Is the future of fleet services electric?

29 November 2021
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As more government guidance around ‘zero-emissions capable’ vehicles emerges, the question remains how fleet services will adapt to future changes. As many of us are aware, new petrol and diesel cars are to be banned after 2030, light commercial vehicles after 2035 and plans to phase out commercial vehicles over 26 tonnes after 2040. 

Regardless of what your fleet is used for – from HGVs hauling goods up and down the country, to localised last-mile deliveries utilising business car fleets – every vehicle on British roads is being pushed towards relying on electric or other alternative means of powering an engine. As such, it seems as though the future of fleet services is destined to turn electric, but is making the switch as simple as that?  

Here we look at the practicalities of implementing a fully-electric fleet, the benefits, the downsides – and how best to prepare for the automotive electric future.  

Electric vehicles today 

Switching to an electric fleet, either entirely or partially, requires a considerable amount of preparation and planning beforehand. But before you begin to contemplate making the jump, you should get to know the EV market and how it looks currently before applying that knowledge to your fleet.  

The world of electric vehicles (EV) is rapidly expanding; anecdotal evidence alone probably shows the rise in EVs, but the numbers are there too, and there’s sound reasoning for this change. There’s a lot of reluctance around switching to electric fleets, but with Government grants, significant savings to fuel and much fewer repair and maintenance costs, fleet owners could save thousands of pounds a year. 

Over two-thirds of EV registrations are for businesses or fleets, highlighting their economic potential. If your fleet services operate at a large scale, you could save roughly 20-30% in maintenance and repairs by swapping out petrol and diesel vans or cars for their electric equivalents. Coupled with Government grants that help enterprises purchase EVs, it makes a lot of sense why many companies are undergoing this shift. 

Alongside this, with carbon-neutral options taking up the limelight in today’s market, having a greener solution often equates to a better reputation. By delivering on environmental pledges, you help not only the planet but also your standing.  

Advantages & disadvantages of EVs 

It’s understandable to be hesitant to switch to solely EV in 2021; there are multiple advantages and disadvantages to relying on electric commercial vehicles, which you have to balance in accordance with your company and your business. 

To say you should switch to EVs just because new petrol cars will be out of production by 2030 doesn’t mean you should make the change this very moment; in fact, you may benefit from waiting a few years for further developments to infrastructure and battery technology.  

We list some of the pros and cons below: 

Advantages 

Cleaner energy and a positive brand image 

It goes without saying that electric vehicles run greener than their fossil fuel counterparts. With 71% of the UK saying they feel global climate change will harm people around the world in at least the next few years, an entirely electric fleet may spin you in a more positive light. While moving to electric vehicles will genuinely affect the environment for the better, the additional bonus of being able to talk about it can help your image and potentially win you new eco-focused clients and business.  

Saving Money  

Whilst currently EVs have a higher initial purchase cost, prices are expected to fall as technology develops and demand grows. Electric commercial vehicles are some of the cheapest vehicles to run and maintain compared to those with internal combustion engines. Batteries, by nature, have a lot fewer moving parts than the standard petrol or diesel car that you’d find in your average diesel or petrol car. Fewer parts mean fewer things to go wrong, which in the long run means saving money. It may sound obvious, but the parts of the car that previously existed to support the engine aren’t needed anymore; things like radiators, exhaust systems and starter motors are no longer necessary. The cost of charging a vehicle can be cheaper than filling it up with petrol or diesel with prices expected to drop in the longer term as demand increases. 

Disadvantages 

While EVs aren’t perfect, many of the complications are down to the limited infrastructure surrounding them and the limitations of current technology. However, it’s worth noting that as electric becomes more mainstream these limitations are reducing. 

Overcharging EV Batteries 

Batteries risk the issue of being damaged if they’re overcharged, much like a mobile phone, if they’re constantly charged to 100%, they can begin to hold less charge over time. The majority of manufacturers advise charging roughly 80% for most journeys and only going up to 100% should you expend that much on your journey. Overcharging the battery can ultimately lead to needing a new battery, something that can be quite costly.

Travelling long distances 

One of the most significant and most discussed disadvantages to electric vehicles is the limitations of travelling long distances on a battery. For fleet services that rely on long-distance haulage throughout Britain and into Europe, it can be challenging to navigate the world of long-haul on purely electric batteries. Requiring visits to electric charging stations can take up significant amounts of time, something some suppliers may not have if making time-sensitive deliveries. However, as technology advances, batteries will be able to take EVs further and further. Even today, Tesla prototype Semi trucks are claimed to be able to reach 500 miles on a single charge – but the proof will truly come when they are out on the road under real-world conditions.

Electric charging stations 

As mentioned earlier, the UK currently lacks an appropriate level of electric car charging infrastructure, which can seriously hinder a journey. The lack of convenience surrounding electric charging points has, if anything, had a knock-on effect on  the number of fleet services taking up electric fleets. Whilst the UK Government is currently making changes to address the shortfall, travelling the length and breadth of the country in an electric vehicle may not be practical in the short term. 

Changing infrastructure 

The UK Government is taking measures to invest in electric charging point infrastructure. By part-funding high-powered electric chargers, they hope to see a considerable shift towards EVs before the banning of new petrol and diesel vehicles, though the actual benefits to this might not be realised until 2023. On the continent, however, developments are more novel – yet effective. In Germany, for example, on their A1 motorway near Lübeck, the local government has installed overhead electric lines on one motorway lane that specially equipped trucks can access, much like trams. The trucks are then powered by electricity when driving on the motorway and then, once off the motorway, can either rely on their battery or revert to regular hybrid drive. 

Whether the UK Government takes a similar approach or not is yet to be seen, but we can expect to see some significant changes in the near future of haulage infrastructure. Despite all this, petrol and diesel vehicles will still serve a purpose and will still be required for jobs up and down the country, certainly for another couple of decades.  

It can be complicated if you want to track your fleet’s fuel consumption and manage how much is spent, but our fuel cards keep things simple and can save you money in the long run. Click here to speak with a member of our team.