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Webinar | 26 JUNE 2018

Diesel remains a key fleet fuel but electric vehicles are mainstream and not a compromise, experts tell ACFO webinar

The webinar, hosted by the UK’s premier fleet decision-makers’ organisation and discussing fleet fuels of the future, was told by Doug Hyett, national fleet sales manager, Volkswagen UK, that the manufacturer was “continuing to invest in diesel”.   

Simultaneously, petrol engine investment also continued with the fuel “a big part of the mix” amid the transition to plug-in vehicles with Volkswagen committed to bringing a range of all new electric models to the UK market over the coming years.   

Volkswagen, which sponsored the webinar, is spending some €50 billion on battery technology in the next two years and €20 billion on electric vehicles with an expectation that by 2021 electric vehicles will account for 10% of UK brand sales.   

What’s more, with electric vehicles appearing under the I.D sub-brand, the total cost of ownership for the equivalent Volkswagen Golf model, also known as I.D, will be on a par with the diesel variant and have a range of 300-500kms depending on the model, according to Mr Hyett.   

Amid “a lot of fuss in the press and chat around diesel”, Volkswagen’s investment in Euro6 engine emission technology was “immense”, said Mr Hyett. Developments he identified in both diesel and petrol included:

  • Selective Catalytic Reduction, an advanced active emissions control technology system that injects AdBlue, will be a standard feature on every new diesel engine      
  • A new 2.0 Tdi engine with mild hybrid drive will be introduced in 2019 offering carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions and improved MPG          
  • Particulate filters already fitted to the UP! GTi and some petrol-engined Arteon models will feature on other Volkswagen models       
  • The new Golf to be launched in 2019 will feature a mild hybrid system.   

Mr Hyett said: “Fleet fuels are changing with a shift towards battery electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, but diesel is still a huge part of the mix. The modern diesel engine is an indispensable part of the solution as it has improved dramatically over the years in terms of efficiency and environmental performance.”

The Anglian Water Services fleet currently comprises 700 company cars, 1,800 vans and 200 HGVs and, head of fleet services Stewart Lightbody, an ACFO member, is aiming for a 100% electric fleet.   

Anglian Water Services is currently in the midst of a company car choice list review and to-date 45% of company car drivers have selected a plug-in hybrid vehicle when ordering their new model.   

Furthermore, building on the introduction of one plug-in hybrid van Mr Lightbody is using in-vehicle telematics data to provide critical insight into light commercial vehicle usage. As a result, he is mapping where it is possible that plug-in vans can replace diesel units.   

Anglian Water has, what Mr Lightbody called, “an ambitious carbon reduction programme” with an introduction to the fleet of plug-in vehicles having an integral role.  

Many of the company’s diesel vans only clocked up 5,000 to 6,000 miles a year and data showed that they were high maintenance prompting Mr Lightbody’s review.   

Using “methodology and science”, Mr Lightbody said: “Electric vehicles are now mainstream and there is no real compromise. It is about doing the right thing in the communities in which we live and work. Why wouldn’t you protect the environment?”

Suggesting that electric vehicles were “another tool in a fleet manager’s toolkit”, he said: “Where we can launch electric vehicles vans we will. We are trying to convince ‘white van man’ to go electric. It is about demystifying what an electric vehicle looks and feel like.”   

That included said Mr Lightbody, in answer to a webinar question, being “smarter” in terms of equipping van load areas with lighter racking materials and only carrying tools and other goods that were essential and not used infrequently to ensure payload remained at a maximum.   

But, he concluded: “Fleet managers do not have to convert every vehicle to electric today because that is not viable, but they can make a start. Where we can introduce electric vehicles we will. We are starting where the decision is obvious and we will expand the number of electric vehicles on the fleet over time as vehicle battery range improves and manufacturer model choice increases.”   

According to James O’Neill, UK sales director, at international electric solutions provider Ensto, there were currently 16,500 publicly accessible electric vehicle charging points in the UK with 70% of plug-in vehicle sales being to fleets.   

“Fleet adoption is where electric vehicle take-up is happening. For the most part, demand is for plug-in hybrid due to the attractiveness of benefit-in-kind tax,” said Mr O’Neill, who highlighted that up to 70% of vehicle recharging by drivers was at their homes.   

Nevertheless, despite the huge evolution in plug-in models joining motor manufacturers’ vehicle line-ups and mileage capability increasing due to improving battery technology, driver education was critical while fleet managers, in many cases, remained concerned about their viability.   

The top five fleet manager concerns identified by Mr O’Neill are: ·         

  • Cost implications          
  • Vehicle range anxiety           
  • Model range and availability         
  • Vehicle infrastructure access/ChargePoint capability         
  • Whether onboard software/tools delivering data could be integrated into existing systems.  

Highlighting that it was about fleet managers “making the logical vehicle choice” for their operations, Mr O’Neill predicted that by 2025 a quarter of car sales would be electric reaching 40% by 2030. In the first five months of this year, according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, alternatively fuelled vehicles accounted for 5.3% of registrations.   

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