Mobility matters: the challenges ahead for fleets
The increasing role of air quality:
Reignited by the Volkswagen NOx emissions scandal, air quality is firmly on the agenda and confirmation of Low Emission Zones suggests it’s staying. But there’s scepticism about the demise of the diesel engine.
“Over the last few years, and particularly over the last few months, air quality has been the driver for a lot of changes in the industry,” says Karl Anders, national EV manager, fleet at Nissan. “A lot of customers are asking us about air quality. For public sector fleets it is really ramping up the agenda, it’s being taken a lot more seriously.”
But attitudes are evolving steadily, particularly in terms of adopting the plug‐in vehicles which are portrayed as a solution to local air quality issues.
Element Energy associate editor, Celine Cluzel believes it’s unlikely we’ll meet the Committee for Climate Change’s 60% ULEV penetration target by 2030 is problematic. “It’s very ambitious, it took 40 years for diesel cars to get to 50% market share,” she said.
It means there’s still an appetite for diesel on the used market: “There was no impact immediately afterwards, or to date, on residual values as a direct result of the emissions scandal,” says Dylan Setterfield, senior forecasting editor at CAP.
“[Volkswagen] values have come down in line with the rest of the market. The consumer perception is it’s very much a Volkswagen issue, they don’t identify it with Audi, Skoda and SEAT.”
Demystifying whole-life costs:
There’s an unprecedented choice of drivetrain technologies available to fleets and, with multiple options to cut carbon emissions and running costs, it’s vital that fleet managers are able to understand their drivers’ needs and advise on vehicle selection.
Data plays a huge role in this. Alex Baker, managing director of Fleet Innovations, which supplies GPS dongles for expense monitoring, showed that the variations between two drivers with similar annual mileage can be huge. Not only can it present opportunities to run EVs, but it could also highlight drivers for whom choosing the default diesel option would lead to particulate filter issues from mainly short trips.
Mark Jowsey of KeeResources said cost‐effective deployment requires digging deeper than official figures and calculating whole‐life costs around the fuel and electricity‐driven miles: “If you’re making quite a complex buying or selection decision for a product with an alternative drivetrain then a little bit of caution is not a bad thing,” he commented. “Suitability of these prod ucts is very much down to application and use and the particular needs of the user, and driving style has a big impact.”
This isn’t something which will get any easier. Celine Cluzel expects internal combustion engines will continue to improve, but pointed out that the gap between real‐world and laboratory figures has widened almost four‐fold to 37% since 2001. This can make decision‐making difficult.
“We are not saying that OEMs cheat but there are loopholes which they can be optimised for,” she explained. “The test is becoming less and less relevant for real‐world driving. The best approach may be to have a system like in the US where a car can be tested on the road and if they don’t meet the requirements the OEM is fined.”
The “on-demand” mobility revolution:
Perhaps the biggest change facing business travel is “Mobility on Demand” – already familiar in the retail sphere, but now starting to be taken up with businesses.
As a new generation enters the workplace with service expectations built on growing up with the internet, the demand for “right now” convenience means the industry will have to evolve.
Andrew Cope, executive chairman of fleet management company FMG, said the age gap has never been bigger: “People running businesses today are mostly 40‐50 plus. We’re all pre‐digital age, we just don’t think in the way that a 20 year-old or 10 year old thinks. The way they think about the world and access services is materially different.
It’s based on an inherent trust in people pulling various pieces together, and it’s impossible for us as decision‐makers to understand.”
Cope foresees core fleet services changing as consumers reject the layers of paperwork they have historically attracted. An evolution which will transfer
complicated tasks, such as accident management, into a convenient, streamlined app‐based process requiring minimal driver effort. One which could also give an advantage to already‐flexible and familiar rental brands.
But there’s no sense that cars will disappear. LeasePlan sees businesses having fewer on fleet, but working them harder and sharing them among employees, and it’s developing a suite of offerings to enable that flexibility. Services such as Bla Bla Car and Enterprise’s new Zimride programme, which connect travellers heading to the same place and enable lift‐sharing, are also likely to get an increased foothold in the corporate arena as needs and expectations change.