An insightful new report from Cornwall Insight and PricewaterhouseCoopers titled ‘Leading the charge! - a catalyst for the EV revolution', explores how fleets are set to become the crucial component in increasing electric vehicle adoption, and that we can expect fleets to represent half of the number of all EV sales in the UK by 2030.
The report pulls on data from the Office for National Statistics 2018, and states that if all 5.3 million fleet vehicles were to switch from internal combustion engines to electric, we would see a saving of as much as 30 million tonnes of CO2, equating to roughly 25% of all UK transport emissions.
London First also recently commissioned a study which had more than 500 UK companies respond. Their findings were that almost 30% of fleets are already using EVs, whilst 46% have confirmed plans in place to convert to EVs, and 16% actively having discussions today.
Out of those who have not yet made the switch, 50% noted that in five years’ time they can predict they will have, with 35% committing to a two year transition plan – all well in time for the official ban against sales of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles in 2035.
The appetite for switching “green” is certainly increasing amongst fleets, with leasing companies reporting a record spike in demand levels from company car drivers. This is of course driven by a number of reasons, one of which being new benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rates which means company car drivers will not have to pay any tax on complete electric vehicles this tax year, and drivers of plug in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) are also benefiting from excellent rates too.
Daniel Atzori, research partner at Cornwall Insight, said: “The electrification of fleets is set to gain momentum, driven both by sustainability commitments and by compelling economic drivers.”
“Since fleets can ensure a high rate of utilisation of charging assets, fleet charging offers a range of interesting investment propositions. Having a well-defined strategy will be crucial for fleet managers, charge point operators and investors looking to achieve leadership in this emerging market.”
In fact, Arval UK have noted that EVs have now become the most popular new vehicle orders, as requested by some of its largest customers, with consultant David Watts commenting: “during the first quarter of the year we took more EV orders than we’d taken for the whole of 2019.”
Interesting, and definitely confirming that fleet businesses are set to play a crucial role in helping to achieve the governments’ net zero emissions by 2050. Director of strategic partnerships at The University of Salford, Dr Mike Brown supports this, stating: “The UK needs to de-carbonise road transport as quickly as possible to stand any chance of hitting its climate change targets.
To quote Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, "we can’t self-isolate from climate change’ and with 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK coming from road transport, we need to rip off the petrol/diesel sticking plaster and move to electric.”
But that in itself begs the question: is this actually feasible?
Head of consultancy and customer data services at LeasePlan UK, Matthew Walters, explained: “Supply is paramount to a UK-wide transition from internal combustion vehicles to EVs. Therefore, we need to ensure we are at the forefront of manufacturers’ thinking when it comes to supply, not just now but post-Brexit.”
Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) members have also raised concerns about the availability of electric vans, or lack thereof, according to chairman Paul Hollick: “There’s been a scarcity of (electric) vans this year, even though there are more models and derivatives coming through, there just isn’t the availability.”
And it’s not just supply of the vehicles themselves which is a concern here; it’s the supply of a charging infrastructure. The UK must act quickly to implement EV chargers in as many accessible sources as possible to ensure that businesses can make this switch with minimal to no disruption to their daily routines. ‘Range anxiety’ has been talked about often in relation to EVs, as drivers begin to panic that their batteries will fall flat without a charger in sufficient range – something that must be addressed sooner rather than later if mass EV adoption is what’s expected.
Supporting this is head of environment strategy at the Department for Transport (DfT), Bob Moran, stating that if long-term change is to be delivered, a plan that spells out who is going to do what, by when, and how, is required.
The DfT in fact produced a number of plans and strategies covering all transport sectors, but in March, they formally began working on a Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) by identifying the key challenges facing the UK. Exploring various chapters such as the background behind greenhouse gas emissions and the transport sector, cross-modal decarbonisation actions and the current trajectory, the detailed plan is a useful asset to all UK businesses looking to make the switch to EVs.
As well as this, businesses can also sign up to online tools designed to help make the switch to an electric fleet in the most cost effective and efficient way possible. The EV Readiness Tool by Teletrac Navman does just that, by using your existing fleet data to predict how and when to convert to electric in the way that’s right for your business.
One thing is for certain: change takes time. Start today by building a sustainable transition plan to an electric fleet.