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Leasing a green fleet

Hybrid and electric company cars could save cash as well as carbon.

Car manufacturers are developing mass-market EVs and hybrids that would make low-carbon driving an affordable reality. But UK businesses need to start adding greener vehicles to their fleets if we’re going to meet our carbon reduction targets and reduce emissions from our roads. PQ talks to James Wilkes from Greenhous about the options available and why the switch to green company cars makes good business sense.

While there are plenty of electric and hybrid vehicles available, one big barrier to uptake for companies is an issue they share with general drivers: range anxiety. It’s all well and good if you work in a service industry with lots of city-based start-stop journeys, but what about employees who need to drive further than the 100 miles they’d usually get from a daily charge?

While that may once have been a legitimate excuse, today’s hybrids make it a difficult point to argue. Greenhous has been supplying dealer services for over a century, and the group — one of the Sunday Times’s top 100 privately owned businesses — now has a dedicated website for electric and hybrid vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The Vauxhall Ampera extended range vehicle can exceed 300 miles and the Volvo V60 hybrid has a range of over 500 miles. On top of that, different types of electric and hybrid vehicle are appearing on the market that make greener fleets a possibility for a wider range of industries. Small EV and hybrid vans, such as the electric plug-in Nissan ENV 200, are great for local traders, from painters and decorators to electricians, plumbers and florists.

If you work in a town or city and need to drive around the local area, you can have a charging point installed at your home for free under a government subsidy, just like any other consumer. Central London operators would also avoid congestion charges, and wouldn’t need to worry about the costs of engine wear and fuel that stack up if you drive conventional petrol or diesel cars, which are very inefficient over short journeys.

While some financial benefits are black and white, there are other less obvious advantages for companies switching to a greener fleet. Speaking to PQ, James Wilkes says, ‘Financial gurus are reporting that the improved financial position of companies with good carbon performance is a clear indicator that it makes good business sense to manage and reduce carbon emissions.’ He cites a recent financial survey that shows almost 60% of reported actions to reduce emissions have seen a payback of three years or less. An increasing number of companies are not only realising the benefits of reducing their carbon emissions, but are also looking to incorporate the cost and benefits of their environmental impact into their financial accounts.

‘Companies have come to realise that not only can they cut costs and improve their reputation by reducing their impact on the environment, they can also seek to diminish the potential future costs from the imposition of regulatory mechanisms, including pollution taxes and higher insurance premiums’, James says. ‘There has been a big increase in the number of companies reporting reduced greenhouse gas emissions, up from 19% to 45% in a year, which suggests business leaders are becoming more aware of the need to market their “green” credentials. Companies that are being proactive now understand that they can gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.’

Greenhous has been supplying dealer services for over a century, and the group consistently ranks in the Motor Trader and Automotive Management Top 20 dealers. The company was one of the UK’s very first Vauxhall dealers, and today includes Nissan, Toyota, Volvo, Renault, Dacia and DAF Trucks in its network of car and commercial dealerships, which stretches across Shropshire and the West Midlands. As well as staying true to the values of its founder Vincent Greenhous, who launched the company in 1912 with a focus on customer service, today the company has a standalone website for its hybrid and pure electric vehicles, which are available from Greenhous dealerships. The vehicles are in stock and ready to go — wherever you are in the UK.

Its system has a portal that allows fleet customers access to their vehicles, from the time of processing the order through to the construction, the progress and the date of delivery, with real-time updates. ‘It’s an immensely powerful and informative tracking tool for the customer’, says James.

The main cost is the lease of the vehicle; the ‘fuel’ costs are markedly reduced and will vary in magnitude depending on the EV or hybrid vehicle chosen. ‘Studies show the CO2 created by charging electric cars compared with that emitted by efficient diesel engine cars for the same distance travelled is markedly reduced’, says James. At present there is zero road tax on these vehicles and, if operating in central London, there’s no congestion charge.

James recognises that corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a great way for companies to reduce their impact on the environment, and therefore also improve business and increase potential customers. Switching to a greener fleet by leasing electric or hybrid vehicles is just the start for companies that want to improve their green credentials; if they also installed solar panels or wind turbines at their base then renewable energy sources could be used to charge the vehicles. On top of that, driving vehicles with low or zero particulate emissions improves the local air quality, so greener cars really would benefit everyone.

For more information on the green fleets available, visit their website.

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