Electric World?

Plugged In Fleets Initiative

An Energy Saving Trust strategic research report, the plugged-in fleets initiative, considers the benefits of electric vehicle fleets to business. There is a financial as well as environmental benefit to running fleets of electric vehicles, but will there be an up-take? This report aims to provide information on adopting plug-in vehicle fleets. The plug-in vehicles include pure electric vehicles (EVs), extended range electric vehicles (E-REVs) as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs).

The Energy Saving Trust worked with 20 organisations to undertake an analysis of their vehicle fleets and offered to identify and recommend where plugged-in vehicles could be of benefit to the business. Support was provided to help with information on vehicles, as well as safety, practical and financial implications when adopting new technology. The 20 organisations came from a broad range of sectors from government departments to large commercial companies. The organisations were from a range of geographical regions over the UK from Cumbria and Lancashire, in the north of England, to Southampton and London in the south. The review provided a step-by-step process that considered vehicle use, as well as the financial and infrastructure implications of replacing the existing vehicles with plug-ins. Key-decision makers in the organisation had to be engaged in the process to make it a success. Pure EVs have a limited range and this needed to be addressed as part of the fleet operation: whilst this is fine for vehicles that undertake more limited journeys it becomes an issue to operators who need an extended range for their operations. This is where issues such as recharging points and other electrical infrastructure provision becomes important.

The report highlights the issue of fleet managers not being aware if a plug-in vehicle is a good business investment when compared to a more conventionally powered car. Fuel costs have generally risen by 39% over the last three year according to this report; this is an obvious cost to any organisation. The 20 organisations had differing requirements and the vehicles were chosen to match those requirements and there was generally a favourable response to having reduced costs that the vehicles brought over the life time of the vehicle. This was set against the trend for rising petrol and diesel prices (perhaps due to peak oil?).

On interesting finding was the role that topography had on the range that a plug-in vehicle could travel. Another factor is how the vehicles are driven: A gentle driving style will ensure that the range is longer than a less gentle driving style. The range could be increased by 20% if the driver drove carefully. Driver training could play a role here. Charging the vehicle in the day could increase the distance travelled where it was necessary. To undertake an effective evaluation of plug-in vehicles, businesses generally need to consider the full life costs to see if they will benefit. Some businesses are more suitable than others due to their operating areas: if a business operates within a city it is more likely to benefit from these vehicles than a business that has high travel demands over longer distances. Realistic mileage estimates will help to achieve success when working with electrically powered vehicles.

One issue that was clearly identified was the lack of a re-charging infrastructure in the right place (e.g. on housing estates). If the vehicles cannot be re-charged then there is not longer an ability to drive them. In some places, such as London, better networks are being established. There are often incentive funds to install more charging points which would overcome this problem.

A benefit of using these vehicles is the reduction in carbon emissions and the reduction of poor air quality. Sometimes there are opportunities for business to become almost carbon neutral as a result of changing to one of the plug-in vehicles.

Conclusions: there is a real financial benefit of using plug-in vehicles if the whole life cost of the vehicle is taken into account. Some businesses are in a position to go 100% electric and this may benefit their carbon reduction commitments. The organisation must get key decision makers involved in the process. Infrastructure needs should be addressed as this is holding some companies back. Strategically placed charging points in the correct geographical locations is a must.

The full report can be viewed here.

The next article highlight’s Estonia’s push to add more infrastructure that will benefit that country’s adoption of plugged in vehicle fleets.

Estonia’s International Lead In Fast Charging Points

Estonia has become the first country in the world to install a fast-charge electric vehicle charging point network. It is now the world leader with its fast charging network and provides a universal service to those with electric vehicles. There are 165 web-connected direct current (DC) chargers. They can recharge an electric vehicle in 15 to 30 minutes making the service more viable. The charge points have been provided by Swiss firm ABB. Estonia is subsidising electric vehicles by 50% to encourage a much wider adoption.

The network has been installed in most towns and cities across the small country as the following map shows. As the country covers 45,227 square kilometres (17,462 square miles) it has been relatively easy to create a fairly comprehensive network. Not surprisingly there is a cluster of fast charging points around the capital city Tallinn which has around a third of the 1.2 million population (source Wikipedia). Payments can be undertaken by mobile phone application, so this is a hi-tec solution.

Estonia fast charge network

Estonia fast charge network

Source: http://elmo.ee/charging-network/

For further information see this Estonian World article.

UK Charging Points and Railway Electrification

Charging Points

The UK is paying £37 million towards new charging points. The investment is designed to increase the uptake of low carbon personal transport. The funding includes up to £13.5m for homeowners looking to install a domestic charge point, £11m for local authorities covering on-street charging, and £9m for train operators to install chargers at railway stations (source Business Green). The European Union has also outlined plans for a mandated car charging network. If this were to be the case then the UK could have around 122,000 electric charging points installed. See this Business Green article.

Railway Electrification

The national railway provider in the UK has committed to a large scale electrification program. Core routes to have diesel traction replaced with a new electric line include the London to Cardiff line, the lines in and around Manchester and Liverpool, the mainline from London to Sheffield and other local routes. Whilst this is great news that will help to improve the sustainability of the transport network there are some gaps from the maps. One missing section that seems illogical is the section from Sheffield to Leeds and Doncaster which would join up with the existing electrified network. Schemes such as this will add value in the longer term and appear to be a short-sighted omission. Fortunately the gap between Cardiff and Swansea in Wales has been filled: this was a fundamental mistake not to include this section of line when the plans were first announced. This program should benefit all areas concerned. Railways that are newly electrified tend to have higher growth rates than those that are not.

A map can be viewed on this Department for Transport link.


This article shows that much is being done to decarbonise the transport system. Given that the transport sector accounts for such a large proportion of carbon emissions, cars account for around 10% of carbon emitted for example (source Carbonica), any significant reductions here will have a positive impact. Some of the schemes are in the early days but research by the Energy Savings Trust will help to educate and, hopefully, lead to wider adoption of plug-in vehicles. Estonia has shown what can be done at the country level. The electric railways will lead to more efficient railway transport with few emissions at the source of train. In all these examples, the energy used needs to come from low-carbon sources to offer a tangible difference to total carbon emitted.


About mappedit

Geographical practitioner with an interest in climate change, open mapping, sustainability, the transition movement, transport and many other things.
This entry was posted in Air Quality, Climate Change, Electric Car, Energy, Estonia, Peak Oil, railways, Sustianable Transport and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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