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Stop overthinking electric vehicle adoption, says Arval

By / 4 weeks ago / UK News / No Comments

Businesses running company cars should stop overthinking electric vehicle adoption and not overcomplicate the process.

EV expert and senior Arval UK consultant David Watts

When it comes to businesses running car fleets with some form of choice list, the message from Arval is that EV adoption is very simple – and that an electric vehicle can work for every car driver in the country.

Speaking to Fleet World, Arval senior consultant David Watts – who has been a leading advocate of electric vehicles in the fleet industry for more than 10 years – said: “My main approach to electric vehicles in company car fleets is that fleets need to stop overthinking it. Don’t overcomplicate it. In the grand scheme of things, they are just cars that you fuel up slightly differently. Stop thinking of them as being completely different and that your approach and your policies for them should be completely different.

“There are some slight nuances but in essence it’s just a car.”

Watts, who has routinely contributed to white papers and articles and spoken at fleet and EV events over the last decade, said car fleets’ concerns over EV adoption have been partly driven by a lot of messaging out there that they need to take comprehensive actions, such as driver profiling, to ensure that drivers are suitable for EVs.

But he added: “We see an awful lot about stuff that is arguably more van-orientated in terms of the process of thought and the application, and it is just generally referred to as ‘fleet’, which then becomes misleading for car fleet operators.”

Watts did stress that the starting point for car fleets’ adoption of EVs has to be ensuring that the choice list policy – whatever form it takes – is based on some form of appropriate whole-life costs (WLCs).

He continued: “Unless you are incorporating WLCs, a plug-in vehicle will never sit in the right place and you will always get this disparity of what cars are available from a petrol/diesel perspective versus what EVs are available.

“So that’s your starting point. And then beyond that, there’s very little that you should be thinking about.”

He continued: “Now clearly this a whole new subject for most drivers. To paraphrase the words of Phil and Kirstie, it’s about ‘education, education, education’ – you cannot provide drivers with too much education on electric vehicles.

“Because fundamentally it’s a personal decision; ‘Can I make this car work for me?’”

Watts also said that from a practicality perspective, electric cars can be suitable for everyone.

“My stance is that from a car point of view – and this is the technology, not the price or the body sector as I appreciate we are still limited in our choices – but from just the technology, an EV will work for every single person in the country. There is no reason why it will not.

“However, that being said, there is a spectrum of how easy or hard it is, and with that, there is a personal preference on how willing you are to deal with the hard bit.

“So if you can change them at home and you’re routinely not doing journeys beyond 200 miles and then don’t really need to access the public charging network, then EVs are really really simple and are easier to use than a petrol or diesel car because you don’t need to go to a petrol station anymore, you just plug in at night and all’s good.

“However, at the other end of the spectrum you have people who can’t charge at home and who routinely – four or five days a week – are doing journeys well in excess of 200 miles.

“Now it’s not to say that’s impossible but it’s noticeably harder for them to use an EV. And depending on which EV they have, will depend on how easy or hard it is.

“But essentially it’s a spectrum of easy to hard and the end of the spectrum is not impossible, it’s just really hard.”

Watts said that within that, there’s a personal view of how prepared drivers are to deal with any challenges.

“You can have two drivers in the same situation and one will say yes and one will say no. That’s based on their own personal perceptions of the situation.”

But from the company car policy, Watts  that as long as the car is priced appropriately within the structure and “therefore the business is essentially fuel-agnostic or fuel-neutral in terms of what car they use”, then what does it matter in terms how easy or hard it is for the driver and whether they are willing or note to deal with those hardships?

He also said that Arval routinely sees businesses say they will only allow drivers to choose an EV if they can charge the car at home.

“Why would you do that?” outlined Watts. “That policy will have to stop in 2030. So why would you have a policy today that you know categorically has got a life span on it of the next 9.5 years. So some might argue that the infrastructure will be different. Well, yes, but why are you making the choice on behalf of the driver? Give them the information. Let them understand what the implications are and let them make that choice.”

It’s a process that Arval has put to good effect for its own inhouse company car drivers – the business recently revamped its scheme to support EV adoption and within six months had seen half of staff switch to EVs, compared to around 2-5% before. This was in part spurred by allowing its employees to early terminate their cars, despite the cost to the business, to fast-forward adoption of EVs, so its employees could have more constructive conversations with customers about EV adoption.

Arval also deployed an EV order declaration form, which it’s made available to its customers and which includes around 6-7 questions to ensure drivers are aware of things, such as the fact they will only be paid the advisory electric fuel for business mileage or asking if they regularly tow. This provides a checklist for the driver but can also be used as a backup later if the driver says they don’t want the car anymore as it’s unsuitable.

However, Watts stressed that EV adoption does not require a whole new car policy – just an EV section within the existing car policy that reiterates things such as if a driver is doing a business journey that’s beyond the range of the car, they can’t hire one and they can’t take a pool car. “But essentially they’re just slight nuances more than anything else,” added Watts.

“We are really quite desperate to get the message out that it’s really quite simple to adopt electric company cars,” summed up Watts. “Yes, there are things you have to think about. Yes, there are things that the driver really has to think about. But in principle from the car policy perspective, it’s really simple.”

To help fleets debunk myths on EVs and decide if they’re the right fit for their business, Arval has also published a free guide. To access the guide, click here.

For more of the latest industry news, click here.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 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. Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news - or gossip.