Fleet News

New virtual fuel card helps fleets charge electric vehicles

A new fleet charging management system has been launched by Centrica to help fleets with drivers charging commercial vehicles while working remotely.

A new app, which has been developed by Centrica, acts as a virtual fuel card for fleet drivers, enabling them to plug in to any standard charger, whether at home, at the workplace or on the road, and be automatically reimbursed for the charging costs.

The charging management system can be integrated into payroll so that the driver is automatically reimbursed, while fleet managers receive monthly statements, showing all charging transactions.

It identifies and excludes any private vehicle charging on the same charging point, says Centrica.

Working with any standard charger, the app is equipped with tariff optimisation, enabling fleet drivers to optimally charge when the electricity rates are low. 

For fleet owners, the ability to access cheap overnight energy tariffs can be transformative to the business case for switching to an electric vehicle (EV), says Centrica.

For example, charging a van running 11,000 miles a year using street charging would cost in the region of £2,000 a year. This reduces to around £800 when charging at home during peak hours, and under £300 if charging at night using a variable tariff.

Research by Centrica Business Solutions shows that investment in EVs by UK businesses is set to increase by almost 50% over the next two years, exceeding £12 billion.

John Hartley, director of product management at Centrica Business Solutions, said: “Many organisations that have a home-based workforce are looking to transition to EV.

“On street charging can be prohibitively expensive, so we are providing the technology that will allow more drivers to charge at home, which has previously been very difficult to administer.

“But, many commercial vehicle drivers won’t have access to off-street parking so it’s important that we break down some of the barriers to access for public charging networks too, making it easier for drivers to charge at home, at the workplace, or on the road.”

Centrica Business Solutions is working with a number of leasing providers to provide the fleet charging management system as part of an EV bundle, which includes charging infrastructure and installation by British Gas engineers. The British Gas fleet, the country’s third largest, will be the first to utilise the technology.

British Gas recently said it plans to never order another ICE vehicle after signing a deal for a further 2,000 Vivaro-e electric vans from Vauxhall.

Centrica, owner of British Gas, has committed to electrify its 12,000 strong operational fleet by 2025, five years earlier than originally planned, as part of its commitment to become a net zero organisation.

“We have begun taking delivery of the first of 3,000 new Vauxhall Vivaro-e vans, which will form the largest electrified van fleet in the UK,” explained Steve Winter, head of fleet for British Gas.

“To ensure our colleagues are able to charge cost effectively, we’ve begun to roll out home charging points to our fleet EV drivers.”

Winter said that the virtual fuel card solution means it’s not just cheaper than petrol and diesel vehicles in terms of fuel costs, “it is also easier to administer”.

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