Within just the last decade, the choice of low emission cars has increased dramatically. There are more options across all segments; from MPVs to superminis and engine type; petrol, diesel, hybrid and all-electric.
As a general rule smaller cars should always be greener, but can the aspiration to run a green fleet reconcile with the practicalities of the business needs? A fleet manager should use their skills and expertise to make a difference to the environment whilst reducing the overall emissions of their fleet.
Saving fuel costs
Choosing the most fuel-efficient car in its sector could save the cost of up to four months’ fuel each year.
New car fuel economy and emissions data is published in many places. However, if your drivers are based in central London or spend all day on the motorway vehicle performance figures will alter dramatically:
- Record keeping: Good records should identify poorly performing vehicles and more aggressive drivers, which alone has enabled many fleets to generate significant savings.
- Education: Driver training is a pre-requisite, especially as a tank of fuel can now cost as much as £100. By demonstrating to drivers how a green approach to driving can reduce their private motoring costs the business could also reap the reward.
Choice of fuel
With a greater choice of fuel types and technology available, it would be prudent to consider the environment in which the cars operate and examine the cost/benefit ratio of each option:
- Diesel: These cars are generally more fuel-efficient than a petrol equivalent, but both the car and the fuel are more expensive to buy.
- Petrol: Technology has improved significantly in recent years and now some very fuel-efficient models are appearing on fleet lists.
- Hybrids: Combining a battery with a conventional engine, hybrids are more expensive to buy than petrol or diesel models and perform at their best in urban environments.
- All-electric: At the moment models available are small, expensive and have a limited range. However, new technology is continuing to bring them closer to the fleet market.
Government taxation policy has two key objectives; to generate revenue and influence behaviour.
This has been well demonstrated since the introduction of the CO2 emissions basis of driver taxation in 2002, and its extension to capital allowances in 2009. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), since the turn of the century the CO2 emissions of the average new car have fallen from 181g/km in mostly petrol cars, to around 123g/km in mostly diesel cars, and the UK is well positioned to meet the 2015 EU target of 130g/km.
A full summary of the ways in which taxation can influence fleet managers’ thinking is contained in part 3 of the Fleet Manager’s Guide, Fleet Funding and Taxation. However, it’s worth emphasizing that small cars are generally greener, and therefore potentially more tax efficient.
Reducing business miles
The apparently obvious way to become more environmentally friendly and so reduce fuel costs would be to scale back car use, but how can a fleet manager realistically prise the wheel from the drivers’ hands?
- Journey planning: Advance preparation can make a huge difference to employee productivity and fuel costs. Fleet managers should help drivers to plan properly by making them aware of route planning websites, and ensuring that satellite navigation is used wherever possible.
- Working from home: Home working can save many unnecessary miles and lost time, but the employer must ensure that adequate work facilities are provided to the employee.
- Car sharing: This can often be overlooked. At the very least employees travelling to the same destination on a regular basis should be expected to organise something informally.
- Cycling, walking and public transport: This can have many great advantages, and making employees aware that other options exist can result in many positive changes. Use of tax incentives, such as the Bike2Work scheme, can help to promote awareness and enhance any employer’s flexible benefit scheme.
- Technology: Advances in technology probably present the greatest opportunity to reduce business miles. Web conferences, conference calling, instant messaging are all possibilities that may persuade a driver not to make a 400 mile round trip.