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Making the switch

Lauren Pamma, Electrification Proposition Lead at Lex Autolease, discusses how facilities management businesses can benefit from switching to electric vehicles and how to start the transition

Record low levels of transport during the pandemic have had a noticeable impact on urban air quality, and our economy needs to look to capitalise on this shift by accelerating the transition to electric vehicles. Meanwhile, as businesses look to recover and learn from the COVID-19 crisis, there is an opportunity to review how sustainability is factored into their future plans as both a key corporate responsibility and for associated cost saving benefits.

The UK’s commitment to net-zero by 2050 has already seen businesses accelerate their transition towards more environmentally friendly technology, though investment in electric vehicles has been slower off the mark.

However, in recent months, government incentives, including the unrestricted access to Clean Air Zones in cities across the UK for low emission vehicles, have driven an appetite for electric vehicles among businesses who rely on inner-city travel to serve customers.

What should businesses consider when exploring their EV options and are the benefits of low and zero emission vehicles worth the investment in the long-term?

As with many fleet decisions, finding the right vehicle depends on what job the vehicle needs to do. For many FM services providers, there’ll be pockets of their operation where the transition to electric can be made more easily, rather than by a wholesale overnight switch away from diesel or petrol.

For low-mileage job roles, for example, such as supporting customers within a concentrated urban area, electric vehicles present an opportunity to reap savings on fuel, maintenance, repairs, company car tax and charges for entering Clean Air Zones.

However, firms that require drivers to cover more miles to attend to multiple sites, involving motorway driving, may still be better off adopting the very latest clean diesel vehicles while the national charging infrastructure remains under development.

Firms should consider exactly what each vehicle in their fleet is required for, and begin phasing out traditionally-fuelled vehicles for electric technology where it will fit seamlessly into their operation. A detailed vehicle audit will make it possible to identify where the switch could most easily be made.

It would be naïve to assume that moving away from established, traditional-engine vehicles is always straightforward. Even though electric vehicle technology has made considerable inroads in recent years, it remains in its infancy – something that is reflected in relatively low adoption figures. The most recent set of figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that plug-in models made up 16 per cent of total UK new car registrations, with pure-electric models accounting for 12 per cent . Wide-spread adoption is still hindered somewhat by the upfront costs of electric vehicle models, along with the limited range and lack of charging facilities across the UK’s road network. However, there are currently around 60 electric models available on the UK market which can travel more than 200-miles on a single charge while investment in public charging infrastructure is improving. As appetite increases and government investment gathers pace, it’s only a matter of time before electric vehicles become embedded into the UK’s road network.

For utility and facilities management providers, completing the transition to low and zero-emission technology in line with improved product availability and increased accessibility of chargepoints will ensure the lowest emission and most cost-effective route is taken.

As with implementing any new technology into a business’ operation, whether costs can be kept under control is a deciding factor. That’s why the relatively high list price of electric vehicles can put decision-makers off. But it’s important to look at the bigger picture and consider the full lifespan of the vehicle, offset against the initial upfront cost.

As the UK continues to expand its list of Clean Air Zones, which will see vehicles with higher Co2 emissions charged for entering certain cities, adopting an electric vehicle can be a smart investment – especially for businesses with plenty of travel into or across cities. Monthly savings on fuel costs alone are also worth considering as the pound at the fuel pump can easily represent half of a fleet’s total operational costs.

While there is much to consider when specifying an effective fleet, best practice often comes down to thinking ahead and taking the time to select the right vehicle for the right job. With the right fleet partner by their side, facilities management providers can create a fleet that is effective and efficient, both for now and for the future.

A key benefit of vehicle leasing is that it gives firms the flexibility to choose the right vehicles for their needs, as well as access to expert advice which helps them to do so. The relatively short replacement cycles of a fleet – 48 months on average – also allow for a faster transition from traditionally-fuelled vehicles.

Electric vehicles have seen rapid advancements over the last few years. Now, coupled with the environmental and cost-saving benefits, it’s becoming a question of when, not if, utility and facilities management businesses should begin the transition to alternatively-fuelled vehicles.

About Sarah OBeirne

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