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In Focus: Octopus Electric Vehicles

Date: 04 May 2022   |   Author: Martyn Collins

Octopus Electric Vehicles won Editor's Choice at our 2021 Business Car Awards for its work in making EV choice easier. Martyn Collins speaks to CEO Fiona Howarth about salary sacrifice schemes and what they're able to offer.

Octopus Electric Vehicles CEO Fiona Howarth is keen to point out that both employers and employees are realising the benefits of driving electric, and the reason why salary sacrifice schemes are proving so popular. "It is the cherry on top of the cake. As the scheme allows drivers to save 30-40% on their brand new electric car by paying through their gross salary. It makes having an EV cheaper each month than the petrol or diesel equivalent - despite the retail cost often being £5-10k more, before you even take fuel savings into account. 

"We've seen a huge increase in enquiries since we launched the scheme a year ago, and the interest is soaring in 2022. We have more than doubled our fleet size on salary sacrifice in this year alone, while we're signing up more companies in a week than we did in a month just six months ago. Some of the UK's top businesses have chosen Octopus Electric Vehicles' salary sacrifice scheme for their employees, including household names such as Dyson, McLaren, Purplebricks and Nando's, to name just a few."

The reason for this success, along with the changing times, is because Howarth's mission is simple; to make it easy for drivers to make the switch to clean, electric transport.

"Our salary sacrifice scheme aims to do exactly that. It's super easy for businesses to sign up and make the perk of a low-cost electric car and everything needed to make that switch available to their team. The scheme is free for businesses to join, and we walk them through every step of the process. 

"Once a business has signed up, we provide everything their employees need to go electric. The car, servicing, insurance, tyres, MOT, and roadside assistance from the AA. We also offer a free home charger and 5,000 free miles on our EV tariff, Octopus Go. Or if you don't have a driveway, 5,000 free miles on the Electric Juice Network - with one card and one bill for over 200,000 chargers across Europe. 

"Drivers can currently choose from 67 electric cars from 28 brands, and that number is rising all of the time. We know for some drivers picking a new electric car might be a daunting choice, which is where our EV Experts come in. They provide a personalised service to help identify the right car, while thinking through where and how to charge it up.

"We work closely with each business to help promote the scheme internally - from drive days to online webinars, while our team supports every business and answers questions to guide them through the process."

The figures show that people are getting behind electric cars, but with the number of EVs and public chargers both doubling every year, Howarth admits there is still work to be done on keeping knowledge current. "There are still some myths and misconceptions that exist, and it's our role, as well as that of the industry and Government, to dispel these myths. 

"The best way to do that? Get out and talk to people - provide information, talk through their questions and concerns, and most of all, get people in the cars. More often than not, when someone gets out of an electric car for the first time, they have a big smile on their face. Modern EVs are tech-on-wheels, they are fun to drive, cheaper to run and help save the planet. Who wouldn't find that appealing?

"We regularly engage with organisations to support their transition to electric cars. We have plenty of blogs on our website to help answer people's questions, while we also regularly speak on panels, both inside and outside of the fleet space. At COP26 we kicked off a working group of leaders across the industry to drive forward the switch to electric - multiple voices are stronger than one." 

Howarth's advice to those still unsure about EVs and salary sacrifice schemes, is to try it. "The future is electric, and there are many good reasons why. EV sales are taking off as people realise they are great to drive, low cost to run and good for the planet. We now have over 400,000 EVs on the roads in the UK, and half of those arrived in the last year alone. 

"With the sale of petrol and diesel cars banned from 2030, and hybrids too from 2035, we'll all be driving electric cars in the near future. The switch has only been accelerated by huge price rises in the cost of both petrol and diesel over the past year. Those who don't make the move now risk being left behind. 

"Salary sacrifice is a brilliant employee benefit that helps companies attract, retain and reward staff. We work with employers looking to incentivise their teams to switch to electric cars, reduce their carbon footprint to meet their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals and give their employees access to significant savings on brand new electric cars as a perk. Salary sacrifice is not only a benefit for the employee, but for the employer also. Plus it doesn't cost the business a thing to join."

Asked whether changes to Government EV incentives will affect salary sacrifice popularity, Howarth responded: "Despite EVs often beating gas guzzlers when you consider total cost of ownership - given lower maintenance and fuel costs - their higher upfront costs are still holding some drivers back. With BloombergNEF estimating price parity due to be reached in Europe in 2027, incentives such as low Benefit in Kind (BiK) rates for EVs and salary sacrifice are vital to help bridge the gap, especially in a global market where other countries are providing large incentives. The Government has committed to keeping BiK rates for electric cars at just 2% until 2025, compared to 20-40% for a petrol or diesel car."