It’s no easy task tackling van decarbonisation

It’s no easy task tackling van decarbonisation

Posted by

Andy Bruce

July 2023

In many ways, electrification of car fleets has been the easy part.

And when I say easy, that’s in relation to decarbonising van fleets.

I don’t underestimate the planning and processes that are required to swap a traditional diesel car fleet to electric. It’s a complex undertaking, but the availability of an increasing number of very good products, plus the incentive of significantly reduced benefit in kind taxation, and the general direction of businesses to embrace the ESG agenda, has certainly incentivised fleet electrification.

In the van world it’s different. Very different.

All of the above reasons for car fleets to electrify – bar the ESG agenda – simply don’t hold true for van fleets.

What’s more, the debilitating lack of new commercial vehicles thanks to the production hold-ups caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the desperate lack of semiconductors, has actually demonstrated to fleets that they can run their current vans for a lengthened period.

As long as there has been careful management of SMR, van fleets have extended running lifecycles from four to five years to six and even seven years, according to members of the Association of Fleet Professionals.

The focus, quite understandably, has been on maintaining operational effectiveness: after all, no vans equals no business.

And that operational requirement is central to unlocking the electrification of van fleets.

There are understandable concerns over charging, about range and about payload. There are inherent risks in a wholesale change from diesel to electric for any fleet.

That’s why I’m really gratified that Fleet Alliance is assisting the Edwin James Group –  a leading multi-disciplinary engineering services business – in a feasibility study to understand the operational issues in moving to an electric van fleet.

The company has over 200 vans for its engineers and expects to change to electric equivalents as they come up for renewal, which is about 70 each year.

The Group has an ongoing ESG commitment to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025 and net zero by 2030. So it understands where it needs to be, but the company also needs to understand how it gets there.

So we have fitted the van fleet with vehicle tracking to interpret journey patterns and which vans are easiest to replace with an electric vehicle in the first instance.

Additionally, not all the engineers have their own driveways, so charging the vehicles has to be carefully assessed.

But I’m convinced we’ll help the Edwin James Group overcome these obstacles with our established experience in the electrification of car fleets and other clients we have transitioned to eLCVs.

There’s no question that taking a step by step approach to commercial vehicle fleet decarbonisation, with a review and analysis mindset, is the correct approach.

It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. But every ESG agenda I have seen involves difficult and challenging hurdles. But the outcome will be a better, and more sustainable business, as a result.

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