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Alphabet pitches for electric vehicle leadership

Date: 04 November 2013   |   Author:

The UK's number three leasing company Alphabet is looking to take a lead in the plug-in vehicle market with its new Alpha Electric programme.

Officially launched last week, the four-pronged attack covers the areas of fleet analysis, vehicle selection, charging solutions and mobility services, with the firm looking to help fleets adopt electric vehicles rather than simply rent them out.

"It's not about the guys who say they want an electric car, it's about people who say they don't know if they want one," Alphabet chief executive Richard Schooling told BusinessCar. "It's looking at the business case - it is practical for my guys and my business, and does it work economically?"

Alphabet is working with energy company EDF on charging solutions, and with Chargemaster, which has developed a smartcard that it claims offers access to 85% of the UK's public charging stations.

The lease giant has also developed its own Alpha Electric app designed to help fleets and drivers quickly work out whether a pure-electric or range-extender vehicle is suitable for their needs.

"I don't see us as brave in launching first, I see us as taking a lead," continued Schooling. "Unless we and other leasing companies eventually provide the whole solution for fleets they won't get the opportunity to experience the cost savings. You can sit back and wait or you can be part of it, and it's more exciting to be at the front."

Alphabet has developed a range of options designed to help fleets make the first steps into electric or range-extender plug-in vehicles, including four packages costing from £160-£700 per year that offer access to a regular internal combustion engine lower medium hatchback for between seven and 36 days, giving drivers the flexibility needed for occasional long trips such as work conferences or holidays. The car can be upgraded in exchange for eating up more allocation of days.

Alphabet's attempts to establish itself as the leader in EVs also includes innovative elements called Discovery and Comfort.

Discovery allows fleets to effectively what's currently a choice of either a BMW i3 range extender or a Toyota Prius Plug-in for either three or six months on a short-term hire 'try before you buy', with the leasing firm offering £500 off the cost of the rental if a lease is taken out at the end of the period.

Comfort is the reverse, offering companies a release clause on certain ultra low-emission models after  six months, if the customer feels the car isn't working out as hoped and wants to change back to one powered by an internal combustion engine.

"We're thinking about the mobility challenges a customer will have, and rather than just saying it's a problem, we are coming up with ideas to solve it," concluded Schooling.

"Is there  place in the corporate sector [for EVs]? Yes. And will we react or lead it? As a leading provider of business mobility, if we can't stand up and take the lead on this then what's the point of claiming it?"



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