In the final part of our series on electric vehicles (EVs), we’ll be looking at how to manage the day-to-day operations of your EV fleet, with a particular eye on how you pay for charging.
According to Zap-Map data (Jan 2021), there are 36,500 public charging points at 13,300 locations across the UK. For comparison, there are 8,380 petrol stations in the country and numbers have fallen 35% since 2000. That might indicate that EVs have already eclipsed internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, but consider that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) only account for a small number of cars on the road, so the 13,300 locations are going to have to increase in number rapidly to keep up with demand.
The key issue with EVs, as we have noted in previous blogs, is that they take significantly longer to refuel than ICE vehicles – hours instead of minutes. This means that while a single petrol pump would be able to refuel hundreds of vehicles every day, a single EV charging station would be able to recharge a handful at most.
It will be crucial to understand where your fleet is charging and how it will be paid for. Some companies may have charging points in depots, others may allow employees to charge vehicles at home, but many will require at least some charging to be done at public charging points, and the costs have to be factored in.
By this point you should know if your investment in EV and other alternative fuel technologies will be practical over the long term. If your company’s system for paying for fuel is to have workers’ pay for fuel then claim the money back later through expense forms then you might find this is incompatible with the day-to-day reality of EV charging.
Vehicles in an electric fleet will generate more employee mileage claims due to the need to recharge more often, which will increase the administrative burden of paying for fuel. There is also the issue of the increased potential for fraud, both from employees themselves and the possibility of being the victim of fraud from compromised charging stations.
It will also be necessary to make sure that businesses can claim VAT on any electricity they use – an electronic system for this would work far better than excepting all drivers to keep VAT receipts.
Finally, as we have mentioned before, it will be necessary to plan routes differently to make sure that vehicles are never too far from a fuelling station and to factor in charging times.
One of the take-aways from a recent survey of UK businesses who have vehicle fleets is that they are paying for charging in a number of ways, often concurrently*. The most common method (32%) is Pay and Reclaim, which has several drawbacks, followed closely by paying a charging provider directly (29%) and allowing all drivers to use one single company credit card (28%). Only 6% of businesses used fuel cards, even though they could solve many of the problems outlined above when charging on the road.
Fuel cards work with multiple charging point providers, allow expenses to be tracked on a per-vehicle or per-employee basis and allow for VAT to be deducted. Unlike the Pay and Reclaim model, fuel cards allow for flexible repayments, which will be especially useful in a post-COVID period when your business is looking to rebuild your working capital.
One thing we have been keen to emphasise throughout this series is that while having a fully electric fleet one day is an inevitability, you should view this as an opportunity rather than a burden. You won’t just be reducing emissions, which is a worthy goal by itself, but by introducing new ways of paying for fuel you can streamline payments and make efficiency savings a part of your company’s everyday operations.
Download your copy of our 6 Steps to an Electric Fleet here.