February 19, 2019

Electric vehicles ‘mainstream’ but diesel remains key

Diesel will remain a key fleet fuel and an “indispensable” part of the air quality solution, but electric vehicles were now “mainstream and not a compromise”, Doug Hyett, national fleet sales manager at Volkswagen UK, told listeners to ACFO’s third webinar.

The webinar, which discussed fleet fuels of the future, was told by Hyett that the manufacturer was “continuing to invest in diesel”.

Volkswagen, which sponsored the webinar, is also spending some e50bn on battery technology in the next two years and e20bn on electric vehicles with an expectation that by 2021 electric vehicles will account for 10% of UK brand sales.

Amid “a lot of fuss in the press around diesel”, Doug said Volkswagen’s investment in Euro 6 engine emission technology was “immense.

He commented: “Fleet fuels are changing with a shift towards battery electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, but diesel is still a huge part of the mix. The modern diesel engine is an indispensable part of the solution as it has improved dramatically over the years in terms of efficiency and environmental performance.”

The webinar also heard from Stewart Lightbody, head of fleet services at Anglian Water Services, which operates a fleet comprising 1,800 vans and 200 HGVs. He said he is aiming for a 100% electric fleet.

Building on the introduction of one plug-in hybrid van, Lightbody said he is using in-vehicle telematics data to provide critical insight into light commercial vehicle usage. As a result, he is mapping where it is possible that plug-in vans can replace diesel units.

He said Anglian Water had “an ambitious carbon reduction programme” with introduction to the fleet of plug-in vehicles having an integral role.

He continued: “Electric vehicles are now mainstream and there is no real compromise. It is about doing the right thing in the communities in which we live and work. Why wouldn’t you protect the environment?”

That included, he said, being “smarter” in terms of equipping van load areas with lighter racking materials and only carrying tools and other goods that were essential and not used infrequently to ensure payload remained at a maximum.

He added: “Fleet managers do not have to convert every vehicle to electric today because that is not viable, but they can make a start. Where we can introduce electric vehicles we will.”

James O’Neill, UK sales director at international electric solutions provider Ensto, said there were currently 16,500 publicly accessible electric vehicle charging points in the UK with 70% of plug-in vehicle sales being to fleets.