Plenty has changed in the 25 years since the Institute of Car Fleet Management was founded back in 1992, and moving to the next phase of powertrains was the topic that dominated the organisation’s 2018 annual conference.
The landmark event, held at the British Motor Museum late last month, was headlined by talk of how to adapt to a changing automotive landscape and the best way to integrate alternatively fuelled vehicles into a business fleet.
The fleet industry is facing a number of stiff challenges, with ICFM chairman Paul Hollick (pictured right) saying: “Over the next 24 months, we will be in a challenging period of our evolution, the like of which our industry has never seen before.”
The main challenges, said Hollick, are GDPR, the ongoing debate over diesel, WLTP and the knock-on impact on the tax burden, company car tax, IFRS 16, the uptake of ULEVs, PHEV adoption, the cash versus car debate, road risk, terrorism, the FCA, cyber security and big data.
However, he pointed out that the common theme linking most, but not all, of these themes is the drive to reduce carbon emissions.
With this in mind, the 25th conference was titled ‘Fuel for the Future, the Emissions Dilemma,’ and it featured a number of experts and fleet managers talking about how best to make EVs, plug-in hybrids and other fuel options the norm for corporate drivers. Dale Eynon, director Defra group fleet services at the Environment Agency set the tone by proclaiming that “we don’t have to think about EVs as the last solution, they should be your first solution”.
As proof of this, the Defra fleet will be aiming to get its average CO2 emissions down to just 80g/km by 2020 and will only add plug-in hybrids or pure electric vehicles to the fleet from 2025 onwards.
Getting employees to commit is one of the biggest challenges, said Eynon (pictured right). “We spend a lot of time giving people the facts so they can make a decision,” he said.
It’s not about forcing employees into a car that is inappropriate, though. Alison Moriarty, fleet risk and compliance manager at Skanska, said the company is looking to expand its PHEV and EV fleet, but it takes a strict line on who can and can’t run a plug-in vehicle.
“We have got about 45% of people in hybrids or electric vehicles, which is something we want to push,” she said. “We have a very strict policy that if you can’t have a charging point installed, you cannot have an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid.”
This is down in part to it being inefficient to run a PHEV on petrol alone, but also because of the tax implications. “A lot of people chose hybrids for the tax benefits and now the tax changes mean that isn’t as attractive,” said Moriarty. “Now we have a few people who are spending a lot more money to have that kind of vehicle.”
Skanska takes a very strict line for those that don’t want to run a car at all, as the company offers a ‘Green travel’ policy.
“You get exactly the same allowance that you would to get a car, so not an insignificant amount of money, to use public transport,” said Moriarty (pictured right). “But if you are on green travel, there is absolutely no way you can then claim any money for using any other sort of vehicle.”
The option has proved popular with some of the company’s younger employees, and those based in and around London, she explained.
The idea of one option no longer being suitable for everyone was a common theme at the event, with Paul Tate, commodity manager at Siemens saying that the company is exploring the possibility of deploying dual-fuel hydrogen/diesel cars.
Head of fleet services at Anglian Water Services Stuart Lightbody also vouched for the idea of using the right vehicle for the right job but described how he had taken a more analytical approach to assessing whether a plug-in vehicle was the right tool at several of his sites.
By looking at in-car telematics, he was able to assess his fleet’s journeys. “We have large pockets of vehicles that never go outside of their local area,” he said. “If I put a charging point at various sites then it needn’t ever charge at home.”
One such trial vehicle, a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, is kept on one site. “The PHEV Outlander goes back and charges under the solar panel and has never used a drop of fuel in its life,” explained Lightbody (pictured right).
The importance of analysis was pressed home by several speakers, with Defra’s Eynon warning that those who don’t stay informed about changes will risk missing out on the technology that will become mainstream.
“I have committed that my next car will be a pure EV, and I think sometimes taking that plunge and saying I can make it work is important,” he said.
However, he said that those who fear they might be missing out need not worry about everything passing them by just yet. “We have had 20 years of buying diesels and that simply isn’t going to change overnight.”