Organisations from across the UK are striving to achieve their EV goals and looking at different alternative fuels that can clean up fleets. Large operators are more successful with this as they have the know-how, the experts and the money to back up such a massive transition. We spoke to Peter Golding from FleetCheck about the move to EVs, how close we are to reaching our goals and what hurdles the industry is experiencing along the way.
There are two tiers,’ begins Peter, when asked how likely it is that fleet operators will manage to reach their EV goals by 2030. He is worried that SMEs, which make a significant part of the industry, would not be able to do it on time. There is much lower confidence the SME sector will get where they want to be by 2030.
The challenges come not just from costs but also how viable certain technologies are today. EVs are more suitable for urban operations where it is easier to get enough charging points. In rural areas alternative fuels could be the better answer. As we stand today, however, most alternative fuels are in their infancy and Peter points to some trials happening around the UK. But even they are not at scale and serve more as a proof of concept.
‘One of the biggest problems at the moment is the enormous shortage of stock,’ Peter says. ‘Even if someone has the aspiration, lead times are very long and usually large organisations can afford to pay more for the few vehicles that are available.’ Financing cleaner fueled vehicles is also a challenge and according to Peter most companies say they would stick to the combustion engine until access to finance is improved.
A segment of the industry has had a good adoption rate. Lighter commercial vehicles are a good example for that but companies are still worried about costs.
On top of that, infrastructure adds more headaches. EVs’ infrastructure has clearly exceeded all expectations. The challenge comes for commercial vehicles and for those who would have to choose whether they charge their work vehicle or their private car. EVs also have an impact on reliability as their range can be less than what a driver needs to do during the day.
‘The other concern is the escalation of energy costs,’ Peter comments. ‘The difference between charging and fuel is significant and very noticeable.’ As growth in EVs continues we will move from the early stages to a more mass adoption. This is when Peter expects to see queues at charging stations and the need for a well-designed network. ‘A challenge then will be to have an easy and fast way to charge your vehicles together with many others around you.’
‘I am an advocate for hydrogen for HGVs and larger vans. Companies like JCB have invested heavily in it out of necessity,’ Peter explains. Electrifying a large fleet is a massive challenge and it might not be the best solution. JCB have invested in transforming their vehicles for hydrogen.
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‘We should not be looking whether we need one or the other. We need both,’ Peter says. The problem with hydrogen is the supply of gas to the network. For it to work, more than just one industry would need to be involved, research and trial.
AT the end of the conversation Peter returns to the idea of two tiers of transport in the UK. One will be green, having invested heavily in alternative fuels and EVs. They would have access to cities and deliver in urban areas. For the others, primarily in the SME sector, diesel vehicles will be a big part of their fleet even in 2040. They will have to operate in rural areas and will most likely be much older than what we see today as an average fleet age. ✷