BVRLA ups EV targets as industry outlook improves, despite infrastructure fears
07 October 2020
Author: Sean Keywood
The organisation has adopted more ambitious targets for electrification.
The vehicle rental, leasing and fleet industry will be registering 400,000 battery electric vehicles every year by 2025.
That's according to the latest Plug-in Pledge by the BVRLA - and is an upgrade on the 300,000 per year by 2025 it predicted in its first Plug-in Pledge two years ago.
The organisation unveiled its latest target on the same day it hosted its Fleets in Charge digital conference.
The pledge also says that the industry will own and operate 75% of battery electric vehicles on UK roads - around 900,000 - and that if plug-in hybrids are also included the respective figures will be nearly 570,000 and around 1.3 million.
BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: "BVRLA members have the purchasing power, business models, and the expertise required to put millions of electric cars and vans on the road between now and 2035.
"With a typical fleet cycle of between one and five years, they spend billions of pounds on new plug-in vehicles each year, and feed thousands of affordable electric cars and vans into the vitally important second-hand market.
"Our members are already phasing out internal combustion engine cars and vans. They have already embraced the challenge of transport decarbonisation, and some have set their own ambition for zero-emission fleets far in advance of the 2035 phase-out target."
Along with the pledge, the BVRLA has also published its latest Road to Zero Report Card, tracking the UK's progress towards its road transport decarbonisation targets.
The report card assigns a traffic light red, amber or green score to three key areas - supply of vehicles, demand for vehicles, and infrastructure, with a green awarded for demand and amber for the other two areas.
On supply, it says that while model availability and the electric driving range of cars on the market is increasing, there is uncertainty about the impact of Brexit negotiations, while the rental sector could be hit hard if plug-in hybrids are phased out early.
It recommends initiatives are aligned with other EU markets to attract OEMs to the UK, a tariff-free Brexit with CAFE regulations mirrored, and investment in a stronger UK EV supply chain.
It says that demand for EVs is accelerating thanks to announcements in the March 2020 budget, particularly for company cars, and the extension of plug-in vehicle grants, but warns more support is needed for the rental industry, along with greater certainty on the future availability of grants and incentives.
It therefore says the government should commit to these, conduct an annual review of the new vehicle market to assess their effectiveness, increase in-life incentives to encourage used EV take-up, and align policies with current technological developments, such as with the deployment of low-emission zones.
On infrastructure, the report card welcomes government measures to support public charging, but says the cost of grid connections are highly variable.
It wants the government to re-evaluate the grid upgrade process and support firms hit by upgrade costs, as well as legislate for universal charging access, mandate access to charger data, and increase the provision of on-street charging for fleet users.
Overall, the report card says that the UK's grade is amber, meaning accelerating, and says this is an improvement on 2019, with the EV market approaching that for petrol and diesel vehicles in some aspects.
Keaney said: "The destiny of road transport decarbonisation lies in its hands, but it will be shaped by the crucial factors of EV supply, demand and infrastructure.
"Our latest report shows a gathering momentum, but also points to some key fleet market segments where action is needed."
The issue of infrastructure was hotly debated during a panel discussion at the Fleets in Charge event set up to discuss the report card.
Black Horse and Lex Autolease managing director Richard Jones, citing the experience of himself and his colleagues running plug-in vehicles, said: "People in my business work all over the UK, and we've had some real horror stories, and it's all about charging availability.
"The infrastructure is just not there, particularly once you get outside of the major urban environments."
Jones argued that improvements to this infrastructure were vital to encourage EV adoption.
He said: "The charging infrastructure is not fit for purpose today, and it has to get much better. You have got to think about the psychology of the buyer. They will protect themselves from risk. If they can't see readily available, reliable, close rapid charging, chances are they won't buy.
"We have to overplay the charging infrastructure because it will for me be the single biggest thing that drives adoption."
Defending the charging infrastructure, Tom Callow, head of external affairs at charging firm BP Chargemaster, said: "Infrastructure has been deployed largely to probably match where demand for charging was seen to be. If you look at the regions, the most EVs in the UK are in London, hence why there is more infrastructure in London.
"What we have got to be careful of is that there is that geographical balance. I often here there is not enough infrastructure, but nationally there must be because the charging infrastructure is only about 25% utilised at any one moment."
Cap HPI managing consultant Matthew Freeman said: "I think perception always outstrips statistics. If people don't see the chargers, they don't know where they are, they don't think there are any, it's not for them.
"People will back away from anything that looks like a risk. People are not going to put their money into something that they think is going to strand them somewhere on a dark, wet night in the middle of nowhere.
"So we do need, I think to oversupply almost and to have excessive infrastructure so everyone can see it's there, and we need education - there isn't enough of that."
Enterprise Rent-A-Car UK managing director Khaled Shahbo also raised concerns about the capacity of the electricity network itself.
He said: "We did a study recently of our almost-500 depots. If I wanted to charge all my down-fleet overnight, only three of my 500 locations would have the spare charging capacity to allow me anything other than a maximum of four trickle charges. That's not a practical solution for a fleet."