Electric vehicle (EV) sales are currently at a record high and whilst this surge has been largely driven by private ownership, businesses have the opportunity to influence even greater deployment for the benefit of reducing air pollution in the UK.
Firms can not only enhance their CSR through reduced emissions in the business, but significant savings can also be made across the fleet of company vehicles. Businesses also need to take responsibility for providing valued facilities (charging points) to support the growing EV market – both domestically and commercially.

EV market statistics 2017

Since grants for plug-in ‘hybrid’ and ‘pure’ electric vehicles were established by the UK government in 2011, EV ownership has grown exponentially year-on-year to almost 100,000 registrations today in the UK (May 2017) with a split of 95,000 cars and 4,500 vans. The UK currently has the 4th highest EV ownership in Europe (as of May 2017).
Although plug-in hybrid vehicles are currently outselling pure electric vehicles two to one, collectively the EV market has started strong again in 2017 with Q1 figures confirming that ‘plug-in’ cars now account for over 4% of all new car sales; 1.5% for pure electric vehicle sales. In March, this surge was demonstrated with over 7,500 registrations for new plug-in vehicles alone.
With the new changes to car tax introduced on 1st April 2017 (pure EV’s are now the only car to be exempt from road tax), along with the pressure to take diesel vehicles off the road, sales of EV’s are expected to continue on the exponential rate of growth, which could see the current ownership almost double by the end of 2017 particularly as new models are introduced with greater range (between charges).
If trends continue, the UK may have given itself a fighting chance to halt or even reverse the growing problem of air pollution in the UK.

The EV opportunity for businesses

With the above statistics in mind, there are many compelling reasons for businesses to upgrade their commercial fleet to EV’s where possible:
Save money
It is true that new EV’s are generally more expensive than a comparative petrol/diesel model, however, this initial increase in cost can be offset by various Government grants and tax benefits available to businesses (such as the Annual Investment Allowance) for buying low emission vehicles.
Furthermore, the reduced annual road tax (which is zero if buying pure electric vehicles) together with average running cost savings of up to 10p per mile and 20-30% less service/repair costs, make sure that over their lifetime the financial costs of buying and running an EV will be significantly lower than a fuel alternative. The more cars/vans you have in your fleet, the more times these savings can be realised.
Reduce emissions and enhance your CSR
Pure electric vehicles have zero tailpipe emissions (carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, etc) and the same applies when plug-in hybrid cars are also running on electricity. However, the actual reduction in emissions needs to be compared to the source of generation of the electricity, which will commonly be from the grid. As the grid is powered by a variety of generation sources (that pollute), the actual emissions reduction for using an EV will be around 25-40% compared to using a modern petrol or diesel car. Nevertheless, this is still a significant reduction that will benefit the environment.
To make a case for bringing these emission reductions up to 100%, businesses should see EV’s and EV charging stations as part of a wider energy strategy, utilising solar carports or rooftop solar to charge EV’s with electricity generated onsite from a renewable source. Further cost savings can also be leveraged from the free electricity generated by the solar.
Future-proof your site and business
With business being a major contributor to the miles driven each day in the UK – and therefore increasing air pollution – it won’t be long before the Government puts even further pressure on businesses to make the change to plug-in vehicles where possible. By beginning the implementation process today, businesses can begin to gradually turn over their fleet and be one step ahead of the competition when ‘push comes to shove’ from the Government.
Given the growing private ownership of EV’s, businesses also have a responsibility to provide EV charging facilities to staff, customer and visitors onsite. At the time of publishing (May 2017), there are just over 12,500 EV charging points in the UK for public use, distributed around 4,400 locations. Whilst this figure seems high, the deployment needs to be much higher to meet the growing demands of the EV market.
Destination charging
Further to the above, most private EV owners are using websites and smartphone Apps such as Zap Map to plan their journeys/destinations around available EV charging locations. Particularly useful for retail and leisure businesses, having EV charging stations onsite and subsequently a location published on these websites can increase footfall to their premises as EV owners find suitable destinations to charge their vehicles either en-route or as the end destination (perhaps in favour of using a competitor’s location without such facilities).
Whilst EV’s are charging, these ‘visitors’ may turn to buy customers, spending time to browse/use the business premises during the charging period of the vehicle. Even though businesses have the option to charge EV users for the electricity (creating an additional source of income), many businesses are seeing the value of offering the electricity for free as the extra footfall to the site is of more value than the free energy they are giving away.