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Peter Golding

Electrification of van fleets ‘requires new approach’

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New managerial solutions may be needed for some fleets in order to overcome the inherent operational limitations of van electrification.

That’s according to Peter Golding, managing director at the fleet software specialist Fleet Check, who says it’s becoming clear that compromises in terms of range and payload would have unavoidable real world impacts for a significant minority of operators.

He explained: “Fleets have found that car electrification is a relatively simple affair. Electric cars can simply be substituted for their petrol and diesel equivalents in the vast majority of cases with no real issues.

“For some van operators, the situation is similar. If your driver has access to home charging and your eLCV covers no more than perhaps 120 miles in a day with a light load, then everything is relatively simple.

“However, if you need vans to cover long motorway journeys with a full load on a cold day, and your driver is one of the many who don’t have access to off-street parking and therefore can’t have a charger fitted, then the picture is quite different.

“For some fleets, this means that electric vans are simply incompatible with their current operations. A few are hanging on to see whether hydrogen will emerge as an alternative but that remains a marginal choice because of the absence of refuelling infrastructure. The bottom line is that new operational solutions may need to be found to enable electrification. The way in which your fleet is currently organised and used may no longer be appropriate.”

Golding said that fleets were beginning to discuss a range of possible options, with some very creative thinking being proposed.

“One idea that is gaining some traction is the possibility of using vans as shared transport resources. This could work for courier companies, for example. Instead of three electric vans being used on the same long delivery route, three could be shared across shorter runs.

“There is also talk of exploring what is called backloading in the heavy goods world where an effort is made to ensure that no vehicle returns from a long delivery run with an empty payload, instead being effectively rented to a third party.”

Golding added that new approaches may also need to be adopted that would change the working day of employees, building charging times into how their work is structured.

“Most route planning is currently undertaken on the basis that mileage and payload are effectively limitless but that will obviously change. It could be that routes will need to be planned where driver breaks are planned around access to charging points and indeed, this is something that is already happening on fleets where eLCVs are being adopted.”

Golding concluded that the fleet sector needed to be open about this subject in general and adopt an approach of knowledge sharing, where best practise experience was widely discussed.

“The fact is that, outside of a few major businesses, electric vans remain something of a rarity and operational experience is so far relatively limited. What is needed is a very open level of discussion about the real world solutions that are enabling fleets to operate most effectively.

“We are certainly encouraging this across our user base and some other organisations, notably the AFP, are also establishing excellent forums. Van electrification means that fleet management will have to change for some fleets, and the key to a successful shift over the next few years will be identifying solutions that work for all.”

Company cars now less about status and more about practicality

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Changing employee priorities could see company car fleets start to become ever less hierarchical in the near future.

That’s the view of fleet software specialist says FleetCheck, which believes that a number of current and emerging trends could converge, causing less interest in the car as an indication of managerial status. 

Peter Golding, Managing Director at CheckFleet, said: “Historically, in a corporate environment, there has been quite a strong emphasis on the company car you were given as a signifier of your position within the organisation. It has been part of fleet culture. However, that situation has already been changing and hierarchies could further flatten significantly, we believe.

“Part of this is simply attitudinal. There appears to be less emphasis among younger people when it comes to seeing the car as an extension of their personality or a reflection of their personal success. It is more of a means of transport. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want a ‘nice’ car – they probably do – but the model and grade is less of a priority.

“Similarly, they may well be more concerned about the car from an environmental point of view and their priorities about the vehicle may well be different from a more traditional company car driver. Certainly, there are indications that larger numbers of younger people are more interested in zero emission vehicles than outright performance, for example.”

Golding added that developing financial pressures were also playing an important part: “The latest company car benefit in kind changes are just the latest development in an ongoing trend that is designed to encourage drivers into ever-less polluting company cars. Again, this is likely to lead, over time, to further reduced interest in the kind of faster, bigger engine vehicles that have dominated the upper echelons of choice lists.

“It is arguable that what we are seeing is the final stages of the company car sector moving away from perk to job-need cars, something that has been underway for a while. Really, anyone who is interested in an expensive, powerful perk car has probably already long since shifted to take a cash option that is now channelled into a PCP or PCH.”

FleetCheck says that, ultimately, this trend was a positive one for organisations that provided company cars, because it allowed more effort to be concentrated on maximising efficiency.

Golding concluded: “Businesses want their fleet transport to be as cost effective as possible. The gradual removal of the requirement to provide a hierarchy of choice that includes, by design, models that are less efficient, is very much a move to be welcomed. It allows the company car to fulfil its primary role as the best transport solution available in many instances.”

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

Maintaining flexibility of business transport is ‘key to future mobility strategies’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Maintaining the flexibility of business transport will be the key challenge facing fleets as future mobility strategies start to take effect, says FleetCheck. 

Noting the publication of the Government’s Future of Mobility Urban Strategy, the fleet software specialist says it is important to keep journeys as simple and effective as possible.

Peter Golding (pictured), managing director at FleetCheck, explained: “We fully support the ultimate aims of the Government in improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions, cutting congestion and making cities more pedestrian friendly.

“However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the success of fleets in underpinning business comes from their sheer usability. You can get into a car or load a van and drive straight to your destination. This is especially true of multi-stop journeys.

“Ultimately, anything that undermines this core tenet needs to be treated with extreme caution. While fleets must play their part in the future of mobility and meeting the Government’s environmental and social aims, we must also work to ensure that businesses continue to enjoy the benefits of flexibility as much as possible.”

Golding added that this did not mean that the industry shouldn’t be positive about mobility strategies – for example, last mile zero-emissions delivery strategies were an excellent idea – but that everyday fleet journeys were not easily replaced.

“We are actually very enthusiastic about last-mile delivery and, to us, it appears to be a good solution to the air quality problems in urban areas. During the next few months, we are hoping to be working with some of our customers on this development.

“However, it needs to be recognised that many multi-stop journeys, such as a sales person in a car visiting three locations in a day, or a technician in a van servicing a dozen different sites, simply cannot be displaced by any other transport method.

“The cars and vans used for those applications will change over the next few years and we have great hopes for the ultimate level of adoption by fleets when it comes to electric vehicles, but those journeys require one vehicle and one driver.”

Golding said that there also needed to be much more detail about some of the ideas within the Government’s document, as many of them appeared to already be in operation to some degree, if not in all parts of the country.

“There is mention of using technology to cut congestion and make journeys smoother, but no real explanation of how this might be done in a way that is substantially better than existing sat nav and traffic monitoring services.

“Also, there is quite a lot of promotion of flexible transport provision but, in most cases, it is difficult how these represent substantial advances over existing Uber-style taxis, cars clubs and short term hire. Again, any benefits appear to be incremental rather than revolutionary.

“However, we look forward to seeing how the contents of the document play out in the real world and working with the Government and the fleets that use our software to reduce the impact of business transport over the coming decades.”