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Fleets already migrating to portfolio of drivetrain technologies

Fleets are moving towards operating a portfolio of conventional and alternative drivetrain technologies but there is a wide variance in the adoption of alternative fuels between smaller and larger companies.

White Mitsubishi Outlander on road

22% have implemented traditional hybrids, with 15% having deployed plug-in hybrids.

That’s the view of Arval, which says that fleet operators in general are becoming conversant in which vehicle choices work most effectively in different types of applications but says more work is needed to apprise smaller fleets of the advantages of alternative fuels.

Research carried out by Arval’s Corporate Vehicle Observatory Barometer has found that more than half (56%) of UK fleets are already operating at least one alternative fuel to traditional petrol and diesel models or are planning to do so in the next three years – an increase of 6% since 2015.

The research shows 22% have implemented traditional hybrids while 27% are planning to, with 15% having deployed plug-in hybrids and 22% looking at this. A total of 10% are now running electric vehicles while 22% plan to do this – and 2% are running hydrogen fuel cell vehicles while 18% are exploring this.

However, in the UK there is wide variance in the adoption of alternative fuels between smaller and larger companies. While 78% of larger fleets (more than 50 vehicles) are either using them already or plan to, the penetration drops to 66% of medium fleets (10-49 vehicles) and 44% of smaller fleets (1-9 vehicles).

In response, Shaun Sadlier, head of Arval’s Corporate Vehicle Observatory in the UK, said: “There is undeniably a big difference between small and large fleets and it could be that, as an industry, fleet needs to better educate operators of all businesses on the advantages of these new drivetrains. Otherwise, there is a possibility that smaller businesses could miss out on the benefits that they bring.”

Meanwhile John Pryor, chairman of ACFO, said: “I think this highlights the ACFO view that companies need a competent person to manage and push or support their suppliers.

“Many suppliers can support but they need a mouth piece in the business to hear and support the actions.”

Arval’s comments follow a recent call from Puddy Vehicle Solutions (PVS) for fleets to rethink their vehicle selection strategies as its white paper says fleets should not default to diesels.

However, PVS founder Marcus Puddy has argued that although the trend is to move towards more plug-in technology, in particular following the recent publication of the Government’s draft air quality plans, there is no definitive right fleet fuel at present.

Yet, according to Pendragon, diesel is still the “only realistic choice” for workhorse fleets, after its analysis found that switching business-critical and high-mileage fleets to ULEVs would cost fleets more and impact on day-to-day operations, while FleetCheck says the diesel backlash will impact on van fleets where there is currently a lack of alternatives available.

And Meridian Vehicle Solutions says diesel is still the default choice for fleet rental, with rental requests for petrol or other fuels said to be almost unknown.

Commenting on the Arval research, John Pryor said: “Fleets are looking for the alternative fuels where they can but it is now a more nuanced choice to gauge work requirement and power train type.”

He added: “ACFO has long called for HMRC to publish and incorporate fuel AFR rates to cover plug-in and pure electric.”

Pryor continued: “The LCV market is more difficult but we have seen uptake on pure electric, certainly in city centre where the business can realistic operate the vehicle.

“On diesel for long distance and heavy usage there is no great current alternative, but this is changing quite rapidly and business should keep up with the latest as what was the right choice last year could well change this.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 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. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.