Switching all of Britain's vans and HGVs to electric alternatives could save businesses £14bn a year in fuel costs, new report from Hitachi suggests
If all the of the vans and lorries shuttling around Britain's roads each day were to be switched for electric alternatives, firms could save £14bn every year in fuel costs alone.
That's the conclusion of a new report released today from Hitachi Capital, which finds that electric power is 15 pence per mile cheaper than petrol or diesel vans, and 38 pence per mile cheaper than diesel for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs). This adds up to a total saving for fleets of around £13.7bn a year, it concludes, based on 2017 fuel prices.
"If businesses take a long-term decision when it comes to investing in their fleet, it could save significant amounts of time and money," Jon Lawes, managing director of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, wrote in a foreword to the report.
The findings underscore similar claims made last month by Tesla founder Elon Musk, who claimed his firm's new Tesla Semi - its first electric truck - would be 20 per cent cheaper per mile to run than its diesel equivalents.
But while more fleet managers are slowly starting to adopt "alternatively fuelled" vehicles (AFVs), the needle is moving relatively slowly. Electric vans are starting to become more common, but company adoption of greener HGVs has mainly been limited to the odd pioneering electric model or small hydrogen and biomethane fleets.
Figures from the Department for Transport show that 1,124 alternatively-fuelled vans and HGVs were registered in 2016, up from around 800 in 2014. In comparison, the number of EV and alternatively fuelled passenger cars registered in June 2017 has rocketed 265 per cent compared to 2012.
The paper acknowledges barriers to barriers to AFV take-up among vans and HGVs remain - most notably a lack of charging or refuelling infrastructure, the need for affordable batteries powerful enough to carry huge loads over long distances, and the high upfront cost of upgrades.
But its findings suggest the political and regulatory environment will nudge growing numbers of fleet managers towards AFVs in the near future.
As costs continue to come down for batteries, the fuel savings EVs offer will become even more alluring - especially when coupled with steep charges for petrol or diesel cars entering city centres. Hitachi surveyed 149 fleet managers for the report, and found that 65 per cent believe incoming Clean Air Zones will make them more likely to use AFVs in their fleet.
"Fleets cannot afford to ignore the amazing potential of alternative fuels - and, thankfully, they're not," Lawes said. "Our report shows that 82 per cent of fleet professionals believe that it's important to move to AFVs. This number and many others from our survey are only going to keep on rising as the government does more to encourage green motoring."
In his presentation of the Tesla Semi, Musk went as far as to conclude truck companies and fleet managers would be committing "economic suicide" to continue using diesels. The numbers may not be quite as dramatic as that as yet, but it seems the business case for green fleets gathers more speed every week.
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