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Comment: Why fleets need to consider their strategies for the EV revolution now

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Chris Abbotson, national sales manager, Autoglass, on the challenges the repair industry face as electric vehicle adoption increases and what companies should be doing in preparation.

Chris Abbotson, national sales manager, Autoglass

As the adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles continues to expand at pace and local councils push ahead with plans for Clean Air Zones in major towns, it is crucial that fleets review and consider their strategies in order to prepare for this change.

Significant steps are being taken to reduce carbon emissions on our roads and this has led to more in-depth discussions and debates amongst industry leaders about the issues and challenges that need to be overcome if the UK is going to switch to electric vehicles, which is great to see. In May, as part of its inquiry on Zero Emission Vehicles, the Transport Committee launched a survey to explore the key influences on electric vehicles (EV) decisions. This follows the UK’s ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars being officially brought forward by a decade from 2040 to 2030 – the first G7 nation to implement this ban.

One key issue for fleets moving to electric is access to charging stations. Ensuring there are plenty of charging stations will help minimise vehicle downtime and ensure vehicles stay moving. Despite more businesses making pledges to provide the charging facilities, and recent research by Arval revealing that almost three in 10 (29%) EV fleets offer workplace charging for free, nationwide EV adoption requires a massive investment, particularly in rural and remote parts of the UK where there is currently less demand for electric and hybrid vehicles. Fleets need to be able to travel the breadth of the country, so it is essential that access to charging points is widespread. The sooner fleet managers begin looking at the available infrastructure and investment needed in their areas, the better prepared they will be to minimise downtime and ensure their vehicles keep moving when new legislation is brought in.

Another issue for many fleets is the need for substantial battery advancements to provide the necessary mileage range for light commercial vehicles to operate effectively as demand for home deliveries continues to remain high. Access to fast charge stations will be critical.

From a repair industry perspective, one of the greatest challenges to overcome will be ensuring that technicians across the entire automotive industry have the necessary skills and expertise to service electric vehicles safely and properly. Whilst this requires attention from across the industry, special considerations will need to be made to mobile repair services and in particular roadside repair services and recovery.

In order to keep up with the pace of change, Autoglass has been putting measures in place to ensure technicians have access to the necessary training. Last July, Autoglass, in response to the increasing number of electric and hybrid vehicles on the road, rolled out High Voltage Awareness Training for all technicians to keep them safe. Important steps are also being taken to invest in charge points at major sites to prepare for the increasing number of electric and hybrid vehicles that we will see in the future.

Current incentives such as government grants for home charge points and companies offering parking for employees with electric and hybrid vehicles have already seen a significant number of drivers making the switch to electric. However, as the industry leaders we have a critical role to play in encouraging drivers to play their part in the efforts to reduce carbon emissions over the next few years and we must start addressing this now.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.