Carbon net-zero: Responding with electrical vehicles

carbon net-zero
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Sheila Thomas, Decarbonisation Commercial Lead at Crown Commercial Service, looks at five ways to make electrical vehicles part of your response when it comes to achieving carbon net-zero

In December 2020, the Prime Minister announced ambitious new emissions targets, setting the UK on the path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The plan aims for at least a 78% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.

Transport is the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and with over 75% of District, County, Unitary and Metropolitan Councils having declared a ‘climate emergency’, the importance of finding a sustainable fleet solution is foremost in many local authorities’ thinking.

An organisation’s fleet and transport policy provide a key opportunity to reduce emissions, improve air quality, and make a huge positive impact as the public sector builds back greener.

The importance of charging infrastructure

Electric vehicles are becoming more prevalent across operational fleets, with the transition to fully electric buses beginning in cities across the UK such as Coventry and London, while fully electric refuse collection vehicles are being trialled in Oxford.

To support a successful transition to electric vehicles, organisations need a clear strategy on charging. How much can public and home-based charging be utilised and what restricts workplace charging?

Where work-based parking is provided, organisations will also have to factor in how they can support the staff commute and visitors who travel by car.

Local authorities will also need to consider how they support the public with their transition to zero-emission vehicles through the provision of well-sited public charging facilities.

The market is still relatively new and fast-developing with innovative solutions. This can make it challenging for buyers, with so many inputs and variables to consider.

1. Understand your requirements

The fleet profile is shaped by an organisation’s operational requirements, and this dependency will flow down to the charging infrastructure strategy to ensure that operational vehicles are powered and ready to use when required.

Whilst some fleets may be used solely for operational purposes, others will include a mix of business and private usage, with the uptake of green vehicle salary sacrifice schemes increasing considerably over the last 12 months. Local authority fleets are often made up of all these options as they seek to serve the needs of their regional citizens and support access to sustainable transport solutions.

Vehicles that return to a “depot” each night can be charged over a longer period and optimise the lower electricity tariffs. For vehicles that are required 24 hours a day, consideration will need to be given to rapid charging facilities or charge points that can charge more than one vehicle at a time.

It is also important to consider the EV battery capabilities of your existing and future vehicles as this will impact your chargepoint needs. You should aim to avoid paying for charge points that cannot be maximised by your fleet profile.

Sometimes the simplest vehicles to tackle first are those which go home with employees overnight, whether they be business-related or part of a vehicle salary sacrifice scheme. Home charging solutions are tried and tested and can be easily incorporated into the vehicle’s lease agreement.

2. Funding options

Once you’ve understood your fleet profile and the high-level condition of your estate, you will need to consider which funding model best suits your needs.

Firstly, how is your organisation going to fund the overall infrastructure? Is it a traditional purchase or leasing arrangement, with ongoing subscription fees? Do you want to generate an income or explore a supplier-funded model, commissioning a supplier to cover the costs themselves in return for profit made on the actual cost of charging?

There are a myriad of ways in which infrastructure contracts can be constructed and these should be considered against your overall strategy. In all cases, it is important to check out what grant funding may be available and that you are aligned to the requirements.

3. A full end-to-end solution

Even to the most experienced fleet manager or commercial professional, contracting for vehicle charging is likely to be a new topic to consider.

There are a number of elements available in a full end-to-end solution, from initial scoping and feasibility studies through to project management of the design, installation and management, including data capture.

One option is a single contract for the entire solution, which can gain cost efficiencies through a prime contractor managing each element. Alternatively, you can split out these areas of work into discrete projects and let contracts within each area, taking advantage of niche specialisms across the industry.

4. Don’t forget the readiness assessment

A primary assessment of your sites ensures their suitability and can also help you identify the most cost-effective, convenient and overall safest place to install your vehicle charging infrastructure.

This independent advice can help you determine the optimum financial construct for your infrastructure, balancing all of the demands for power you may have. Undergoing feasibility studies can help you avoid the unnecessary additional costs of ongoing upgrades and repairs down the line, as well as supporting your cohesive travel strategy.

Accessing industry experts can help you navigate the technical issues too, such as groundworks and civil engineering, as well as liaison with the relevant Distribution Network Operators (DNO), to better understand local electricity transmission and demand.

5. Behind the scenes – transition planning

Integrating back-office solutions and software is often an overlooked element of vehicle charging infrastructure – though it’s one of the most important aspects.

The back office solution connects you to the charge points on your network, tracking usage to be able to determine their effectiveness. Software can automatically identify and report faults meaning you can remotely diagnose, maintain or upgrade the charge points and software to resolve problems as quickly as possible.

Software can also help you integrate a payment solution into your infrastructure so you gain control over tariff prices as well as visibility in real-time on costs and carbon savings through a single dashboard.

Compliance with the latest Open Charge Point Protocols (OCCP) with the capability to support multiple currencies and languages, as well as interoperability of other networks ensures your system is not only future proof but, also provides improved accessibility for users.

Accelerate your transition to greener fleets

We’re here to support you, wherever you are on the journey to a more sustainable fleet.

For more information on total fleet solutions, including vehicle charging infrastructure solutions, or to speak to one of our experts, visit our website.

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Decarbonisation Commercial Lead
Crown Commercial Service (CCS)
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