Comment: Fleets want to go green but has the Government stalled on its Road to Zero?
Paul Holland, MD of UK fuels at Allstar Business Solutions, on how more must be done to help the increasing number of businesses prepared to make the switch to alternatively fuelled vehicles.
While the importance of a low-emission future has been somewhat smoke screened by the outbreak of Covid-19 in the news this year, it still remains a key topic for fleet operators. Throughout the UK-wide lockdown, flights were forced to ground and, similarly, fewer cars were on the road. As a result, the use of fossil fuels and, in turn, CO2 emissions, was drastically reduced and the world got a glimpse of what a low-emission future could look like.
However, there’s still a long way to go before that future becomes a reality. Not only will businesses need to maintain the drive to adopt alternative fuels and electric vehicles that has been gaining momentum in recent years, but the UK Government must progress with its plans to make this happen.
More action is needed
The Government’s 2018 Road to Zero strategy reiterated a promise of electric charging points every 20 miles throughout the UK, with the aim of encouraging fleets to adopt alternative fuels and electric vehicles. Most recently, the Prime Minister announced that the ban on selling new petrol, diesel and some hybrid cars in the UK will be brought forward from 2035 to 2030 and announced grants to buy cars and charge point infrastructure.
This is the second time the Government has looked to bring forwards the date of new car sales, having consulted on moving the original 2040 date forward to 2035 earlier this year. With a host of new powertrains and models entering the market, and 33,000 pure electric and hybrid cars registered between April and June 2020, there is a clear appetite from both businesses and consumers.
As such, there has been good headway made towards a low-emission future as the UK’s network of rapid charging units has grown 363% in the last five years. This has made it possible for EVs to travel further and head to new locations without having to worry as much about running out of fuel. At the same time, changes to the Benefit-in-Kind tax, which is banded based on variables that include C02 emissions, has further prompted fleets to drop their emissions.
Still, for many this hasn’t been enough to actually make the mass adoption of AF and EV a reality. While businesses are looking for a greener future for their fleets, they are currently facing significant barriers when adopting these powertrains. From our own research, we have found that a third of fleet owners currently see a lack of infrastructure as hampering the adoption of AF and EV into their fleets, suggesting that while they may be well motivated to do so, the means to do it still aren’t available.
It is clear then that the Government should be doing more. It has planted the seeds that have made businesses hungry for an alternative to fossil fuels, but unfortunately, it’s falling short when satisfying that hunger. First and foremost, the Government must ensure that the correct infrastructure is in place. Continuing to expand on the UK’s current network of fast charging points will allow businesses to adopt greener types of vehicles, while being confident that their operations can continue up and down the country.
En route to a greener future
The aim of the game for the Government now should be to remove the friction faced by the UK’s business road users when adopting alternatively fuelled vehicles. Fleet owners already want to work towards making the future more sustainable and environmentally friendly, but the transition needs to be as smooth as possible.
It would be ideal if drivers using AF vehicles are able to recharge or refuel when, where and how they like. As such, we would like to see the UK Government taking more opportunities to capitalise on the momentum already gained in the EV movement by doing everything possible to ease the vehicle transition for businesses.
For fuel card providers, it is important we stay committed to supporting fleets by providing the most appropriate methods of payment for the fuels required. At the moment, this primarily includes petrol and diesel as well as electric charging points, but demand for our alternative fuels network acceptance continues to grow and this need will become more prevalent as we head towards 2030.