a key issue is the lack of flexibility that fleet managers have in their current ICE vehicle lease contracts, with more than a fifth (21%) citing their inability to switch as a barrier to adoption.
Given the current ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and considering more than half (53%) of fleet managers stated that their fleet would increase in the next 12 months, the majority (81%) think having a flexible fleet vehicle leasing option would help their organisation to handle unpredictable changes.
Chris Black, Commercial Director at LeasePlan UK, said: “Fleet managers need increased support as they face sustainability demands and start their journey to electrification."
Paul Hollick, chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP), explains why he believes electrification by 2030 is achievable, but co-ordinated action is needed. Read more by clicking here.
Read crucial guidance for fleets on the adoption of EVs in the December edition of Fleet News.