No time like the present for public sector EV fleets - Clean Energy News

23 April 2018

The Green Alliance has just published a new report – 'How the UK can lead the electric vehicle revolution.' In another excellent publication it is interestingly the public sector fleet that gains the focus. Hopefully this will reinforce the messages from recent blogs that this is the way for local authorities to go.

This new report makes recommendations to the Government to amend public policy to help the EV market grow more quickly. This is, after all, an area where the Government wants the UK to be a world leader (something it is not with conventional vehicles). Instead, the country is falling behind radical areas such as Norway and China, with emissions from the transport sector now rising again.

There are, of course, many reasons to support the deployment of EVs in any event. These include reducing air and noise pollution, offering better value to the motorist and helping the electricity grid. But are these enough to persuade more people to go electric?

45% of all car sales are to private motorists but it is the public sector fleet that the Green Alliance focusses on for its early recommendations. It estimates that there are 25,000 Government fleet vehicles and a further 50,000 fleet vehicles under local government control. These figures do not even include the 'grey fleet' (i.e. cars privately owned but used for business), where huge savings on costs for local authorities are achievable.

I have already made the point that if the Government and local authorities were to join together to procure electric vehicles they could achieve stunning discounts, purely by the sheer volume of the order.

Bearing in mind the need to move ahead quickly, placing targets on the public sector fleet, such as 100% of the central Government fleet to be EV by 2022 would have a big impact on accelerating the UK market. It would mean more cars made in the UK, with attendant economic benefits. The Green Alliance also focuses on private sector fleets and proposes car tax cuts and maintaining zero rated vehicle excise duty as key factors, together with the continuation of Government grants towards the purchase of the EVs themselves.

In Clean Energy News I raised the point about the new 'vehicle to grid' (V2G) chargers and how they can add a further element of income to local authorities intent on introducing public sector EV fleets. The report notes that EVs can help locally to assist the grid at times of spikes in demand or supply and that EV owners can sell excess battery capacity to the grid or be paid for charging at a certain time to reduce demand. Nissan has invested heavily in this market and is already selling a system of PV plus battery for home owners, to which the V2G charger will be added when they are commercially available.

But for local authorities, there is no excuse for waiting. Developing an EV fleet makes economic sense now on a 'whole life costing' basis and provides community leadership as well as numerous other benefits. If the V2G element can be added subsequently, this offers the potential to make an extra strand of income, during difficult financial times.

If the progress sought by the Green Alliance report is to be achieved, the public sector has to provide leadership in this area and now is the time for action. The market in EVs and chargers has developed to such an extent that the risks have been substantially reduced and the benefits are clear.

Only time will tell whether this will happen but the Green Alliance report is to be welcomed as another contribution to the material available to help local authorities along that path.

Stephen Cirell is an independent consultant on the green agenda specialising in local government and the public sector. He is author of A Guide to Solar PV Projects for Local Government and the Public Sector.

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