A MAJOR landmark passed at the beginning of May as the UK’s ultra-low emission car count passed the half-million mark. At the same time, a Centrica Business Solutions UK survey revealed that businesses are set to invest £15.8bn in the electrification of their vehicle fleets during the next year.
Statistics from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that 13.6 percent of new cars sold in the past four months had a plug, with ultra-low emission cars accounting for more than 1 in 10 sales last year, up from 1 in 30 the year before. So far this year, 1 in 7 new cars sold have a plug. Passing the 500,000 mark gives the UK the second largest EV fleet in Europe.
Research commissioned by Centrica Business Solutions, revealed that UK firms spent £10.5 billion on electric vehicles (EVs) and on-site charging points during the year to March 2021 but are now planning £15.8 billion of investment in the same area over the next 12 months – a 50 percent increase year-on-year.
In a survey of 200 businesses with a turnover exceeding £1 million, 40 percent said they had increased the total number of EVs within their fleet between April 2020 and March 2021. Of these businesses, 58 percent cited the need to meet corporate sustainability targets as the biggest driving factor behind their increased adoption of EVs, followed by reducing operational disruption caused by low and zero-emission zones (51 percent) and the attraction of the lower maintenance and whole-life costs offered by EVs (37 percent).
Two-thirds (67 percent) of companies claim they are well-prepared to operate a fully electric fleet by 2030 when the Government’s ban on the sale of traditionally fuelled vehicles comes into effect.
Recent measures are helping drive EV sales. A significant number of EV models have seen price reductions in recent months – making them more accessible and affordable for motorists around the country. Tax incentives are also pushing up the number of employees opting for company cars through salary sacrifice. There are more than 100 EV models on the market, and this is expected to be on a parity with combustion-engine models by 2025.
One of the greatest barriers to purchase – range – is rapidly becoming less of an issue. More affordable batteries mean that manufacturers have been able to increase the range with many EVs now able to drive over 200 or even 300 miles on a charge, so that motorists can use them for longer journeys.
Even now a driver is never more than 25 miles away from a rapid chargepoint anywhere along England’s motorways and major A roads. And the UK already has a network of over 23,000 public chargepoints, with more fast chargepoints per 100 miles of key strategic road than any other European country.
The government is continuing to invest in the industry and has pledged a £2.8 billion package of measures to support industry and drivers to make the switch to cleaner vehicles. This includes £1.3 billion over the next four years to encourage the continued roll-out of chargepoints on motorways and major A roads, in homes, businesses and on-street.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said the news that the half-a-million milestone has now been met, together with the UK now having the second largest EV market in Europe, it’s clear that the shift to green motoring is accelerating at speed.
“As hosts of COP26, we want to drive decarbonisation on the global stage, which is why we’re going further and faster to make the journeys of our future as clean as possible.”
The UK is at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution, with the government committing to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and to ensure all new cars and vans will be zero emissions at the tailpipe by 2035.
SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “The automotive sector is transforming the way we drive, investing billions in ever greener and cleaner vehicles across the range, with 1 in 4 available models now capable of being ‘plugged in’. Over half-a-million people are already convinced by the incredible driving experience and we hope millions more will make the switch as Britain strives to become the best place to build, buy and drive electric vehicles.”
According to Centrica data there is still resistance from a minority of businesses. Four in ten (43 percent) of businesses hadn’t increased EV numbers at all and 10 percent decreased their EV fleet size. Range anxiety remains the chief concern for a third (34 percent) of these firms, followed by the need to prioritise business investment elsewhere during the height of the coronavirus crisis (32 percent).
Of the businesses polled, 46 percent plan to install charging points on their premises to facilitate the uptake of EVs across the next 12 months, although 37 percent have already installed this infrastructure. The research also revealed that 30 percent of firms have already invested in on-site technology capable of generating the energy to charge their fleet of EVs, such as solar panels, with 48 percent planning to do this in the future.
Greg McKenna, managing director of Centrica Business Solutions, said that despite the disruption of the past year, it was encouraging to see investment in EVs remaining a key priority for many businesses.
“The fact that firms are planning to increase their spending so dramatically over the next 12 months is proof that more businesses are recognising the advantages of adopting low-emission vehicles, especially as they recover from coronavirus and seek to create sustainable growth.
“Now that 2030 is set in stone as the end of new petrol and diesel sales we need to ensure three things to help get us there; sufficient electric vehicles to meet demand, reliable charging infrastructure that’s available to all and a flexible energy system that can deliver green power where it’s needed.”