Electric dreams: the future of fleets

In just five years, an overwhelming majority – 63% - of the UK’s businesses and SMEs expect to use alternative fuels to power their fleets. That was one of the key findings of research jointly commissioned by the AA and BT Fleet Solutions, in the second annual Operational Fleet Insight report*.

The report drills deep into sector-specific data to provide detailed insights into the fleet challenges and opportunities facing nine leading industries. These include the public sector, transport and logistics, secure transit, utilities, manufacturing, businesses services, construction and facilities management, IT and telecoms, and SMEs, a sector rapidly growing in diversity and significance in the fleet worlds, for whom operational fleets must run with a ruthless efficiency.

It’s clear that cross-sector change with regards to alternative fuels is already taking place. Electric vehicle (EV) driving figures are undergoing a rapid rise, with the SMMT reporting a 50 per cent year-on-year increase in EV sales in its end of summer figures.
Those responsible for the UK’s fleets believe that emerging technologies can offer greater logistical efficiencies and long-term cost savings, in addition to providing wider corporate social responsibility benefits for firms and their fleets. They can also, businesses feel, provide some future-proofing against any new regulations. This includes the introduction of more clean air zones – the implementation of which would be supported by 66% of respondents to our research.

Emissions reduction is becoming a major focus for the UK. By 23 October 2017, all vehicles operating in central London, for example, will need to meet minimum exhaust emission standards, or pay a daily emissions surcharge, in addition to the current congestion charge. Fleet managers believe that the growing trend for city mayor appointments will drive increasing regulation in the UK’s cities and are keen to ensure they will be able to comply with future legislation.

Manufacturers have been quick to respond to this seismic transport shift, with many unveiling future electric vehicles, announcing timetables for the electrification of their model line-ups, or implementing key changes to their supply chain. But where is the government investment in electric vehicle infrastructure to accommodate this move?

A source of business anxiety

The AA’s research revealed this investment uncertainty is a huge source of anxiety for businesses. Nearly half of the report’s respondents felt government organisations should be lobbying for greater investment in electric vehicle infrastructure to support the alternatively fuelled fleets of the future.

There’s a sense among fleet managers and business owners that if tougher emissions targets are to be introduced, the government should be leading the way to make it easier for businesses to use the alternative. This support should, respondents believe, go above and beyond the government grants that are available to businesses. This includes the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS), which part funds the costs to purchase and install electric vehicle charge-points for eligible businesses.

Brexit – its impact

The operational fleet market is at present very much in a holding pattern. The after effects of Brexit are yet to be fully felt – 66% of businesses say it has had an impact, while 68% say they expect it to do so over the next year. But until the picture becomes a little clearer, fleet managers feel they must continue with business as usual.

There is a fear among managers and business owners that as the dust settles over Brexit, the issues that will most affect fleets, such as rising fuel and travel costs, will not be a high government priority in the short term.

How the AA is helping the fleets of the future

The AA expects that, based on AA members’ car buying intentions and future trends, there will be more than 500,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in use by 2020. But the biggest challenge for any fleet manager, regardless of looming legislation, is ensuring a fleet’s reliability. We’re already working closely with businesses to train them to make the most of the coming EV revolution to help them to prevent downtime and loss of income. We know that fleets are the backbone of any business, keeping firms on the road and running successfully and the AA has trained its patrols to assist electric vehicle owners.

We’re keen to ensure that businesses understand this new technology and also want to help them to get the most out of their electric fleets. That’s why the AA recently joined forces with Chargemaster, the UK’s largest manufacturer of electric car charging points, who have set up the multi-brand Electric Vehicle Centre in Milton Keynes.

The EV Centre is the first of its kind in the UK to provide information and advice on electric vehicles for all, providing free driving lessons with AA instructors to help drivers get the most out of their electric vehicle. Open seven days a week, the site offers test drives from its fleet of 53 electric cars and neutral advice about which electric vehicle could suit your fleet’s needs, with week-long loans on vehicles available where applicable. Managers should visit https://evexperiencecentre.co.uk/ to find out more, or to book a test drive.

To download the report and find out more about fleet manager cross-sector views on the issues that matter, please visit www.btfleetinsight.com.

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