Are you ready to join the big switch to electric?

21 September


Thinking of bringing some electric vehicles into your fleet?

You need to act fast – hefty government subsidies of up to £8,000 a time for buying a ‘plug-in’ vehicle are about to run out.

The last 12 months has seen a big jump in sales of electric-powered cars and vans. That’s great news for the environment – but means that total sales are approaching the government’s cut-off point.

Grants towards the cost of new ultra-low-emission vehicles are due to stop when 50,000 have been sold. Around 25,000 had been ordered at the start of this year and they are now being snapped up at around 6,000 a month.

What is behind this sudden surge in demand for plug-in vehicles? Firstly, more vehicles have been launched. In the last year, the number of vehicles eligible for the government subsidy has more than quadrupled to 27, nine of which are vans.

Secondly, the vehicles are improving. Tesla for example launched an electric sports car with a range of 265 miles. Also many more public charging points are available.

And thirdly, electric vehicles have suddenly become cool. People no longer think ‘milkfloats’; they think of BMW hybrid supercars or Formula E racers.

Of course, despite higher initial purchase costs, huge cost savings are common. Fuel costs plummet: a full charge costs around £2 and typically provides 100 miles motoring. Driving 100 miles in a petrol or diesel car costs at least £12. There are also savings in road tax (zero), congestion charges (zero), maintenance (no engine to service) and benefit-in-kind tax (zero).

Normally conservative fleet buyers are starting to act. Lex Autolease, the UK’s largest vehicle leasing and fleet management company, and a partner to Allstar Business Solutions, already has more than 1,500 electric vehicles in its fleet. Local councils and government departments are joining the big switch.

Early fleet adopters have discovered unforeseen advantages to going electric. One London-based manager claims new business enquires soared when his company introduced Nissan Leaf fleet cars. “Potential customers see them driving by or pass them while they’re charging and remember them more than they would some other vehicle,” he said. “The Leafs reflect positively on our company. Our image is very important to us. Now customers see we’re thinking about the environment. That’s a great door-opener for us.”

The three types of plug-in vehicles

Pure electric: only powered by a battery charge from mains electricity with a range of around 100 miles. Best-known examples are the Nissan Leaf and Tesla S.

Plug-in hybrid: uses a battery for trips up to 30 miles and a normal petrol or diesel engine for longer journeys. Examples include the Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota Prius.

Extended range vehicles: powered by a battery but with a conventionally fuelled engine that recharges the battery, it doesn’t power the wheels. This extends battery range – in the case of the Vauxhall Ampera – to 310 miles.

Quite frankly, there’s no time like the present for those of you who are seriously considering the big switch to electric.

Are there any charging points near you? Check here.

How to get the government plug-in vehicle subsidy.

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