Lauren Pamma's blog: Fuelling the UK's green recovery
29 July 2020
Lex Autolease's electrification propositions lead discusses the government's recent initiatives to 'build back better', and the role EVs can play in the country's green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Chancellor has made clear he's committed to helping the UK rebuild more sustainably following Covid-19, and key to this is a new initiative to help develop the next generation of cutting-edge automotive technologies.
The Automotive Transformation Fund will deliver an extra £10 million of funding to help "scale up" manufacturing in areas such as batteries, motors and electronics. This is a positive move designed to position the UK at the forefront of the global transition to a net zero future.
It seems lockdown has given the country a taste of what could be, after the avoidance of all but essential travel delivered a significant improvement in air quality.
At the moment, the government is encouraging people to travel safely and in a socially-distant way, using sustainable alternatives to public transport, to help stop the spread of the virus. They're keen for people to walk or cycle where possible, but for those who need to drive, an EV is the cleanest option. What's more, EV drivers can 'refuel' at home, without needing to interact with others at the petrol pump.
Accelerated transition to EVs
Long before any of us had even heard of coronavirus, many businesses were already starting to introduce EVs onto their policies and it's encouraging to see that in each month of the national lockdown, monthly EV registrations were still up year on year. According to SMMT data, 8,903 pure electric new cars were registered in June - a 262% increase on 2019.
With the groundwork already laid, businesses now have an opportunity to accelerate progress, especially as many have experienced fundamental changes to the way they operate. A likely outcome of the rise in flexible working is a decrease in business mileage.
We know that many businesses are seeking ways to improve cashflow at the moment, and while making fleet investments might seem counter-intuitive in this context, making the right fleet decisions can actually deliver immediate savings.
While the upfront cost of an EV can be higher than a petrol or diesel alternative, businesses that start the transition early can take advantage of financial incentives and in-life benefits such as cheaper running costs, lower taxation and in some areas, free parking.
This doesn't just help to offset the upfront cost of EVs, but can make them cheaper than diesel or petrol over their lifetime - not to mention the positive outcomes for the environment.
Encouraging EV adoption
When moving drivers into EVs, it's important that fleet managers remember there isn't a 'one size fits all' solution.
While improvements in battery technology and charging infrastructure mean range anxiety is rarely an issue anymore, it's still worth identifying the drivers on your fleet who can make the switch most seamlessly and starting your transition with them.
Usually, this will be those who cover fewer miles, and who operate in and around urban areas. These drivers can move into EVs first and can then become advocates within your driver population.
Having a pool of people in the business who can vouch for EVs will increase awareness and understanding, supporting the business case for further investment.
The road ahead
Building a more sustainable future post Covid-19 will help the UK reach its 2050 net-zero emissions goal. EVs have a critical role to play in our efforts to 'build back better', and it's important that the necessary measures are in place so that they can fulfil their potential.
It's positive to see the government allocating additional funding and resources to help develop greener automotive tech. This, along with initiatives such as Benefit-in-Kind tables, plug-in grants and VED surcharge, will help drive EV uptake on a mass-market scale.
While boosting demand among individual and business drivers, we must encourage and facilitate supply, by making the UK an attractive market from manufacturers' perspectives. And we also need the infrastructure to be in place, so that EVs can meet and exceed drivers' expectations.
The UK's EV market is still in its infancy and can be easily disrupted - which could accelerate or hamper progress. But while the industry has faced unprecedented challenges this year, the situation can be used as a real force for good.
Fleet managers, leasing providers and policy makers must work together and seize this moment on the Road to Zero, using battery-powered vehicles to power the green recovery.