Vehicle leasing companies are offering innovative solutions to housing associations keen to include electric vehicles in their fleets, says Lewis Cardwell
Just a few years ago diesel was king, championed as a clean fuel and backed by a friendly vehicle excise duty regime. Today, it is in retreat and if the government achieves its ambitions, new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned by 2040; by 2050 the only cars and vans on UK roads by will be zero emission.
Many housing association fleet procurement managers are in a quandary. The range of electric vehicles they require may not yet be available – large panel vans, for example, are few and far between – and the charging infrastructure, whilst rapidly increasing, remains immature.
At the same time, the government’s Clean Air Zone Framework published in May encourages local authorities to use procurement to incentivise the switch to ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs). Potentially, housing associations bidding for public sector contracts could, even before 2040, be scored against questions about the sustainability of their fleets, with those proactively making the switch to alternatively fuelled vehicles and holding accreditations such as Go Ultra Low company status faring better than those that don’t.
Right now there are more questions than answers. Will retrofitting diesels or a new era of reliable, fixed particulate filters throw diesel a lifeline? How can the national grid cope with the shift to electric? Is it realistic to close all unabated coal fired power stations by 2025 given the withdrawal of subsidies for renewables, public resistance to fracking, issues with nuclear generation and the impact of Brexit? Leasing cannot answer all questions relating to current energy and transport policy but it gives housing associations the space, support and flexibility to respond to them as they evolve.
Suppliers under the PfH vehicle leasing framework are increasingly offering a full range of support for those wishing to include EVs as part of their fleet. As well as leasing the vehicles themselves, they are offering consultancy services and either advice or direct access to charging infrastructure.
Venson’s CeanFleet service will analyse customer data to assess the feasibility of switching to electric or plug-in (hybrid) fleets. Europcar is happy to allow extended EV trials for multiple employees as well as training on how to get the most out of the vehicles. Leaseplan is about to offer a full package for EVs including vehicles, consultancy, charging points, an app that allows drivers to book charging and an emobility card (the equivalent of a fuel card). Each supplier has its own unique approach with inbuilt flexibility to offer to a bespoke service.
EVs aren’t yet appropriate for everyone but housing associations are beginning to review their fleets and consider whether it is possible to downsize part of that fleet in order to make a partial switch. They are speaking to suppliers about the potential to switch to EVs mid-framework. They are varying the length of contracts so they can review their fleet once EV infrastructure has developed further or have greater clarity about issues such as the operation of their local clean air zone and where technology and government taxes, incentives and wider policy are taking us. The autumn Budget will answer some of those questions but much uncertainty will undoubtedly remain.
In recent years vehicle technology has moved in leaps and bounds. A solar and electric car is being developed, hydrogen is on the move, compressed and liquefied gas vehicles may be close behind. Given the choice available today and those waiting in the wings, a growing number of housing associations are choosing a fleet with a mix of conventional and alternatively powered vehicles. Flexibility is the key to future-proofing your fleets.
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The current framework expires on 20 August 2021.