Why the industry needs to look beyond EVs

Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 07:45

The adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) continues to increase, with figures showing that there were over 420,000 fully-electric cars on UK roads at the end of February 2022. This is in part due to the Government’s announcement that they will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030, with all new cars and vans being fully zero emission at the tailpipe by 2035.

Whilst EVs are a necessary move if we are to reduce pollution and meet net zero targets, they fail to solve the critical issue of congestion. Therefore, if we are to really tackle transport’s contribution to emissions, which was 27% of the UK’s total in 2019, we must look towards other more efficient modes of transport. An electric car-centric approach just won’t cut it.

This means that those who manage a fleet have a key role to play in encouraging and facilitating a move away from low-occupancy vehicles, and towards a future of shared transport. Whilst petrol and diesel cars will remain on our roads long past 2035, this will help reduce commuting times, traveller health and wellbeing, in addition to traffic related air pollution.

The problems EVs won’t solve

Congestion remains a real issue, with the number of vehicles on the road steadily increasing every year from 2000 to 2022. This has continued to lengthen journey times and increase stress levels for commuters, business travellers, parents and their school children travelling at peak times. EVs will only add to the number of vehicles already on the road, and we are already running out of space in our cities, especially for parking.

In addition, to support EV use and meet the growing demand, we need space for more charging stations, plus EVs are semiconductor dependent and chip shortages could restrict EV production going forward. There is also the lack of battery manufacturing capacity worldwide which is likely to restrict production.

Furthermore, 81% of people feel that EVs are still too expensive. This means that many fleet buyers are increasingly looking to shared transport, such as coaches and minibuses, as a solution to get their travellers where they need to be.

How shared transport providers can help fleet managers

To solve the issues highlighted, shared transport providers need to identify how they can make shared transport more attractive to the fleet buyer and the traveller. Encouraging people away from using their cars on business is a challenging task, but employers have a key role in clarifying how their employees can change their behaviour to reduce their business miles, to help the company deliver their net-zero strategy. Similarly, shared transport solutions needs to become more attractive to the businesses themselves so that they can understand the benefits, when compared to buying individual electric cars for their company car fleets.

Fleet managers need to incentivise their colleagues to leave the car behind, and switch to progressive alternatives like a shuttle service to help them commute or move around from one location to another. Currently, more than half of employees drive petrol and diesel vehicles to work, which will need to change if company carbon-neutral or net-zero targets are to be hit by 2030.

Similarly, providing safe, smart, and green school transport is essential to avoiding increased congestion around the school gates. If parents are still driving children to school, regardless of what vehicle they are in, congestion in the peak will remain an issue, and a dangerous one at that. It may also be the case that many parents will struggle to afford an EV, and will rely more heavily on shared transport for the school run if this is the case.

If fleet managers can better understand and highlight the benefits of shared transport to their organisations then there could be real benefits, not just for staff, management and stakeholders, but also for every local community in the UK.

Changing the transportation model

If we are to significantly reduce the level of carbon emissions that road transport creates, then we need to reevaluate the transport model and shift our focus away from low-occupancy vehicles. The length of the average car journey in the UK is 8.4 miles which means that we need to encourage business travellers in particular to make as many of these short journeys as possible via safer, greener, smarter modes such as shared transport.

At a time when petrol prices and the cost of living in general are rocketing, there is enhanced incentive for increased uptake of shared transport. Owning and operating a car is becoming increasingly costly and many employees have expressed that they would look for an alternative transport method for the commute if costs increased. This opens up the door to a safer, greener, smarter alternative – which forward-thinking fleet buyers and managers can provide.

As fleet management experts, we can offer good alternatives to taking the car, and pave the way for a future of sustainable business travel. In turn, this should have a ripple effect leading to both enhanced brand reputation and improved local community health as a result of less polluted air, a far reduced impact on the environment and a reduction in congestion that will make our cities, and our world, much better places to be.

Author: Godfrey Ryan, CEO of transport specialist, Kura

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