Understanding the options for transitioning your business fleet
10th May 2023
Switching your fleet from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to more environmentally friendly ones is a big decision. It’s also one that’s likely to represent a big investment. So, it’s not surprising that every organisation wants to get it right first time.
There’s a fair amount of choice – and a lot of abbreviated names – around, though. So, it’s important to understand the options, their respective environmental credentials and their likely cost impact for your organisation.
Here, we compare the different technologies that could help electrify your fleet.
Battery electric vehicles
These are vehicles that run solely on electricity. They’ve got large batteries which drivers need to plug in to charge before driving. They haven’t got any other fuel inputs, so while their full abbreviation is BEV, the ‘B’ is optional.
As an increasing proportion of generated electricity comes from renewable sources, BEVs are a more sustainable alternative to ICE vehicles. They produce no carbon emissions or harmful ‘tailpipe’ pollution.
EVs are cheaper to run than ICE or hybrid (see below) vehicles, as electricity’s cheaper per mile than petrol or diesel, and carries no fuel duty. They’re also exempt from clean-air zone charges and offer tax benefits.
With fewer moving parts than traditionally powered or hybrid vehicles, EVs tend to incur lower maintenance costs, too.
Their upfront purchase or lease prices are high, though, so it’s worth carrying out total cost of ownership (TCO) calculations to project the financial impact of switching to an EV fleet. A pure EV fleet also has the potential to become an asset rather than a cost centre as vehicle to grid (V2G) charging comes onstream at scale.
Upsides of BEVs
- Zero ‘tailpipe’ emissions
- Valuable incentives to switch
- Potentially lower whole-life costs than petrol, diesel or hybrid vehicles
- A future-proof choice, particularly given the approaching ban on the manufacture of petrol and diesel vehicles
Downsides of BEVs
- Investment in charging facilities likely to be necessary
- On-site charging facilities may require additional electric infrastructure
- You may require an audit of your organisation’s – and your fleet drivers’ – needs before making the business case for EVs
Mild hybrid vehicles
'MHEVs’ are effectively ICE vehicles with a more powerful starter motor called a belt alternator starter (or a 40V battery). This enables them to recover energy that’d normally be lost in braking.
MHEVs use this energy to recharge their battery, which then helps to turn the wheels, offering some improvements to torque and efficiency. They’re very rarely powered by electricity alone, often using petrol as a reserve for when the electricity runs out.
Mild hybrids are a step in the right direction towards sustainability. However, their reliance on a secondary fuel means that there are still associated tailpipe emissions.
As a result of the secondary fuel, hybrids may have a greater range than BEVs. If greater sustainability is the goal, however, then hybrids won’t be the best solution.
Self-charging hybrid vehicles
These vehicles (often called just ‘hybrids’ or ‘HEVs’) combine an ICE – usually petrol driven – with an electric motor and a much bigger battery pack than their mild hybrid cousins. They charge their batteries through regenerative braking and via the ICE.
An HEV’s battery can power the vehicle on its own – though rarely for more than a couple of miles at a time. HEVs typically rely on a combination of battery and ICE for power.
Like mild hybrids, the use of a secondary fuel means HEVs still produce tailpipe emissions.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles
These combine an ICE with an electric motor and a much larger battery pack that can charge from mains electricity.
Battery-only driving range is generally greater than it is for self-charging hybrids. However, many plug-in hybrid owners charge their batteries infrequently. This makes them less efficient over time and leads to reliance on the ICE for the majority of mileage, leading to greater emissions and fuel costs.
Upsides of hybrids
- Potentially greater fuel economy than comparable ICE vehicles
- Lower carbon emissions than comparable ICE vehicles
- Cheaper vehicle excise duty than comparable ICE vehicles
- Exempt from some ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) and congestion charging zone fees
Downsides of hybrids
- All hybrids still produce carbon emissions and tailpipe pollution unless in electric-only mode
- Less opportunity to benefit financially from smart charging and potential V2G services
- Interim technology that may become outdated as the Government’s 2035 deadline for ICE-vehicle manufacture approaches
BEVs are the most sustainable option when it comes to commercial fleets.
Any progress, however, is better than no progress. If hybrid EVs are more appropriate for your organisation’s specific needs, they’re the right option – and still a step in the right direction in terms of reducing emissions.
If you’re thinking of switching from ICEs to EVs, get in touch with the Drax Electric Vehicles team today to find out how we can help you.Contact us