Going electric: Is it suitable for your fleet?
The recent introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London has put electric vehicles (EVs) to the forefront of fleet owners’ minds. EV fleets would avoid charges in the ULEZ, as well as in other areas when Clean Air Zones (CAZ) come into play in the near future. However, general environmental concerns mean all fleet managers should be considering an electric revolution, not just those within CAZs.
By Scott Chesworth, operations director at RAM Tracking
Fleet owners may be unsure of whether EVs are suitable for their fleets, due to their more limited mileage capabilities. However, going fully electric is not the only option. So, how can fleet operators decide what option will work best for them? Tracking systems that record a vehicle’s average daily miles could be the answer.
Hybrids combine a conventional combustion engine with an electric motor. They are still more environmentally friendly than pure petrol and diesel vehicles, but do still have the back-up of a conventional engine to allow for longer journeys. The engine re-energises the battery, as does decelerating and braking, so no charging stations need to be installed, and routes do not have to be planned around plug-in points.
Plug-in hybrids are an ideal half-way house. Like other hybrids, they charge on the move, but they can also be plugged in, as the name suggests. This allows them to have larger batteries allowing people to drive longer distances on electric power alone.
For fleets who find themselves operating within the ULEZ and in future CAZs, going fully electric could be a wise move. The ULEZ requires vehicles to meet specific exhaust emission standards or face daily charges, ranging from £12.50 for motorbikes, cars and vans, to £100 for HGVs, coaches and buses. In the long run, replacing vehicles with EVs could be better value than paying these costs every day.
Fleets that drive in inner cities tend to cover less miles, meaning that the shorter range of EVs is not a problem. In addition, the low speeds and stop-start driving that come with congested areas is suited to EVs. In fact, urban driving can increase the average driving range of EVs significantly.
As well as those within the ULEZ and CAZs, certain business types are perfectly suited for an EV take-over. Historically, Harrods used electric vehicles for deliveries within central London, and, of course, milk has traditionally been delivered on electric floats, therefore, it must still be viable to use EVs for specific business types now. For example, last-mile delivery services have, by their nature, very little mileage, making EVs an ideal choice.
Outside of busy cities and short-range delivery services, fleets often cover much longer distances. Although they avoid the financial repercussions of the ULEZ and CAZs, this shouldn’t give fleet managers an excuse not to consider more environmentally friendly, electric alternatives.
Fully-electric vehicles could cause issues for those who drive further distances, as there is the risk of running out of battery on the way back from or on the way to a job. Whilst the official driving range of electric vans is between 100-180 miles, this can lower depending on variables such as driving behaviour, the weight being carried by the van and even the outside temperature.
As a result, fleet operators must assess the distance traveled by their drivers to decide whether EVs are suitable for their fleet. Using tracking systems can help with this, as they record the daily mileage of the vehicle they are fitted to. If this is recorded consistently for a month, an accurate daily average can be calculated. If it is lower than 180 miles, going fully electric could be a viable option. Additionally, due to fleet vehicles rarely being used outside of normal working hours, charging overnight can be done without any issues.
Telematics can also make fleet owners and drivers aware of congestion areas. If certain routes are found to have regular congestion, then investing in EVs could be of real benefit. EVs mean there is no need to worry about drivers excessively idling or driving in a stop-start fashion which wastes fuel. All forms of EV – even hybrid vehicles – use electricity at low speeds keeping fuel usage at zero, making them ideal for driving in heavy traffic. Not only are pollution levels lowered, but savings are made on fuel.
Electric vehicles should be a consideration for all fleet operators, whether their fleets travel within the ULEZ and future CAZs or not. Even if fully-electric vehicles are not suitable, looking at other options such as hybrids is a wise move to future-proof fleets. Using telematics to calculate the average distance covered by drivers is the first step towards a more environmentally-friendly fleet that could also cut down long-term costs and help the environment.