COVID-19 has accelerated mobility changes across society, suggesting travel habits in the UK are likely to be altered forever. To respond, businesses will need to build agility into their fleets to stay one step ahead, according to a report from Alphabet.
According to the report, Fleet Streets: Accelerating changes to travel and transport in the UK, now is the time for businesses to consider how to invest to meet the changing needs of employees and customers and prepare for a flexible future.
“For fleet managers, these changes provide both challenges to existing ways of working, but huge potential opportunities to rethink how to operate. While every company will have their own ‘new normal’, it’s certain that flexibility will be critical in adapting to our changing cityscapes,” said David Bushnell, Principal Consultant, Alphabet (pictured above).
Changing attitudes towards areas such as traffic congestion, emissions air pollution, social distancing, the ability to work from home, travelling by foot or bicycle and a desire that future vehicles support environmental benefits are all driving a permanent shift in mobility needs.
Alphabet research found that 24% of consumers said an electric vehicle (EV) or plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) would be their next vehicle, while 40% were strongly considering an EV or PHEV for their next car. A substantial increase from the end of 2019, when just 19% that said they would be likely to buy a battery electric vehicle as their next vehicle.
However, not only do people want their private vehicles to support environmental benefits, they also want businesses to do so. Over half (55%) of respondents felt delivery vans should also be electric, while one in three said they would be happy to pay extra for an electric delivery vehicle. Electrification is increasingly important to brand credibility.
“Fleet managers must examine the duty cycle of every single vehicle in the fleet, consider how it is being used and leverage that information as the basis to reshape the fleet to drive a better understanding of the benefits of EVs and PHEVs. Not only are the running costs substantially lower for battery electric vehicles (BEV) compared to internal combustion engines, but there are also increased incentives available to help fleets save money by choosing electric,” said the report.
Personal safety has played a major role in shaping future transport requirements and for many people the car has felt like the best transport option. The report said that although 58% of people felt comfortable returning to work, 60% of those individuals would be using a personal car to get to work. Only 6% of those taking a train felt comfortable, with this falling to just 4% for tube users.
The company car may also see a resurgence in popularity. The research showed that nearly 37% of consumers would now consider using a company car following the pandemic, to enable them to travel in a safe way. Prior to the lockdown, many employees favoured a cash benefit.
Range and charging anxiety has often been a concern that prevented many companies from mass adoption of electric vehicles. However, this has largely fallen away during the pandemic. With reduced travel and fewer people heading into work five days a week, business mileage profiles are down and investment in public charging is up, making the argument to electrify fleets much more straightforward.
This, and an increased consumer demand for electric vehicles, has seen sales accelerate during the past year. EVs accounted for nearly 46% of all company car orders at Alphabet in 2020, with an increase of 8% on EV and 16% on PHEVs year-on-year. Data from SMMT showing new car sales in the UK, also reflected this upsurge, with EVs and PHEVs accounting for 10% of all new vehicle registrations last year – something analysts had predicted would take until 2022 to achieve. And with 68% of those sales being for company cars, it’s clear the fleet industry plays an instrumental role in the electrification of our roads.
“The events of the past year have created a seismic shift in positive attitudes towards mass electric vehicle adoption. Now with a national time frame upon us, businesses need to be looking ahead and strategically planning the transition towards electrification.”
Changing attitudes in numbers
- Only 23% of consumers feel comfortable using public transport in London
- 20% of citizens started cycling more in lockdown
- 37% said they would consider using a company car in the future
- 53% of people no longer commute to work
- Only 15% of workers now head to the office 5 days a week
- 55% of respondents felt delivery vans should be electric
- 24% of people would get an EV or PHEV as their next vehicle
- 7% decline in emissions in the UK in 2020