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As we continue to face challenges surrounding the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the UK, it is crucial that the fleet sector maintains the pace of change towards a greener future for mobility and that sustainability does not take a back seat as the country tackles the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit.

To mark World EV Day last month (9 September) the government announced a range of measures to support the transport and mobility sector, including £12 million in funding for research and development investment to support and accelerate the uptake of electric vehicles. This – coupled with the announcement earlier this year that the government would spend £500 million over the next five years to support the rollout of rapid charge points and the Rapid Changing Fund for businesses connecting to the electricity grid – emphasises the government’s commitment to developing more sustainable transport solutions.

 

NEW RULES,NEW TARGETS

Legislation remains the key driver of change in the market with the introduction of Clear Air Zones and Ultra Low Emissions Zones propelling the need for innovation in cleaner transport solutions. The Government is also facing mounting pressure to bring forward its ban on new fossil fuel vehicles by 10 years to 2030, in order to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicles in the UK and in a move to help achieve its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

It is positive to see that the government is showing its continued support for the transition to cleaner technologies and it may provide some reassurance to businesses and drivers adopting EVs for the first time, as well as companies considering the move to green fleets. While there is still a very long way to go to ensure that the UK develops sufficient infrastructure to support businesses in adopting or transitioning to a greener fleet, it is encouraging to see that we are moving in the right direction.

 

MORE CHARGE POINTS NEEDED

For some time, there has been concern that the UK’s infrastructure requires further support to push businesses and consumers towards greener mobility solutions and the current lack of charging points is one of the main challenges for those thinking about making the transition, and a barrier to the wider adoption of EVs. Several miles between charging points – or lack of access to points – can mean long-distance travel in an EV is more difficult and time consuming.

In the Budget 2020 announcement Rishi Sunak claimed that, within a few years, no one will ever be more than 30 miles from a charging hub which, more than six months on, still appears a rather ambitious claim.

We must acknowledge that businesses cannot just ‘go green’ overnight due to the huge upfront expenditures involved in the move which, in the current climate, will not be viable for many businesses.

There are other associated challenges of adopting EVs – other than the charging network – that should be considered, such as more costly repairs and  the potential for only specialist garages being able to carry these out properly. There are also still some concerns around battery life making some cars defunct after a period – does this mean companies will need to reinvest every five years?

As we move ever closer towards the complete ban on new petrol, diesel, and hybrid vehicles by 2035, it is vital that fleet decision-makers and all company car drivers focus on moving towards operating and driving 100% electric vehicles. While the government is clearly sign-posting fleets towards a greener future, the impact of widespread adoption of this technology will continue to prove a challenge over the course of the coming years.

 

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT NEEDED

The government needs to start thinking about how it can further support the production of electric vehicles, as manufacturers had previously relied heavily on subsidies to stimulate demand. In the longer term, this would also help to bring down the cost of electric vehicles to increase affordability and enable more businesses to see how this transition could be a realistic solution for them.  

Mike Palmer, Client Development Director, Nexus Vehicle Rental