The cusp of a real revolution

Attitudes and perceptions of electric vehicle and awareness of their benefits are showing a major step change among operational fleets, according to latest research from the AA and Rivus Fleet Solutions. Natalie Middleton reviews the findings from the firms’ joint report.

The UK’s operational fleet sector is on the “cusp of a real revolution” as positivity towards electric vehicles and plans for their uptake evolve significantly in the countdown to the 2030 ICE ban.

The newly published Operational Fleet Insight Report from the AA and Rivus Fleet Solutions reveals big changes in attitudes and perceptions towards EVs in operational fleets and plans for their adoption.

It’s the fifth collaborative report published by the two companies and the findings – based on quantitative surveys with 500 fleet managers, 12 qualitative interviews with operational fleet managers and insights from industry experts – make for compelling reading.

THE KEY STATISTICS

67%

of fleets expect to be using EVs in next five years, compared to 26% currently using them.

64%

of fleet operators are aware of the UK government’s announcement on the ban of the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030. Of these, 72% are supportive of the announcement.

84%

of fleet operators believe that the range of EVs on offer has improved in the last year. 83% feel that manufacturers are producing a wider range of suitable EVs and 82% feel that the quality of EVs on offer has improved since last year.

43%

of those considering using EVs in future report that the ban of the sale of new diesel and petrol vehicles by 2030 is a reason for their consideration.

65%

of fleet operators believe that EVs have better whole-life costs than diesel or petrol. 59% believe that EVs require less down-time.

29%

of fleet operators not currently using EVs feel that the initial cost of buying them is a barrier to take-up.

72%

of fleet operators currently using EVs prefer at-work or depot charging, from the different charging solutions on offer. Only 13% prefer at-home charging.

According to Edmund King, AA president and an EV driver himself, the research shows just how much progress has been made since the two firms started their reports back in 2016: “If you thought about it back then, widespread EV adoption did seem a bit like future gazing; it was just the kind of anorak early adopters. But that has changed, we’re now on the cusp of a real revolution, of real changes.

“That’s happening and our research is telling us that fleets are now grappling with the practical implications of this. One example is the charging infrastructure, which can be resolved – we’re seeing it is improving almost on a daily basis.

“So, we know that operational fleets are dealing with a range of factors that have evolved since we carried out this research and it just shows how fast the landscape is changing at the moment.”

STATE-OF-THE-NATION FINDINGS


DIESEL REMAINS KING BUT EV INTEREST IS FAST-GROWING

Diesel is still the fuel of choice for fleet operators, with 77% overall using diesel across their fleets. But interest in EVs and PHEVs is strong and growing across the industry.

Only 54% expect to still be using diesel across their fleets within the next five years. But this figure is down on the 75% who answered the same question in the last report. There’s also a corresponding increase in fleet managers expecting to use EVs and PHEVs. Two-thirds of fleets (67%) expect to use EVs within the next five years (a jump from 57% in the last report) with just over half of fleets (52%) expecting to use PHEVs, up from 42% last time.

2030 BAN IS TOP OF MINDS

Encouragingly, 64% of operators are aware of the UK government’s announcement on the ban of sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles from 2030. But conversely, just over one third (36%) were unaware of the announcement, suggesting that more needs to be done by the Government to encourage preparedness within the industry at this early stage.

For the majority of those who are in the know, the 2030 announcement appears to already be having an impact on EV consideration. Just under half (43%) of those who are actively considering EVs state the 2030 announcement as being a key driver. This makes it the third highest consideration factor for EVs behind environmental benefits and potential long-term cost benefits. And overall, 72% of those who are aware of the ban say that they support it.

Two-thirds of fleets (67%) expect to use EVs within the next five years (a jump from 57% in the last report) with just over half of fleets (52%) expecting to use PHEVs, up from 42% last time.

EV COST BENEFITS ARE A KEY DRIVER

Long-term cost efficiencies are a key influence for current users of EVs, with 50% saying that they have decided to include EVs within their fleet due to them being cheaper to run in the long term.

This is an increase since the last study, suggesting that there is a growing focus from fleet managers on the potential commercial benefits of including EVs within their organisations.

Environmental/societal factors are also important, with 50% stating they are a driver, and 41% saying that EVs play a fundamental role in their overall environmental strategy.

UPCOMING EV MODELS CREATING A BUZZ

Fleets feel that the leading manufacturers are starting to turn the corner in terms of producing new models that genuinely warrant serious consideration. A total of 84% of fleets agreed that the range of EVs on offer has improved in the last year, 83% agree that manufacturers are producing a wider range of suitable EVs and 82% feel that the quality of EVs on offer has improved since last year – these are all year-on-year increases.

2021 has also brought some major innovations for EVs and fuel efficiency, which could deliver vital commercial, organisational and environmental benefits for fleets.

Chief amongst new innovations – in terms of awareness – is the development of electric batteries to power 28-tonne HGVs (41% are aware of this), and the introduction of Advanced Driver Assistance Safety tech (38%).

BARRIERS REMAIN CONSISTENT

Although fleet managers are starting to take a closer look at the detail and practicalities of EV adoption – including SMR – the barriers to take-up remain consistent with previous years. This year’s survey found that a lack of charging points around the country and at work are the top two barriers for EV take-up, slightly eclipsing concerns around the initial cost of purchasing the vehicles.

As fleets start to increase their serious consideration of EVs, many businesses are looking more forensically at the detail of ‘what’, ‘how’ and ‘how much’, and key to this decision-making is both the cost of vehicles (upfront and whole-life) and the cost, complexity, and availability of infrastructure.

AT-WORK CHARGING MOST POPULAR

For those who have already adopted EVs, at-work and at-depot charging is the current preferred charging set-up. For fleets whose drivers can start and end their day at a depot, or at least visit for charging at some point during the day, this is clearly a practical and popular solution.

But depot and work-based charging infrastructure can take a lot of careful planning. Key considerations include the number of charging points per depot, charging schedules to optimise efficiency, whether to choose central ‘charging hubs’ or spread these across more depots and what power supply is needed to facilitate these (and at what cost).

Home-charging is a consideration for businesses to work out or work around, as many vehicles would normally be taken home by drivers at night. At the moment, though, 13% of fleets with electric vehicles say that at-home charging is their preferred EV charging option and there are a range of barriers to take up of this at present.

AT-WORK CHARGING MOST POPULAR

A total of 75% state that home charging places too much responsibility on drivers, while 69% feel that drivers themselves would prefer not to charge from home.

On-the-go charging infrastructure has improved in the past year, even if this is not filtering through to the broader market. A total of 84% of fleet managers who have EVs within their fleet agree there has been growth in the number of charging point in the past year. Meanwhile, 80% believe information about charging points has become more widespread. The Zap-Map app is becoming increasingly popular, while the All Star fuel card and app has growing appeal. EV-only charging hubs – which are suitable for both consumer and commercial vehicles – are also starting to creep onto operators’ radars.

Access the Operational Fleet Insight Report 2021 from the AA and Rivus Fleet Solution:

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