Can fleets get us out of the EV slow lane?

Kevin Welstead, Sector Director EVs SSE Enterprise, recently blogged for Utility Week.

Anyone plugged into the green energy agenda is likely to be on-board with the Government’s Road to Zero strategy. But does it really go far enough to prompt genuine action?

At SSE Enterprise, our goal is to help people ditch traditional polluting methods of travel by providing transport companies with the right EV charging point infrastructure: whether that be buses that can be charged overnight at Waterloo or the 600 or so private car charging points we’ve installed across London. So whilst it’s good news that 50% of new cars have to be ultra-low emission by 2030, will such a distant target really deliver the behaviour change we need to make widespread EV take up a reality?

I would argue that encouraging owners of large business fleets to transition to electric vehicles is critical to the UK’s journey to zero emissions. So it’s a shame there was precious little carrot or stick from policy makers in terms of targets for fleets.

Yes, persuading them to make the leap is challenging. Expense, operational disruption and vehicle range anxiety are all likely reasons for fleet owners’ reticence. Unfortunately, the Government’s interventions do little to combat this, being mainly focused on the progress in the private car sector with little support or incentive for operators of private fleets.

Ultimately EV fleets are good news for businesses. They offer lower running costs, road tax and congestion charge discounts and are green, a critical factor for environmentally conscious brands. For the more savvy, who for example see electric buses as two-way  ‘batteries on wheels,’ opportunities to provide flexibility to the grid are likely to provide more commercial benefits.

If companies feel empowered and incentivised to ensure that their employees are driving green vehicles it will send a serious statement to their customers that they take sustainability seriously. I work as part of SSE Group, a FTSE 30 energy company with some 21,000 employees, and if every vehicle with our logo on it was one day powered by the electricity we source from renewable sources as part our ‘Green tariff’ - then that’s a pretty powerful signal that we practice what we preach…one day I hope!

I also believe that if employees drove electric vehicles as part of their daily jobs or even through any private car leasing schemes their company operated, it would help them overcome their range anxieties and encourage them to make the switch when it came to choosing the next family car.

So whilst we’re on the right road with 2030 targets why doesn’t the Government help us all get there quicker? Why not bring in tax breaks and/or fines to incentivise companies to make the transition to EV that would immediately grab the attention of the all important Finance Directors out there? Why not say we want say 25% of every commercial fleet to be green by 2025 and help us all get out of the slow lane and into the fast lane for a greener EV future.