Why firms could be missing the point when looking at a switch to EVs.
At the moment, the key figure for electric vehicles is range. And sensibly so, because a longer range means less range anxiety and a lower reliance on the public charging system because you’ll be able to complete trips and simply charge up at home.
Electricity may be cheap in comparison with diesel or petrol (mainly due to the tax on liquid fuels), but that doesn’t stop some EVs using far more electricity than others.
According to EV-database.uk, the most efficient fully electric car you can buy today is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range, with an efficiency figure of 4.26 miles per kW,h while the least efficient is the Mercedes EQV at 2.3m/kWh.
While these two vehicles aren’t rivals, it gives an idea of the spread of efficiency in the same way that some petrol, or diesel, cars will struggle to break 30mpg while others will easily do more than 60mpg.
According to Arval’s senior consultant and EV expert, David Watts (pictured left), range is certainly the biggest area of interest for fleets taking on EVs for the first time. However, he also believes that range isn’t necessarily the best point of focus.
“Some fleets focus on range for their choice list and, for example, set a 250-mile range minimum. I don’t agree with that. This comes from a misunderstanding that unless there’s a really high range, reallocating a car will be difficult.
“If the range is set at 250 miles, that rules out a lot of cars. It even cuts off the 60kwh Nissan Leaf, which has a range of 246 miles. These fleets are obsessed with range anxiety. They’re imposing their preconceptions on an EV and often they haven’t even used one and they’re worried about reallocations.
Either end of the spectrum
Most efficient EV, according to ev-database.uk
Tesla Model 3
standard range 4.26 miles per kW
Cost per mile 3.52p @15p per kw (home charging)
Least efficient EV, according to ev-database.uk
2.30 miles per kW
Cost per mile 6.52 @15p per kw (home charging)
On home charging, over 20,000 miles, you’d save £600 by picking the Tesla.
On public charging (only), over 20,000 miles, the saving is £1,200.
“However, the reallocations issue, when someone leaves a job, is a rare one and it’s a bit like cutting your nose off to spite your face. The reallocations issue can be solved by putting a car into a pool for all staff to choose from, rather than insisting it goes directly to the next person into that role.”
Watts also believes fleets are not thinking enough about efficiency yet.
“Are fleets looking at efficiency? No,” he says. “Some manufacturers have gone for smaller batteries for lower weight and greater efficiency. Is that the right approach? We’ll have to wait and see.
“For fleets choosing an EV it should be done on whole-life costs.”
So, while fleets aren’t looking at efficiency now, Watts believes this could change. He said: “From an idealistic point of view, yes they should be looking at efficiency. They should be looking at the energy consumption of the whole vehicle.
“At the moment, going for any EV is still better than any petrol or diesel. We should be looking for the most efficient, but that’s not part of the choice.
“Comparisons have yet to catch up on efficiency and fleets just take the four pence per mile HMRC advisory fuel rate as a cost into any equation.
“For the company paying only 4p per mile for an EV, it doesn’t matter what the driver’s cost is. We’re not at the stage of paying actual cost. This is because capturing all electricity use from home and on route is very difficult. There’s no all-encompassing charge card, so how do you capture that detail to find out the exact consumption of the car?
“Rightly or wrongly, it’s just not relevant. As a country, we’re struggling with just getting EVs on fleets, so people don’t worry about efficiency. The message for the moment is keep it as simple as possible to get EVs on a fleet.”
Watts also points out that most people charge at home, and picking a bigger battery car means they’ll do less charging at public charging points.
“The cost difference is huge; home electricity is typically 15p a kWh, and public charging is about 30p a kWh. So, if you’ve got a small-battery, more efficient EV then you may have to fill up more at public charge points, outweighing any efficiency savings,” says Watts.
He adds: “Efficiency will become a factor at some point, but until companies are paying actual costs then arguably it’s irrelevant and just complicates things.
“By 2030 people will be buying on efficiency and paying for all fuel on an actual cost basis.”
PodPoint’s head of insights, James McKemey (pictured right), believes the change of focus to efficiency will come much quicker.
“At the moment we’re still talking about the switch from petrol and diesel to electric cars so they will always be more efficient. But once we’re used to using EVs it becomes interesting.
“For efficiency it’s important to understand your journeys because the cost of charging rises for plugging in on-route. You also have to remember that bigger batteries can take a higher peak [faster] charge than smaller batteries. If you’re doing longer journeys a larger-battery car can charge more quickly than a smaller-battery car.”
McKemey believes efficiency is good because it means drivers can go farther on the same electricity and therefore also gain miles quicker when charging.
He points out that at the same charging speed, a less efficient car may gain 18 miles in the same time it takes a more efficient car to gain 30 miles.
He adds: “As soon as you’re in an EV things suddenly concentrate on efficiency and you compare what you’re paying. If you look to the future, and fleets are used to comparing mpg, then they’re going to compare EV efficiency.”
Both McKemey and Watts think that due to there being only a small number of full EVs on the market – in comparison to petrols and diesels – buyers are currently adjusting the way they buy and choosing between cars that aren’t comparable.
Watts believes buyers will sacrifice brand and model sector to get into an EV but that buyers will swap back to their preferred brand or type of car when such EVs become available.
McKemey takes this one stage further, adding: “People are currently comparing non-comparable products. In future, most won’t do that; they will compare like with like and they won’t pay extra for things they don’t use, such as higher charging speeds and range they don’t need.”