By the year 2030, electric vehicles will account for 20 per cent of the entire car market, according to research from analysts at IHS Global Insight. However, within the fleet sector, where cost is king and performance and reliability take precedence over size and style, you could reasonably expect that figure to be much larger.
Companies have long been aware of the environmental benefits of reducing the carbon output of their cars, but the way in which this translates to cost savings is really starting to sink in. Not only do companies have to spend less on fuel and diesel – the prices of which having now reached record levels – but the government has, in its bid to reduce carbon emissions, reduced the road tax levy for vehicles which emit less carbon.
Interest in hybrid vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and all-electric models such as the Nissan LEAF is blossoming, and in the technology that surrounds them. Getting experts from the likes of Evo Energy to install solar technology involves an up-front fee, but really should be seen a long-term investment. Red Dwarf actor and green enthusiast Robert Llewellyn says his roof-mounted solar cells provide 85 per cent of the electricity he needs for his LEAF; getting the rest from the National Grid costs him a little over £5 for a 1,000-mile journey.
Fleet managers are also keenly aware of the benefits, especially as the technology develops. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association estimates that when the new Chevrolet Volt and Vauxhall Ampera reach the UK market, 80 per cent of them could end up as company cars. Meanwhile, the government is also looking to persuade firms to switch to low-carbon motoring, offering discounts on the purchase price of low-carbon vehicles through the Plug-in Car Grant. This provides a 25 per cent reduction of the purchase price – up to a value of £5,000 – when buying an eligible low-carbon model.
While the performance of contemporary solar panels cannot – yet – completely power a car using cells placed on the vehicle’s roof, designers are looking at how this system can improve the economy of hybrid vehicles. For now though, using electric and hybrid vehicles and installing solar panels to generate renewable electricity to power them is a viable way for fleet managers to cut back on their costs. It does involve a bit of planning, but the latest IHS report lays these out clearly and further highlights the potential savings that companies can make.