Fleet managers should not just assume they need to offer free charging for electric company cars – and could face pitfalls if they do, it has been said.

Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of charging firm Connected Kerb, said businesses could face problems if they introduced such a service for employees, then wanted to withdraw it at a later date.

Speaking during a panel conversation at the Fully Charged Live UK South 2023 show, he said: “In terms of working with business – without pointing fingers at Scotland here, because Scotland has done some fantastic things – I think we don’t want to fall into the same trap that the Scottish network has fallen into, where you start giving away free power, and then you end up being in a position where you have to have a very difficult conversation with people who have become used to it, and then start to charge. 

“I think businesses need to think very carefully at the start around how they are going to do it. I don’t think you need to give free power away. 

“Cost recovery is perfectly OK in my mind. You should not be making profit off your employees, I don’t think.”

On the other hand, Pateman-Jones did add that large companies could consider the added value they could provide via their power in the energy market.

He said: “If you are a large employer, the opportunity you have to buy power is significantly more than the average individual. So, there is an opportunity for charging for employee-owned vehicles to be a real added value thing for those employees.”

Also speaking at the event, Will David, managing director of charging management company Clenergy EV, said: “We have a lot of clients that are still giving free power, but there are more and more people now charging for power.

“Businesses need to think early on about how they are going to monetise it. Even if they don’t want to monetise it right now, they might want to carry on with providing free power, but they still want to make sure the free power is going to the right people – to their employees. 

“We’ve seen instances of people providing free power for their employees but not having gated access to their buildings – all of a sudden it’s popping up on Zap-Map or one of the other providers for people to find it, and they’ve got lines of taxis lining up to get the free power. So, they have to be very careful and think further forward.”

Also on the subject of charging, National Grid fleet manager Lorna McAtear said that she did not give any of her drivers a home charger.

She said: “As a corporate you’re into the equity challenge out there – why should I allow one of my job-need drivers to have a charger, because they’ve got a driveway, when I’ve got another one who is living in a block of flats? We just make sure we’ve got the ability to cover those costs when they’re out.”

On the wider topic of fleet electrification, McAtear said the industry had now entered the mass adoption phase.

She explained: “We’ve moved on from the early adopters, from those that are willing to put up with ‘That bit of software didn’t quite work there’ or ‘There’s a bit of a queue here’ or ‘The charger’s not working, I’ll deal with it’ – we’re moving into mass market. 

“And when you move into mass market with company car drivers, you need to do everything for them. You need it to be easy, you need it to be low-cost, and you need to take all the pain away, because they just want to get in a vehicle and drive.”

Fleet consultant Jon Burdekin added that fleet managers had a serious responsibility to make sure that drivers moving into EVs were properly prepared for them, warning of potentially severe consequences otherwise.

He said: “There is a need for the fleet manager to educate their drivers, starting off with probably a duty of care element, which is if you are just going to throw the keys at your driver and say ‘There you go, there’s your new Cupra Born’, you’re not telling them about the huge amount of power under their right foot that they might not be used to. 

“You’re not telling them they’re virtually silent at low speeds. You’re not telling them there’s another way to slow the car down without using the brake pedal, and you’re not telling them the tyre pressures might need to be higher than they previously imagined. I think that’s bordering on reckless as a fleet manager.”