Deciding how to fuel your fleet can be time-consuming and, if you make a decision that isn’t right for you, it can be costly. Today’s market presents several options for those looking to fuel their fleet and improve their fuel economy. This is particularly important as reducing operation costs is integral to operating a profitable fleet.
The best approach is to find the most efficient fuel for your fleet, allowing you to effectively control costs. Petrol and diesel are the most common fuel options, but hybrid and electric vehicles are also becoming increasingly popular. In this article, we will be looking at the different fuel options for fleets and how to ensure that you choose the right one for your business.
The most popular fuelling option is petrol as it’s the cheapest to refuel and purchase. In 2002, CO2 emissions were used to determine the level of benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax paid on company cars, affecting the popularity of petrol for fleets. However, petrol cars have become significantly greener with the addition of features such as turbochargers.
Although they can still overheat and are prone to emitting unburned hydrocarbons, particulates, and carbon monoxide from their exhausts, the advancements in efficiency mean that fleets are once again reconsidering petrol vehicles.
When it comes to the practicality of running a fleet, petrol can at first appear to be a frontrunner, but once you consider the higher maintenance and repair costs, the appeal may begin to wane. With the UK Government’s plans to stop the purchase of new ICE vehicles, it can also feel as though the petrol vehicle has a limited life span, something you may wish to consider when planning long term.
A significant number of fleet owners have opted for diesel vehicles during the past twenty years due to their improved fuel consumption over petrol cars. The aforementioned BIK tax meant drivers could reduce their liability by swapping to diesel, and a high proportion of fleet owners haven’t found a reason to change back.
While diesel engines tend to create fewer CO2 particles than petrol engines, they emit a greater number of particulates and nitrous oxide, which affects the quality of local air and can worsen breathing problems. Yet, as with petrol cars, diesel car manufacturers are making efforts to make diesel greener and more efficient, potentially creating a resurgence in fleet popularity.
When running a fleet of diesel cars, it’s worth considering where your vehicles will be travelling. The past years have seen a rise in local authorities, especially in London, deterring owners of older diesel vehicles through costlier charges. Drivers whose vehicles don’t meet the set standards can expect to pay more for parking charges and further additional charges if they enter a low-emission or clean air zone. If you have multiple vehicles operating in and around these zones, you should factor in the additional costs of these charges.
Powered by a combination of fuels, vehicles that fall into the hybrid category can include cars that use either petrol or diesel combined with the EV technology of an electric battery. The battery is typically recharged as the vehicle is driven or through energy captured in braking. However, plug-in hybrids can be recharged much the same way as typical electric vehicles.
Hybrids are becoming increasingly popular amongst fleets as they can cut carbon dioxide emissions by roughly 25%. Likewise, the reliability of petrol-hybrid engines has been shown to outperform others on the market. Self-charging hybrids are particularly convenient as they don’t need to be plugged in, making them a fantastic choice of vehicle for longer journeys. However, plug-in hybrids do pose some issues for fleets as when they’re not plugged in, they effectively become a petrol car. They also must be plugged in to recharge, making them potentially unsuitable for fleets.
Taking the reliance on a battery one step further, EVs, or electric vehicles, are powered solely by an electric motor. With zero emissions produced while driving, electric fleets are certainly one of the greenest options for fleet owners. However, electric vehicle technology does have its downsides. Whilst there are limitations on how far any vehicle can go on a full tank, an EV battery, fully depleted of charge, can take 12 hours to refill, which can seriously hamper the delivery time of long-distance haulage.
Similarly, local infrastructure isn’t always supportive of electric vehicles, with charging points hard to access or too few to accommodate multiple EVs. While these changes can present problems for long haulage travelling the breadth of the country and beyond, for fleets that primarily operate within urban areas, this is less of an issue.
However, recent UK legislation has placed a time limit on the purchasing of new fossil fuel vehicles, meaning electric vehicle infrastructure is only set to improve. Even though there are still ten years until all van fleets can only purchase vehicles with electric motors, it could be beneficial to explore switching over sooner rather than later.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Undoubtedly the greenest option of all vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars are also the hardest to come by. We know that the technology works well and that vehicles can operate safely and efficiently on hydrogen. However, as a new technology, hydrogen fuel cells are still expensive to purchase, and the infrastructure is not advanced enough for full implementation.
In 2021, Hyundai announced that it was working on a hydrogen fuel cell for both cars and HGVs that will be twice as powerful, 30% smaller and half the price of the existing models. Looking to the future, Hyundai has estimated that their fuel cell system could reach cost parity with battery power by 2030.
So, while the feasibility of using a hydrogen-powered fleet may be some years away if advancements are made, and costs come down, hydrogen cells could result in the same distance range as EVs. They would also offer the same zero emissions but with the bonus of refuelling in minutes, as an ICE would.
Ultimately, the best option for your fleet is the fuel that will result in saving the most money while future-proofing your business. Once you consider all the factors and weigh them up against the needs of your business, you can make an informed decision on how best to fuel your fleet. In the meantime, you can contact us to find out how you can save money at the pumps with our fuel cards and save time with our online management system.
Karl GurneyKarl has over 14 years of experience in the fuel card industry and has a wealth of knowledge around the servicing and maintenance of fleet vehicles. Outside of work, Karl coaches a junior football team and enjoys spending time with his 2 sons and wife.