Free home charging offer provides powerful EV incentive
Ask anyone, from the European Commission to the man on the street, what the main barriers are to electric vehicle take-up and the same answers keep coming up: charging infrastructure, public acceptance and vehicle costs/ranges.
Playing its part, the UK Government – with its own green axe to grind – is taking action on the issues with charging infrastructure, with benefits to fleet drivers.
Earlier this year Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced a subsidy for homes and local authorities fitting plug-in points for the cars. Under a £37m funding package, the Government is covering up to 75% of the cost of installing new charge points at people's homes, on streets and at railway stations. A further £11m is being made available for those without a driveway or garage, so that local authorities can apply on behalf of electric owners for on-street parking charging points.
The move has come under some criticism for the fact that it’s not open to private sector firms. However, there is a way that fleets can indirectly benefit – and without actually paying a penny.
By supplementing the Government funding itself along with POLAR, British Gas has launched a limited-time offer that means drivers can receive a home charge point and access to the nationwide POLAR public charging network for free – and without even having to apply for a grant.
Whilst the offer only applies to residential properties – a condition of the part-funding from the Government Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) – it can be taken up by fleet drivers. And better still, it’s not conditional upon drivers actually having an EV.
Under the deal, drivers receive installation of a home charge point (a 16-amp data-enabled wall box) and an earthing connection for ensured safety, along with access to the POLAR network until the end of March 2014, giving access to over 1,800 public charging points across the country.
Drivers can also benefit from access to the Chargevision online account management and smart phone app to help track energy use as well as a three-year charge point warranty and three-year parts and labour warranty.
There are some caveats. Drivers taking up the offer will need to have off-street parking and appropriate permissions from the homeowner or landlord. A home suitability survey will be carried out by a fully trained British Gas electrician on the same day as the installation. And drivers must agree to have their energy usage monitored using an O2 data network connection.
The offer is limited to one charging point per residential property, and customers who took up the 2012 electric vehicle charging offer will not be eligible.
But on the whole the British Gas deal is no-brainer, with other benefits including the Off-Peak Saver Tariff, which provides 20 hours of lower rate electricity every day compared to other standard tariffs. In addition customers get a smart meter, which shows in pounds and pence how much the energy is costing.
Currently there is no cap on the number of people who can take advantage of this offer but British Gas adds that the offer is subject to availability and any proposed offer end date will be published in advance.
Whilst drivers don’t need to have an EV to be eligible for the offer, British Gas has run the promotion in tandem with a number of EV partners, including Volvo, which has just launched its V60 Plug-in Hybrid (see boxout), as well as Mitsubishi, Vauxhall and other carmakers.
The SMMT has thrown its weight behind the British Gas offer, with a spokesman saying: ‘The infrastructure network is a key pillar of the uptake of new technologies so it’s pleasing to see this announcement from Volvo and British Gas. The Department for Transport and the devolved administrations are also investing in this area too and by working together with them, we can ensure that consumers have a nationwide network of charging points for the increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads. Manufacturers will continue to offer new innovative and efficient technologies which will take us towards a low carbon future.’
In a separate offer, customers purchasing or leasing a Renault Zoe receive a British Gas home charging point included in the price of the car. This is the same as the charging point in the free offer but includes a four-year warranty while a free upgrade to a 32-amp wall box is also available.
Commenting on the British Gas programme, Phil York, marketing director of Renault UK, said: ‘Renault welcomes any initiative which makes entry to electric vehicle ownership even easier and, like the included access to a national charging network which Renault has organised with British Gas for its vehicles, this is another clear step in the right direction.
‘Although currently, the free 16-amp wall box included offer (as part of the £37m Government EV infrastructure funding) precludes installation at a commercial address as part of the scheme, it doesn’t mean that a British Gas wall box cannot be fitted at an employee’s home, or even at a relative or friend’s. By doing so, a user can create his or her own small charging network, giving them even greater autonomy, as well as a potential incentive for their nearest and dearest to look into running an electric vehicle themselves, as they would already have a main charging point readily available to undertake the bulk of their charging.’
So although it may be some time until you get EVs on your fleet, with the clock ticking on the British Gas offer, it could be time for drivers to take the plunge on the charging points.
Volvo eyes fleet interest for V60 plug-in diesel hybrid
Volvo is one of a number of carmakers that has partnered with British Gas to promote the free charging points offer as the carmaker launches its V60 D6 AWD plug-in diesel hybrid.
The carmaker says it’s seen great interest in the new model from customers, both in the retail and corporate sectors, with Selwyn Cooper, Volvo Car UK national corporate operations manager, adding: ‘We have been encouraged by sales of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid so far with take up from both company car drivers and forward thinking SME owners. Chauffeur company Tristar is taking delivery of a number of V60 Plug-in Hybrids as the car is ideal for fleets covering large distances and operating predominantly in cities as they can take advantage of running on the electric motor alone. We are looking forward with anticipation to review Tristar’s feedback in the near future to then share with other fleets the advantages of using this type of world-first technology. ‘Smart small businesses are also looking more at the car from a whole life cost perspective of reduced running costs and tax advantages. With a growing nationwide charging network and greater business confidence in hybrid vehicles, we are only expecting corporate interest in the vehicle to grow.’