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Public sector can lead the UK to an ultra-low emission future

Source: PSE Apr/May 17

Poppy Welch, head of Go Ultra Low, explains why the public sector has the potential to shape and accelerate the UK automotive market to be entirely ultra-low emission.

The public sector is more plugged in to electric vehicles (EVs) than ever before – with fleet EV purchases accounting for approximately two-thirds of the market. 

This is because a number of organisations have realised that EV technology can save them money – when implemented correctly. The public sector bodies that have gained ‘Go Ultra Low Company’ status are perfect examples of how to make EVs work. 

The Go Ultra Low Companies initiative recognises public and private sector organisations that are leading the electric motoring revolution by adopting EVs now, and pledging to use even more before 2020. The response to the scheme has been excellent, with nearly 100 organisations signed up since launch in June 2016. 

Go Ultra Low Companies is a diverse group of organisations, demonstrating the suitability of EVs for almost every situation. This includes local councils, universities, public bodies and emergency services – such as Nottingham City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Birmingham, Transport for London (TfL), Cornwall NHS Trust, London Fire Brigade and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, to name but a few. 

EV fleet benefits 

Manchester Metropolitan University, for example, has stated that as a result of taking on 11 EVs, its fuel costs have been cut by around 80%, with carbon emissions down an estimated 8%. They expect to replace the remaining 18 vehicles in the university’s fleet with electric alternatives when they come up for renewal.

Another large public sector organisation looking to increase its EV fleet is TfL – in 2018 it hopes to run 120 EVs, up from 16 today. TfL’s electric fleet, which includes fuel cell EVs, keeps the capital moving by helping to maintain the street network and keep buses on the roads, while minimising impact on the environment. 

The granting of Go Ultra Low Company status is a recognition of these organisations’ ability to lead by example. Their work gives others the confidence to be bold and realise the multiple benefits that plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars can bring, including cost-savings and a carbon footprint reduction. 

Infrastructure barriers 

That said, we understand that EVs might not be right for everyone, right now, and that there are some perceived barriers to uptake – namely around charging infrastructure. 

Everyone in the industry is working towards providing chargepoints that are easy to find and easy to use. The Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill 2017 provides government with a number of powers to improve EV charging infrastructure, including making data on chargepoint location and availability openly accessible, as well as obliging chargepoint network operators to allow interoperability between networks. Instant access and a national, rather than regional, mindset when it comes to infrastructure is a high priority, to ensure charging networks are accessible to all motorists.  

New government investment for infrastructure and enhanced technology from vehicle manufacturers should answer many of the questions around range and charging that we receive from fleet operators. For example, employers can now apply for a £300 government grant per vehicle recharging socket to help fund the installation of workplace chargers, giving confidence and financial support to those progressive fleets looking to go electric. 

Fleets represent the lion’s share of the UK’s new car buyers, and some of the best work with EVs has been done in the public sector. You have the potential to shape the market and accelerate the nation’s automotive market to be entirely ultra-low emission.




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