British Gas have unveiled a fleet of brand new fully electric and solar powered Nissan Leaf cars to be used by staff in Staines and Windsor. Both sites have a solar-powered charging canopy which will supply enough renewable electricity to cover the fuel needs of the cars.
The new cars are just the start of a British Gas initiative which aims to have 1,000 electric vans being used by their engineers by 2015. They will continue their plan by having another 25 vans covered by van insurance early next year. The unveiling of the new cars shows that British Gas will not be simply installing electric car charge points for both Nissan and Renault customers, they also have a long term plan to eventually change all of their vehicles to electric.
The solar canopies at Staines and Windsor are part of a larger programme within British Gas who have also installed solar thermal panels on three of their buildings and the plan is to increase this number to ten by the end of the year. They were also the first energy supplier to announce a tariff for all electric vehicle owners which will see motorists paying as little as 1.25p per mile to charge the vehicle.
Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said “I commend British Gas for this excellent initiative. It is an outstanding example of private enterprise helping to promote low emission vehicle technology. A low carbon future is the only viable future for transport. But we must acknowledge that it is carbon, not the car, which is the problem. The Government is doing its bit by providing grants towards the purchase of low emission vehicles and increasing charging points across the county.”
The world of energy is changing and the link-up between British Gas and Nissan brings two of the leading lights together in what promises to be a lucrative partnership.
Councils throughout West Yorkshire are going ahead with their plans to extend the fleet of electric and other environmentally friendly vehicles. Leeds council recently took a delivery of five electric-powered Transit vans and Wakefield council has an order for seven new vehicles.
Later this week Leeds will be taken over by 30 low-emission vehicles which will be parked on Millennium Square. The council organised this free low-emission vehicle exhibition, which is open to members the public. The event is part a promotion of low emissions vehicles.
The display will show vans used by the council, all of which are covered on commercial vehicle insurance and run by biomethane. The council will be showing off an articulated lorry, a refuse collection vehicle, a hybrid double decker bus as well as cars and scooters.
The council operates a range of low carbon vehicles including two biomethane powered refuse collection vehicles, 19 diesel-electric hybrids, with a further five electric transits that have just arrived.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive board member who has the responsibility for development and regeneration, said he sees this event as an ideal chance for everyone to learn about new technologies.
Mr Lewis said “There is an urgent need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being produced, and reduce the risk of dangerous climate change and poor air quality. Transport is the most difficult sector to reduce emissions, but by introducing new technologies like the ones on display at the exhibition we can really start making steps towards achieving targets.”
The event will include presentations from experts in the field, and its main aim is to promote low emission vehicle technologies. It is hoped that large fleet operators will be encouraged to switch over to the new technologies once they have seen the vehicles in action.
Wakefield Council will be showing off two of their electric vehicles at the Leeds event, as they have also recently been chosen to take part in the Department for Transport Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme.
Fleets need to take a structured approach to managing the first electric vehicles being used as company cars and vans, according to Fleet software market leader CFC Solutions.
In the future when firms start using electric cars and vans, they are worried that the businesses will treat the first electric vehicles as environmentally friendly novelties, when what they really should be doing is learning about how they operate, the limitations, and of course, the financial benefits as quickly as possible. A lot of money will have been spent on new vans along with the commercial vehicle insurance that comes with it. The technology behind the electric vehicles will be new to almost everyone in the fleet industry meaning the level of attention should actually be more then that of a normal van.
Neville Briggs, managing director at CFC, said: “Early adopters of electric cars and vans are likely to be organisations that have a strong environmental bias and are making a corporate statement by being among the first customers. However, fleet managers must ensure that these vehicles are not treated as novelties. Rather they are transport assets like any other that a company may own or lease. They should be subject to the same kind of managerial scrutiny with accurate information gathering about their performance and cost with regular reporting taking place. Fleet managers should be learning everything they can about the real world range of these vehicles, charging speeds and cost, effects of driving styles and maintenance regimes.”
Concerns about CO2 and pollution could mean that the future of the van as the business transport tool of choice will depend on the fleet changing to electric vehicles, so employers will have to learn to manage them effectively. Current battery technology of electric vehicles has a range of around 100 miles per charge. A recharge will take at least a three hours or even an overnight. This makes them suitable for some fleets but not all.