Sunday 25th Sep 2016 - Logistics Manager

Van fleet operators set to go electric

More van fleet operators will take up to electric vehicles along with other new fuel technologies over the next two years, according to research from GE Capital.

Some 34 per cent of those surveyed in the quarterly Company Van Trends said they were looking to increase their fully electric fleets, with a further 29 per cent expecting to increase their use of electric range extender vehicles.

Hybrid and hydrogen powered trucks also received strong levels of support, with 22 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively. These figures compare with relatively low numbers forecasting a rise in conventional fuels, with just 4 per cent backing both petrol and diesel. This result could suggest there is faith in fuel cell development or positive anticipation of hydrogen technology.

Simon Cook, fleet LCV leader at GE Capital UK, said: “The first thing to bear in mind about these figures is that they do not suggest that a third of new LCVs will be electric in two years. Instead, they indicate that around a third of fleets believe they will have more presence on fleets.

“However, even with this caveat, we believe that this research probably represents an aspiration more than a likely reality. While we are starting to see electric vans appear in small numbers of fleets, sales for 2014 were still in the hundreds compared to an overall new LCV market that comfortably beat 300,000 units.”

Cook continued by stating that to move from today’s position to that indicated in the survey over a two year timescale seemed extremely unlikely.

“However, what is probably true is that more and more fleets are taking an interest in a wide range of alternative fuels and are keen to try them out in an operational sense to see which work for them and in which applications,” he said. “Life has been quite tough for electric van manufacturers so far. Market penetration in the UK has been very low. However, what our research suggests is that the situation will improve over time and that more LCV fleets will give the technology a chance in the medium term.”

According to Cook, the key factors behind operator interest in alternatively fuelled vans was rooted in factors such as avoiding the London Congestion Charge, as well as a desire to reduce CO2 and other emissions from a corporate point of view. However, considerations such as range and reliability remained a major concern with no step change solutions in sight.

“All of the alternative fuels mentioned in the survey potentially promise huge reductions in CO2 and other emissions compared to petrol and diesel, as well as lower day-to-day running costs. There remain several often-unavoidable practical limitations such as EV range.

“Commercial vehicle operators are essentially conservative and are driven by the need to keep vehicles on the road and costs contained. New technologies such as these will always take a long time