Company Car Today
Company Car Today - Green Company Car - The Green Pages Logo

As staff begin to return to offices after 18 months of working from home and amid rocketing EV sales, now’s the time for fleet managers to refocus on the ability to charge at work

 

 

With the Government’s work-from-home instructions set to end on 19 July and staff due to return to offices and other business premises, thoughts are returning to workplace charging within the fleet arena.

Couple this to the recent sharp rise in EV uptake and the Government’s plan to stop the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2030, and it’s clear that businesses need to make plans now if they want to be part of the move to an electric world.

Arguably, the installation of workplace charging is an issue that’s bigger than the world of company cars. As we head towards EVs becoming the majority, rather than a small minority, offering workplace charging will help company car drivers and employees with private vehicles.

“Workplace charging is a key part of the infrastructure, so everyone can go electric,” explains Arval senior consultant David Watts. “This is because the more workplace charging there is, the easier it is for people to move to an EV – particularly if they don’t have home charging – be that a company car or a private car.

How the Workplace Charging Scheme operates

 

The Workplace Charging Scheme is a Government voucher system that provides a grant of £350 toward each charging socket and covers charging points greater than 3.5kW.

Installers or business owners can apply for the vouchers which must be used within 180 days. Each business can apply for up to 40 charge sockets per application.

As reported by Company Car Today, WCS has funded more than 13,000 workplace points since it launched in 2016. The charge point vouchers have been redeemed by almost 5000 businesses, averaging 2.8 charge points per business.

 

“At the moment charging is, approximately, done 80% at home and 20% on the move. But this is based on people who’ve bought EVs already. Most of these people can charge at home.

“If you change to a scenario where you can charge at home or work – both places where the car could be sat still for eight hours at a time – this enables everyone that works at a business with premises to move to an EV, even if they don’t have a driveway or home charge point.”

Centrica Business Solutions’ head of fleet partnerships, Chris Jackson, echoes these points: “Workplace charging is incredibly important.”

And while Jackson clearly has a vested interest in promoting EV charging, he adds that workplace EV points must be “part of a wider plan as the number of EVs on the ground becomes greater”.

James McKemey, PodPoint’s head of insights, puts a figure on the importance, saying it’s “likely to account for up to 30% of all charging, helped in large part by the long dwell time of vehicles in workplace environments. This makes it hugely important to the mass adoption of EVs”.

He adds: “In turn, the mass adoption of EVs is an important factor in decarbonising the economy in the pursuit of net-zero emissions. There are fewer more pressing imperatives.”

However, while almost everyone believes workplace charging is increasingly important, Paul Hollick, Association of Fleet Professionals chairman, cautions: “Workplace charging is quite important, but not quite the priority it was. This is due to the huge increase in working from home.”

He adds: “Where it is really important is for those without home charging. This is especially the case for EVs that have longer ranges; it means they may only need charging once a week.”

Hollick points out that fleet managers will need to work out who’s allowed to charge, when and for how long to avoid “fights in the car park” over charge points as people “hog” the spaces.

Hollick says there are also difficulties if a business doesn’t own its land. “Is the property owned or leased? If it’s leased, will the landlord allow charging points?”

The AFP offers guidance to fleets about how policies can be introduced that solve this issue and some vital ones around the availability of workplace charging.

“The AFP has an EV declaration document. Part of that says the employer can’t guarantee access to a charge point. Employees need to know it’s not an employer’s responsibility to find them charging points,” he says.

While it may not be the business’s responsibility to find every EV driver a charge point, how does an employer work out the correct, or best, number of charge points to offer?

Jonny Berry, head of decarbonisation at Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, says: “The number of chargers required is entirely dependent on the type of vehicles and the key operational business policies and objectives. It’s vital businesses base their workplace charging implementation on network charging capacity, in direct collaboration with energy partners to ensure the solution is future-proof. And they must invest in tech that balances the load, so electricity can then be used more efficiently, when demand requires it.”

Opinions are split on what sort of charging points to install. Some experts believe going for the fastest charging possible is best in order to offer future-proofing. However, others say that because cars are sat still for longer periods, a ‘slow’ charge point is fine as most electric cars can’t take a charge of greater than 11kW on an AC supply.

Should you fund home charging?

Paying for home charging is split into two areas. First is the installation of a charge point, while the second is the reimbursement of EV business miles.

Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions’ Jonny Berry, says the choice is at the discretion of the employer. However, he adds: “Where employers do fund the charging point, the uptake of electric vehicles tends to be greater.”

However, several experts recommend putting a limit on the money available if they do offer to fund the installation, and also to look at policies to cope with employees moving house.

Reimbursing the cost of electricity from home charging can simply be done at the HMRC’s approved rate. However, the current 4p a mile figure is being seen as out of date and that actual costs should be used to ensure drivers aren’t out of pocket.

David Watson, CEO and founder of smart charging firm Ohme, says:: “Employers should be thinking about reimbursing for miles based on energy consumed, because that is what is being paid for. Miles, in the ICE world, was a proxy to understand how much petrol or diesel was used. With energy you can measure the consumption of energy for work, and reimburse accordingly.”

Berry adds; “It’s also important to consider the operation of a business car park; workplace car parks typically consist of parking spaces that accommodate different scenarios.

“Traditionally, this might be based on employee seniority, the need to keep spaces free for guests and job-need workers, with the rest of spaces being open to other employees. This will need to shift in line with the transition to an electric car fleet, with the key factor being the ability to charge from home.”

One way of controlling the use of workplace charging is to charge for their use. If employees have to pay for electricity at work, it can govern use.

Arval’s Watts explains: “While free charging is a relatively cheap benefit to offer, it distorts charging behaviour. If workplace electricity is free, then even those with home charging will charge at work. What you should offer is charging at a cost that doesn’t disincentivise those who have to charge at work, but not too low that encourages those who have home charging. You have to balance it with the cost of a domestic supply.”

Watts added that unlike free petrol or diesel, supplying free workplace charging does not attract benefit-in-kind taxation.

He also points out that whatever the decision on electricity pricing, most suppliers are able to also provide a payment system.
Tristan Young