Debbie Wallace's blog: How to ensure fleets do not fall foul of updated clean air zone rules
18 March 2022
Europcar Mobility Group UK's head of SME looks at how a flexible fleet can help businesses navigate clean air zone rules.
According to the latest TomTom Traffic Index report, 44,100 tonnes of CO2 were emitted in London alone on an average traffic day in 2021. To offset this, a 12,000 km2 forest would need to grow for a year.
Traffic pollution is a major problem for urban living, and I think we would all agree that clean air zones are a welcome and necessary step in reducing traffic emissions levels and improving the health of the population in our towns and cities.
However, the profusion of different rules and approaches by local authorities can make it difficult for businesses to keep up to date with what vehicles can be driven where and when.
Oxford City Council has for example recently introduced a zero-emission zone in the centre of the city which means that zero tailgate emissions vehicles can enter the zone without charge, but other vehicles will pay between £2 and £10 per day, depending on their emissions levels. If effective, this pilot scheme could be rolled out to the rest of the city next year.
On the other hand, in Greater Manchester, the introduction of a clean air zone has been delayed until the summer, following concerns around people's ability to upgrade to cleaner vehicles in time.
While the timings of the introduction of low-emission zones vary across the UK, the government's plan for all authorities to meet legal emissions limits by 2024 stands. So, how can businesses get on the front foot and ensure they can enter clean air zones without penalties that could impact on both productivity and the balance sheet?
A survey that Europcar Mobility Group UK carried out last year showed that for one in five businesses cost was the main concern around moving over to a lower emissions fleet. The ability to operate a flexible fleet is key for the productivity of any company that relies on its vehicles and as part of the transition to zero-emission vehicles, renting an electric or hybrid vehicle can be a cost-effective method. With charges of £8 per day for cars, taxis and LGVs for Birmingham's clean air zone and £12.50 for London's Ultra Low Emission Zone, the annual saving for a business which has just 25 vehicles a week entering a clean air zone could be up to £16,250.
Rental doesn't involve major capital expenditure - unlike outright purchase or long-term lease agreements. It also allows businesses the option of trying before they buy, finding out how and where EVs can best be utilised within their fleet, without having to commit to outright purchase or long-term lease and a possibly costly mistake.
Most fleet managers are also looking at ways to reduce their reliance on 'grey fleet' vehicles, which tend to be older and more polluting than fleet cars. Opting for a low-emissions rental vehicle not only means that these company drivers can operate in the clean air zones, but it can also help to keep fuel costs down and keep drivers safer in newer cars with built-in safety features.
Rental companies are continuing to increase the range of more environmentally-friendly vehicles on offer - Europcar for example is on target to have 20% of our fleet 'green' by the end of 2024 - and this will help businesses to meet their transport sustainability goals without causing the finance director sleepless nights.