Considering electric vehicles? Here’s a useful ‘Top 10’ Q&A…
David Mvula from Haven Power’s Energy Services team answers 10 key questions about electric vehicles (EVs).
With the Government committed to banning all sales of diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040, and under pressure to do so much sooner, many businesses are now considering whether, how and when they should add electric vehicles (EVs) to their fleet.
Evidence is building that while they produce less climate-changing emissions at the point of use than conventional vehicles, and so play an important role in furthering your business’s environmental agenda, EVs are now also increasingly attractive on simple cost-effectiveness terms too. This should make it easier to ‘selling in’ the idea of EVs to your business.
If building a fleet of EVs is on your agenda, you may want to consider the following:
1. What area of the country are you in?
Some parts of the UK – including Greater London and Oxford – are introducing or discussing ultra-low emissions rules. These will make it more expensive to drive petrol and diesel vehicles in certain places. If your office is based within (or your business vehicles need to visit) these areas, you’ll incur increased costs if your fleet remains reliant upon fossil fuels.
2. Do you need electric cars or vans?
There are now at least 155,000 electric vehicles on the road in the UK, with 4,500 more being added every month.
Many ‘traditional’ automobile manufacturers are now producing electric cars, so if this is the sort of vehicle you need for your fleet, you have multiple choices.
However, the range of electric vans is much narrower; and there are few viable options available for larger commercial vehicles that use electricity, although one manufacturer has recently announced plans to start producing an electric lorry from 2019, which will increase customer choice.
3. Will the government plug-in grant make a difference?
The government’s grant of up to £3,500 for zero emissions vehicles is available to vehicle dealerships and manufacturers; they should include the discount in the price you pay.
This cost saving could be the difference your business needs to tip the argument in favour of electrifying (some of) your fleet.
The OLEV grant also provides £500 towards the cost of purchasing and installing a home charging point, which can help with your up-front investment.
4. What are your benchmarks?
EV technology is new, so it is hard for any business to develop a reliable set of ‘in house’ benchmarks to assess the true cost of running these vehicles over several years.
This can make it more difficult to justify switching to EVs on purely financial grounds.
However, research shows that EVs are certainly cheaper to run than petrol or diesel vehicles, even though they cost more to buy (mainly owing to the price of batteries).
This is due to a combination of factors, including lower fuel, servicing and road tax costs, which can even out higher insurance costs and greater depreciation. In the past, depreciation has been a major block to businesses investing in EVs, but the situation here is changing too, making EVs increasingly attractive.
5. How do you use your fleet - and how accurate are your mileage records?
Do you know how much petrol or diesel your vehicles use? Or their mileage? Or when they’re used? If not, it may be because this knowledge isn’t mission critical for conventional vehicles – there are petrol stations all over the country where vehicles can be refuelled in a matter of minutes.
Of course, that’s not yet the case with EVs – with only 17,400 charging points (July 2018 figure) across the UK – although numbers are growing all the time.
Your drivers may well need to recharge while they’re out on the road. More and more petrol stations now offer EV charging points, and there are apps to help you find your nearest charger. There are also adaptors available that will enable your EV to use more than one type of charging point.
One solution to the question of benchmarking may come through improved telematics, which can give you accurate information in real time about the state of your EVs. However they’re not fitted as standard to EVs – meaning that your marginal costs may increase.
6. How are you going to recharge your fleet?
Currently, it’s very easy to keep your conventional fleet fuelled and ready to use. It’s more difficult to do the same for EVs at present, in part because various types of charging point take different lengths of time to charge a variety of cars.
In our own experience at Haven Power, it takes around an hour to fully recharge our EV – a BMW i3. This allows the vehicle to travel its estimated maximum range of 120 miles on a 22kW charger. If you have multiple EVs in your fleet, then you’ll need to manage when and where you recharge them – unless you’re prepared to invest in multiple charging points that may not be used in an optimal way.
Charging time depends on the size of charge you need and the power of the charging point you are using. These fall into three types: rapid, fast and slow.
Rapid DC chargers provide power at 50kW and can typically charge an EV to 80% in 20-40 minutes. This also depends on the condition of the battery and the initial state of charge.
Tesla’s Supercharger network provides a charge of up to 120kW using Tesla connectors. Many Tesla drivers use adaptors so they can benefit from other chargers.
Rapid AC chargers provide power at 43kW, and can typically charge an EV to 80% in 20-40 minutes subject to battery condition and initial charge.
These are the most common workplace chargers. Fast chargers either work at 7kW or 22kW. A 7kW charger will typically recharge a vehicle with a 30kW battery in 3-5 hours, while a 22kW charger will do the job in 1-2 hours. (This depends on whether your vehicle’s on-board charger can accept 7kW or more.)
Tesla also provides some fast chargers, but like their Superchargers, these are only intended for use by their own vehicles.
Most slow chargers provide 6kW, and will charge an EV in something between 6-12 hours. These are typically found at people’s homes.
7. How do your drivers drive?
Different driving styles can reduce the consumption and range of EVs (and can have a similar effect upon conventional vehicles). So it’s a good idea to (re)train your EV drivers in driving techniques, and in planning their journeys.
Remember that using the air conditioning, headlights and other electrical equipment in an EV can drain the battery and reduce your range.
8. Is your business using the correct electricity tariff?
If you’re recharging your fleet of EVs, you need to ensure you’re on the appropriate electricity tariff - or pay peak electricity prices.
Check with your supplier to ensure you’re on a dual-tariff rather than a flat rate, so you can recharge your EVs overnight when it’s cheaper.
9. How long will your battery last?
Battery storage is getting better – and cheaper – all the time. Which means that EVs are becoming easier to afford and to rely on. This trend is likely to continue.
All Lithium-ion batteries tend to deteriorate in the long term; this may be inconvenient in your mobile phone, but needs to be carefully considered in an EV. The running time of your battery will affect your decision about investing in EV technology.
It is also possible to give used Lithium-ion batteries a ‘second life’ as energy storage. This could help your business get more from its initial investment, as well as supporting your own wider energy and recycling strategy.
10. Should you lease or buy?
Given that the technology is still relatively new, and that most businesses lack accurate in-house benchmarks, many organisations are choosing to lease rather than to buy their first EVs.
This can help reduce downside risks – especially when you consider that replacing a battery can run to thousands of pounds – and also reduces the need for significant one-off expenditure.
As EVs mature, depreciation falls further and benchmarking becomes easier, the argument may swing towards buying.
If you’re considering replacing your conventional vehicles with EVs, please contact our EV Project Manager, Adam Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org
For any other EV enquiries, or help finding other energy solutions, please get in touch with our Energy Services team via our contact form.