The UK needs a fleet charging network to ensure the efficient operation of the increasing volumes of electric vehicles operated by businesses.
Business drivers should be able to make timed appointments at charge points.
The call was made by British Gas head of fleet Steve Winter (pictured with his 2021 Fleet News Award for fleet manager of the year) at the December Fleet200 Executive Club meeting.
The Fleet News Award winner told members: “I don’t want my vans queuing up for a charge point to become available.”
Winter runs a fleet of around 9,500 vans and 1,500 cars.
“There will be a time in the next few, weeks, months or even a year when you turn up at a charge point and there’ll be loads of other vehicles already there,” Winter said. “And instead of the 20 minutes or half an hour you’d need for a rapid charge, you’re probably going to be an hour just waiting.
“Consider the impact this will have on customer service.”
He said the need for timed sessions was going to become “more critical”.
“A lot of fleets are probably not aware of this emerging problem because the supply of EVs hasn’t been there yet. But, trust me it’s coming.”
Its company car scheme is plug-in hybrids and electric only, with an order bank of virtually all battery electric vehicles. British Gas’s salary sacrifice scheme is full electric only.
Winter revealed he was looking at joint ventures with other fleets in a move to achieve the goal of a business vehicle charging network.
It fits into his aspiration to ensure the maximum efficiency and utilisation of his EV van fleet, to ensure the vehicle and the engineer are “continuously mobile”.
“When an EV service takes about an hour, why does it have to be at a dealership for a day?” So, Winter is working on mobile or while-you-wait servicing, even training engineers to do the work themselves.
And, with the company’s telematics provision going out to tender next year, Winter is looking to link vehicle charging, maintenance, parts supply chain and the planning and dispatch teams together, planning in the engineer’s daily diary, “a charge point, vehicle maintenance period, waste delivery etc”.
“We will have engineers queuing up at charge points, but let us plan it into their day, so it will be their break time, or when they’re picking up parts or in training.”