Room for Growth
Mike Potter, managing director of FleetDrive Electric, discusses the changing role of EVs on fleets, and how to support the UK’s growing market for plug-ins.
How many vehicles do you have on the road? What sort of businesses tend to be early adopters?
Fleetdrive Electric have been supporting and nurturing the adoption of ULEVs within the fleet sector since 2011. Our approach has developed over the last 6 years to enable us to train and educate a wide range of users and make the transition work – we now have almost 1,000 plug‐in vehicles on the road and we are the only Go Ultra Low Lease company based on our leasing fleet. There is no real pattern as to the type of businesses adopting EV’s, although Universities and Green Tech companies are more likely.
What concerns do fleets usually have? And how do you alleviate these?
Our experience with clients has highlighted that a different approach is required to ICE vehicles. Businesses of all sizes, not just SMEs, are wary of the new technology. We developed a flexi‐lease product to enable fleets to try for a few months, not just days, as this allows users to become comfortable with the change. Plug‐in hybrids have been a useful tool for introducing the idea of electric motoring to fleet operators, but the significant benefits come from pure electric, not hybrids.
Adopting pure electric vehicles within a fleet is not a straightforward vehicle choice as refuelling takes place in very different pattern. The most frequently asked questions we get from fleets are around charging equipment. For vehicles that go home this could not be simpler, with 95% of our existing users charging at home, overnight, in a similar way to a mobile phone – the user awakes to a full tank every morning. For workplaces, having electric vehicles means you have flexibility to fuel at work, or at convenient locations, whenever the vehicles are stationery for a period of time. With a network of over 900 rapid‐chargers in the UK, charging is an issue that can, often quite easily, be overcome with an initial measure of forethought.
It’s quite understandable to be risk‐averse when procuring for your company, but the evidence from fleets is that ULEVs in the longer‐term can lead to savings. This is what vehicle providers, such as ourselves, need to communicate to clients.
How has their role within fleets changed since 2011?
We are definitely moving more to a “business as usual” approach for EV’s, as opposed to early adopters who were using them for evaluation purposes. We have noticed a change in mood in the last 12 months with many more fleet managers looking to adopt where they can. Plug‐in vehicles are increasingly becoming more “acceptable” to fleets as a viable company car option, and less viewed as a novelty or eco statement. Interestingly, fleet users have been more reticent than personal leasing customers (which we serve though our DriveElectric consumer brand) where the uptake is moving far quicker.
And what steps would you like to see government take to help maintain and grow the ULEV market?
Support from OLEV is really good in the UK – the workplace charging grant is a very positive step forward as this can effectively double the range for a daily commute. We do have a good network of public rapid‐chargers but we still need more in towns and cities and fleet users need a more reliable option, with bookable charging slots and lower costs.
Petrol and Diesel pumps are not subsidised, and the margin on fuel for retailers is very low, so the money is made from the retailing attached to the fuel station. This same model should be applied to EV charging in order for it to be sustainable.
The current grant mechanisms have resulted in assets that have no real business model to support them – perhaps a rebate per charge would be a more effective mechanism thus encouraging charger operators to drive traffic and charging sessions. Ideally retailers should be encouraged to provide charging as a way of attracting customers. An incentive scheme of this type from the Government would provide a tremendous boost for ULEV uptake nationally.