The big message from the BVRLA’s 2018 Fleet Technology Congress was that change is imminent, and the world of business travel needs to be aware and ready for what could be a rapid adjustment across a number of key areas.
In his opening address, BVRLA chairman and Leaseplan managing director Matt Dyer pinpointed three crucial areas – the transition towards safe, clean and efficient vehicles, the shift from ownership to usership and the change to the car as a service – an area in which he said that “top-quality fleet management will be crucial”.
“These are topics we have been talking about for a while, but the depth under the surface is changing,” he told the 140 delegates at the William F1 Conference Centre in Grove, Oxfordshire. “Data is the key that will give everything, having a purposeful and strategic approach to data is vitally important.”
BVRLA report examines connected vehicles and data impact on fleets
The BVRLA used its 2018 tech seminar to launch its investigation in to the status of the connected vehicle market and how it is impacting upon the vehicle rental and leasing industry.
The BVRLA Fleet Technology Report: Connected Vehicles and Data looks at issues ranging from Mobility as a Service and vehicle tracking to mileage management and efficient maintenance. It was put together following interviews with senior executives at ARI Fleet, Arval, Avis, Budget Group, Enterprise, Leaseplan and Lex Autolease.
The trade association said that although its members have an increasingly clear vision of how they can deliver more value with vehicle connectivity, they are “being compromised by difficulties in getting the right access to vehicle data and concerns around General Data Protection Regulation compliance”.
BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “The whole industry is grappling with the challenges and opportunities presented by this technology. We hope this report will provide fleet operators with the best perspective yet on the key issues at stake and how they can be tackled.”
The report can be downloaded in PDF format HERE
But that data is only useful if part of a wider pot, according to Paul Campion, chief executive of Transport Systems Catapult, a not-for-profit organisation tasked with supporting intelligent mobility innovations. “Data has no value if you hold it tight, it only has value when consolidated with others’,” he said. “It’s how we use the technology that is going to make the difference.”
Data is set to drive the rise of Mobility as a Service, or MaaS. “It’s about getting people out of private cars and changing behaviour patterns,” explained Ella Taylor, head of future mobility, connected car and autonomous vehicles at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. Her transport predictions included that “electrification will happen, there will be increasing autonomy, increasing granularity in choice of transport mode, including the blurring of public and private, and that cities will be at the forefront of innovation.”
CCAV predicts that there will be a 70% decline in new vehicle sales over the next six years as more people move away from individual car ownership.
Taylor did admit there are wider issues around lost revenue from cars. “The Treasury has work to do, the perfect storm isn’t going to be just how to manage the network, but also how to fund the network; there are political challenges to that,” she said.
Another speaker taking aim at politicians was BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney, focusing on electric vehicle taxation and describing it as an area where “Government needs to get its act together, wake up and understand the role they can play if they are genuine in addressing air quality concerns, which we believe they are”.
Keaney called on parliament to address the “obvious failing in short-term tax”, describing benefit-in-kind taxation and Vehicle Excise Duty as “positive disincentives” for company car drivers. “Our message is that they should do it in the next budget.”
He also echoed Taylor’s calls for a “grown-up discussion about what will replace the tax yield for cars”, suggesting that road charging will become a reality. “It’s politically unacceptable at the moment but as tax yield drops, road charging is going to be very much on the agenda when politicians choose to step up to the mark.”
Looking further ahead, fuel cells were also on the agenda, especially, as AVL Powertrain UK managing director Matthias Welles declared, it’s an area that China is very focused on. “It’s not about Europe, it’s about China – it buys the most cars and when its Government decides something, it changes, and China is looking at fuel cell,” he said. “We believe fuel cell is coming, we see fuel cell as a real possibility; you can’t have heavy-duty electric so fuel cells are coming and China is pushing very hard.”
Transport Systems Catapult’s Campion said the organisation has started a study with the Department for Transport to investigate a hydrogen economy in the UK. “Whether it is an option in mass-market for cars, we don’t know yet,” he said.