Between climate change and air pollution, there’s no doubt about the need to reduce vehicle emissions. In recent years, it’s become a hot topic in politics, the media and our industry.
Indeed, it seems like barely a week goes by without another major announcement on this subject – whether it’s a manufacturer declaring that they will no longer sell diesel cars in Europe, a local council proposing new policies to deter the most polluting vehicles, or the Treasury consulting on tax changes to incentivise low-emission vehicles.
Policymakers at every level – local, national and global – are introducing measures designed to accelerate the transition to low-emission transport.
The Mayor of London is introducing an Ultra Low Emission Zone next year, and intends to follow it with Zero Emission Zones from 2020. Councils around the country are drawing up plans for new Clean Air Zones, which may include restrictions or fees on the dirtiest vehicles. The Government raised taxes on new diesel cars in April, and is soon due to publish its ‘Road to Zero’ strategy for reducing road transport emissions.
Meanwhile, the European Union has introduced the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, or WLTP, which will be mandatory for all new cars as of 1 September. This will change the way carbon dioxide emission figures are calculated, and may result in new cars falling into different bands for the purposes of Company Car Tax, first-year Vehicle Excise Duty and capital allowances.
With so much changing, fleets cannot afford to stand still. Now is the time to start your journey to zero emissions.
The move to electric
For many fleets, that journey will ultimately involve a transition to electric vehicles. And the good news is that EV options are improving all the time. Manufacturers are continuously developing new and better models of plug-in car that can go further on a single charge. Electric vans are becoming increasingly popular, too: there are now several models available with ranges of over 100 miles.
British company Tevva has even begun to convert existing HGVs to run on electricity, and offers conversions of new trucks up to 16 tonnes to be fully electric. Both Daimler and Tesla have unveiled their own versions of electric truck, each with projected ranges of over 200 miles.
Of course, electric vehicles need somewhere to be charged up – and here too there is welcome progress. According to Zap Map, there are now more than 16,800 public charge points at over 5,800 locations around the UK, and the Government is offering grants to help individuals and businesses install private ones. Nevertheless, more investment is needed in both technology and infrastructure before electric vehicles become a viable option for all fleets.
But switching to electric vehicles isn’t the only way for fleets to reduce their emissions. Other alternative fuels – including gas, biodiesel and hydrogen – all offer green solutions too, particularly for HGVs and specialist vehicles.
A lot depends on your vehicles’ journey profiles. Small electric vans might be most suitable for deliveries within towns and cities, for example, while other fuels may be preferable for larger trucks that do longer journeys.
And don’t forget about petrol and diesel, either. New internal combustion engines are much cleaner and more fuel-efficient than they used to be, so upgrading your fleet can reduce both your emissions and your fuel costs. As an added benefit, the newest Euro 6/VI-compliant vehicles won’t have to pay to drive in London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone or any of the Clean Air Zones being introduced around the country.
It's not all about alternative fuels
There are also other, less obvious ways to reduce your emissions. By using telematics to monitor and analyse your drivers’ behaviour and providing extra training to those who need it, you can help them to drive more fuel-efficiently. And you can make a big difference by implementing best practice across your fleet when it comes to vehicle maintenance, such as looking after the tyres properly. In fact, making sure all your tyres are inflated to the right pressure and have the right tread depth is important for both environmental and safety reasons.
And then there are the bespoke products that reduce a car’s emissions. AdBlue is an exhaust additive that transforms a diesel car’s harmful NOx emissions into harmless water and nitrogen. CGON, meanwhile, is a unit that can be added to a petrol or diesel car. It generates its own hydrogen which mixes with the normal fuel to burn off most of the pollutants.
So, remember: the journey to zero emissions won’t be completed overnight, and it’s not all about switching to electric vehicles immediately. It requires an intelligent, pragmatic approach that takes into account all the relevant factors, from your operational requirements to forthcoming policy changes. It’s time to begin.