A new paradigm for Local Authority Vehicle Fleets - Public Sector Focus

4 September 2017

As the move towards Electric Vehicles starts to accelerate, Stephen Cirell looks at whether there are hidden economic advantages for local authority finances in investing in an EV fleet.

The issue of air quality has shot up the national political agenda now that it has emerged that up to 40,000 people per annum are dying in the UK from air quality linked conditions. Suddenly, it is accepted by the politicians that something has to be done about this.

This may hasten the move towards electric vehicles, which have been of interest to local authorities for some time. Now all of the pieces of the jigsaw seem to be falling into place for extensive EV fleet proposals from local authorities nationwide to be brought forwards.

In the past, local Councils have been attracted to EVs for reducing the costs of the main vehicle fleet, but the 'grey fleet' may offer a better business case. More staff now would be prepared to use a pool car than was the case in the past.

Such EV pool cars offer both financial and non financial benefits as renewable energy has developed. Leading by example on environmental issues, reduced costs and fewer fossil fuelled miles are but some non financial issues. But the main driver at the present time is economics. If a Council approaches this properly, it can earn significant revenue at the same time.

The big change has come from the development of battery technology, vehicle to grid chargers and electricity trading. Battery technology is now seriously taking off in the UK with millions being invested in new systems, whereby electricity is stored in batteries and then discharged into the grid at peak hours. If this can be achieved, high revenues can be secured for the provision of electricity at such key times.

It has been recognised that EV batteries could add to the available battery storage capacity for this purpose, if two way chargers were available. These chargers are now a reality, meaning that a decent number of EVs – collectively – offer a reasonable electricity / battery capacity.

So if a LA has a sizeable fleet of vehicles and the chargers, it can trade surplus electricity for profit at the end of each day. Best of all, though, is that the cars still fulfil their primary function as transport for personnel to do their jobs, which justifies their purchase in the first place.

Such schemes are now a reality and offer local authorities a very strong business case to support fleet scale purchase of EVs.

Stephen Cirell is an independent consultant on the green agenda specialising in local government and the public sector. He is author of two books on renewable energy for local authorities: 'A guide to Solar PV Projects for Local Government and the Public Sector' and 'A Guide to Biomass Heating Projects for Local Government and the Public Sector'.

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