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The start point for the best source of fleet information

NGMC lays out roadmap for EVs

Date: 22 January 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Speakers at our conference revealed the best ways for fleets to adopt electric vehicles - providing they are available to adopt. Sean Keywood reports.

Collecting essential data and planning infrastructure early are among the key things fleet managers should do when they consider adopting electric vehicles (EVs).

Those were among the pieces of advice on offer at the first National Green Mobility Conference, organised by Business Car and sister title What Van? 

The event included a varied programme of speakers designed to cover all the angles when it comes to fleet EV adoption, as well as the chance for attendees to have a go in some EVs. 

The speakers offered top tips - but also some words of caution about vehicle supply and infrastructure development.

Among their number was Paul Hollick, managing director of consultancy TMC and chairman of fleet training organisation ICFM, who said that collecting data was crucial to successful electrification.

"Data is essential to developing a strategy," he said. "It is fundamentally important - to be able to analyse trips, analyse your car parc, analyse everything to make sure you can maximise the adoption process.

"Start collecting data about business trips, and commutes as well - particularly for EV adoption they're really fundamentally important. 

"The distance between the employee and the office is the big gap in terms of EV adoption and if you can bridge that gap it starts to be a bit of a gamechanger."

Hollick said managers should be able to collect vehicle data - including which vehicles they have and where they are - along with trip data, and actual fuel use and cost. 

He added that data could be used to encourage employees into EVs once they know it's available.

"Allow employees to put in data from their home domestic supply about how much they have charged up," he said. 

"It's really easy in this day and age to take that data into your organisation and amalgamate it. 

"And market data as well - filling stations, where charging points are. Give the employees some tools so they know if they adopt an EV there are tools they can use."

Hollick said there has been a shift in attitudes from fleet managers, from perhaps a more shallow point of view to a genuine interest in adoption.

He said: "When EVs started coming to market there was a real mandate of 'Adopt EVs, lower costs and make me look like a hero, but am I really up for full deployment? Probably not'.

 "The new way of thinking is rather than just having a couple sat at the office, probably used maybe once a week, now it's far more about the adoption phase."

When it comes to charging fleet EVs, Matthew Trevaskis, managing director of Ecodrive, advised companies to start preparing early.

"In terms of planning fleet deployment, normally you're not looking at fuelling vehicles yourself, you're just looking at choosing the right vehicles, but when it comes to charging EVs on site, which will normally be a factor, the earlier you can start planning the easier it will be," he said. 

"We've spoken to lots of really well-intentioned facilities managers who really know the electricity supply in the building, but forget some of the spatial considerations about how charging points are going to be laid out. 

"Who is going to use them? Are they for commuters who are going to be there all day, or are vehicles going in and out from a depot?"

Trevaskis said in an ideal world charging bays would be extended sideways to allow space for side-mounted charging ports on vehicles, but as this tended not to be popular with facilities managers it might be a factor for choice lists to prefer cars that allow nose charging. 

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Turning to home charging, he said that while EVs would come with a domestic three-pin plug this should be an occasional option only, with a new Hyundai Kona Electric, for example, taking 24 hours to fully charge with such a supply.

He said: "A proper charging point at home is very much the way we hope the market will go.  

"There's a grant towards it - £500 from OLEV which will apply to private and company car drivers."

Trevaskis added that installing home charging points could also be an incentive for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) to be used properly by company car drivers, rather than just adopted for cheaper tax rates but then never charged, with drivers instead relying on inefficient petrol engines.

"We have cars coming back after two or three years with the charging cable never used," he said.  

"But why would a company car driver, who is having their fuel paid for, use their own electricity supply instead? 

"With a smart charging point they can get reimbursement for that."  

Hollick warned against wholesale abandonment of PHEVs in the face of non-charging fears.

"We are Europe's biggest buyer of PHEVs because of the tax position, which is obviously now modified," he said. 

"We will obviously see more and more fleets banning them. But I think that's the wrong thing - there's a right usage model for every powertrain. 

"They can be deployed in the right way and are very good at getting early adopters into them."

In response to a fear that electric motoring would become more expensive as governments looked to reclaim lost tax revenue from fuel duty, Visa Parviainen, CTO of event sponsor ENSTO, said it would - but that it would still be cheaper than fossil fuels.

"£28 billion was how much HMRC made in 2017 in fuel taxation alone," he said. "Do you think they can give it up? No. 

"So far we have been given the carrot by the government. What will happen is internal combustion engines (ICEs) will start getting the stick instead and new taxes will be levied on EVs. 

"They will still be significantly cheaper, but only because ICEs will be so much more expensive to operate."

Dr Colin Herron CBE, managing director of Zero Carbon Futures, warned that a more significant barrier to quick widespread EV adoption would be a shortage of available vehicles.

He said: "From the research I've done the European capacity for EVs is to make 160,000 vehicles a year. Total European car sales are 15 million.

"Producing Audi E-Trons, Porsches, Aston Martins, Jaguar I-Paces is pointless. The only answer is to produce EVs that families can afford, but at least half a million to a million of them. 

"If there's no more capacity created in Europe for EVs, then no matter what we do, what grants we have, how much infrastructure we put in, there will be no more cars unless China ships them by the million.

"While we're getting a lot of political announcements about zero emissions cities etc, at the moment there are simply no cars available in volume."

Herron added it was possible that, following Brexit, UK car sales would not count towards manufacturers' EU emissions targets, which would be likely to restrict the supply further. He also argued that UK investment in charging infrastructure had been misplaced.

"At the moment there is an obsession in this country with the reason we haven't got a lot of EVs being because we haven't got any infrastructure," he said. 

"So what we now get is: lack of EV sales, put in more infrastructure; there's still no increase in EV sales, so we put in yet more infrastructure, which results in very low utilisation, hence no business case for infrastructure, so we go for more grants and put in more infrastructure. And this has been going on for about seven years."

Herron said that the national utilisation of rapid chargers is 4%, meaning for 96% of the time they were not used.

He added: "Putting more infrastructure in is a simple waste of taxpayers' money unless there is a hotspot. 

"In some places we need more, in some places we certainly don't." 

When asked if a reduction in company car numbers could hurt EV adoption, TMC's Hollick said it was a concern, but mainly due to a delay in reduced BIK rates for EVs, which are not due to come in until 2020.

He said: "If we could bring those forwards so we go down to a really low tax rate on EVs then it would drive the uptake. 

"I have seen a lot of people moving from company cars to cash, which is a shame, because then you're effectively in an unregulated environment when the employee will do whatever they want to do."