In just eight years, sales of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and vans will be banned. By then the number of electric vehicles (EVs) is expected to rise from 470,000 to an estimated 13 million.

Today, there are only 25,000 zero emission vans (ZEVs) in the UK, partly due to lack of available models. Like the vans themselves though this is accelerating fast and the sale of new electric LCVs is up over 50% on last year.

Over 30 of the UK’s largest van fleets – household names like Tesco, Tarmac and Network Rail – have committed to go electric as part of Global Action Plan’s Clean Van Commitment (CVC), including our client, Leeds City Council. These commitments are a statement of intent to replace the ICE vans on our roads – an important step to improve the quality of our air, with vans contributing 30% of the UK’s road transport nitrous oxide emissions.

Decarbonising transport goes hand-in-hand with net zero and air quality targets and is fundamental to any organisation’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) plans. This,  coupled with customers’ increasing demand for low carbon transport, makes the business case for switching to electric stronger than ever.

The role of fleet operators across public and private sectors is becoming ever more complex as questions over the future of fleets come to the fore. But what key considerations need to be taken into account before embarking on your fleet electrification journey? We’ve identified some of the major questions and key learnings our fleet clients have shared in recent months.

Data, data, and more data

Fleet decarbonisation can be a daunting prospect. To support the business case, feasibility studies using telematics data are a useful – some would argue vital – step in understanding elements like projected energy usage, journey lengths, idle times, route and break locations, cost and carbon savings.

We use telematics data with our clients in a comparative way to understand their fleet requirements, the potential cost and carbon savings and optimal charger locations. Journeys are analysed over a period of  30 days or more and displayed in a ‘heat map’ to identify the key spots where an EV charger would be best placed, based on routes and the typical areas that the vehicle spends time during its day-to-day operations.

For example, we worked with Reading City Council on an e-taxi telematics study. Over 31 days, a taxi’s total miles, average trip count per day, and other data points were collected and analysed. With these data, we were able to estimate the potential cost and carbon savings of switching to an e-taxi over a 1, 3 or 5 year period, and demonstrate that the running costs of an e-taxi are up to 60 per cent cheaper than its ICE counterpart.

Similarly we supported Leeds City Council in its electric van trial scheme for council staff and local businesses to encourage local uptake of EVs. Using telematics data, Leeds conducted 150 trials covering over 250,000 zero emission miles. The vast majority (97%) of drivers taking part said they would recommend the trial scheme to others and 75% said their opinion of electric vehicles had changed for the better.

You can view telematics as a tool to model what your EV future could look like, and a great way of translating that future to drivers and other stakeholders.

Charge point location 

A key consideration for electric fleets is where to place chargers to provide the charging network to support your new fleet.

Home, depot, destination and on-route charging need to be considered. Depot charging is right for vans that return to a depot overnight, but without load balancing may require an upgraded power supply.

Fleets that need to charge at drivers’ homes bring their own set of challenges. According to research by PwC, 45% of fleet drivers will not be able to charge at home as they don’t have access to off-street parking.

In these cases, public charging will be essential, providing an opportunity to charge overnight or during breaks, with no change to driver behaviour.

There’s real scope here for local authorities and charge point operators to come together to collaborate on local solutions that meet every fleet’s needs, while also catering for the wider community. We are currently trialling a solution that installs an on street charger for the fleet driver that they can book for when they need it, but is accessible to the public at other times – typically during the working day, when most fleet drivers will be on the road.

Procurement of light electric vehicles

Procuring EVs can be a real challenge for fleet operators as the automotive sector wrestles with a global chip shortage, and high demand is leading to long lead times from order to delivery.

While the motor industry has created the technology for efficient light goods vehicles (LGVs), until relatively recently choice of LGVs in the UK market has been restricted. Even now, the  electric vans currently available aren’t sufficient for longer journeys when the vehicle is carrying substantial weight.

As the market develops, it’s understandable that some fleet operators are still assessing the right time to start the transition process. However, we’ve seen many adopting a staggered approach, making smaller orders to test and trial deployment, before a full transition to electric.

Changing government mandates 

As the UK steps up its commitment to reducing pollution and making our air cleaner, clean air zones (CAZ) and zero emission zones (ZEZ) are becoming more widespread.

As central government and local opinion put pressure on local authorities to take charge of localised solutions to air pollution, so the scope and strength of CAZ and ZEZ strategies will vary. Our client Oxford City Council, for example, began its pilot for the UK’s first ZEZ in February this year.

ICE fleets in strict zero emission zone postcodes such as Oxford could be excluded from certain areas or face fines upwards of £100 per vehicle. It’s an important reminder for fleet operators to upgrade their fleets to stay ahead of low-emission restrictions, or risk losing business as a result.

Funding opportunities and their limitations

Government support is available to businesses and local authorities looking to make the transition to electric vehicle infrastructure. The on-street residential charge scheme provides substantial support to authorities, as will the local electric vehicle infrastructure (LEVI) scheme. The Workplace Charging Scheme contributes towards the up-front costs of the purchase and installation of electric vehicle charge-points.

Separately, the EV infrastructure grant for staff and fleets, announced in April, helps fund the infrastructure businesses need for charge points, as well as for installing the charge points themselves. Bear in mind that while both grants may be used for the same site, they cannot be used for the same charge points.

We have helped numerous local authorities navigate this complex and dynamic funding environment, supporting many with the practicalities of grant applications, including the new pilot LEVI fund. Please get in touch if we can help you find the right solution for your fleet or to discuss funding opportunities.

To learn more about electrifying your fleet drop us a line at info@ebcharging.co.uk.

Date: 06/07/2022