Ben Edwards is a consultant with Arval in the UK. Here, he explains to U.K. editor Ralph Morton how he’s helping fleets change choice lists to get drivers into electric vehicles (EVs).
Switching to electric vehicles makes great sense for many fleets, not only from the operational savings available through reduced whole life costs, but also from the substantial tax reductions for drivers and the environmental advantages of choosing a zero-emission vehicle.
Vehicle choice lists often undermine a more sustainable fleet, however, especially now that vehicle lead times are so long. In the U.K. you can expect to wait a minimum of 12 months for a factory-ordered vehicle from a premium German manufacturer.
To overcome this bottleneck, Arval consultant Ben Edwards advises fleet managers to reconsider the vehicles available in order to facilitate a quicker move into EVs. He says:
“There is considerable demand for EVs from fleets who are working towards net-zero targets and also from their drivers who want to minimize their benefit-in-kind tax bill – that’s a natural financial incentive to make the switch.
“However, a large number of fleets operate policies which are limited to specific manufacturer ‘badges.’ This approach used to work well by concentrating buying power and simplifying choice lists. But it really doesn’t offer drivers enough choice in the range of models which are available in the current EV market.
“What we have successfully been advising fleets to do is to keep manufacturer badge restrictions in place for petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models, but open them up partially or completely when it comes to EVs – and this is something that has been working well.”
In particular, Edwards says better availability from Korean firms - such as Hyundai with its electric Kona SUV and IONIQ 5 models, and Kia with its award-winning EV6 - are allowing fleets open to such policy change to switch to EVs sooner.
“Any fleet operating a restrictive badge policy is not giving their drivers a big choice of EVs. For the lower-grade drivers not many vehicles are available. But by opening up that choice - the ‘nudge concept’ - you are effectively making more vehicles available. For example, with jobs-needs drivers - engineers and so on - allowing a fleet to offer the all-electric MG 5 Estate is significant. It’s the only electric estate that can fulfill this role today.
“Advantageously, EVs stack up on whole-life costs, while the driver can save some £2,500 in tax just by making the right vehicle choice. It’s a significant difference from a driver point of view. So for the same or a slightly better whole-life cost you can give the employee an effective pay raise. As an employer you win on both ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and driver satisfaction.”
Not all fleets are responding immediately to such changes, however, partly because it’s a massive change in company culture.
“Many international clients are led by a fixed-vehicle list from corporates. So my response to them is that it’s not about opening up the total fleet - the original choices can stay in place - it’s about opening up driver choice to EVs.
“Once fleets see the difference it makes on cost and to the driver journey to a new fleet vehicle - because it often gets forgotten what an emotive moment it is to get a new vehicle - it has started to be very well received.”
Edwards says that beyond vehicle availability, the road bumps to fleet electrification are smoothing out, although the rising cost of electricity and reimbursement costs are becoming a potential issue.
“As we move beyond what you might call early adopter fleets into the mainstream, emphasizing the core viability of electric cars alongside their obvious taxation and environmental advantages is the key to driving greater uptake. It’s all about making the electrification process both easy and effective.”
And opening up choice lists for EVs is part of that electrification process.