Greening your fleet: a good idea?

We received a survey last week which was embargoed to yesterday. “Strange”, I thought, “to have a Sunday embargo on something.” On reading the survey, Behind the Wheel II from the …

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7th April 2008 at 12:35 pm

We received a survey last week which was embargoed to yesterday. “Strange”, I thought, “to have a Sunday embargo on something.” On reading the survey, Behind the Wheel II from the Energy Saving Trust, the penny dropped. It’s the start of a new tax year and the content of the survey – about cars and the environment – was germane to new measures taken by the Chancellor.

The Energy Saving Trust receives 98.67 percent of its money from government bodies. Two thirds of the small remainder are energy companies and hangers-on. This doesn’t alter the value of what it’s doing, but it is as well to know this kind of thing up front.

Fundamentally, the survey was pointing out the benefits of adopting green strategies for fleet car management. Although the report occasionally slipped into ‘company vehicle’ mode, it concentrated mainly on cars for business use. And, its main thrust was to urge companies to select vehicles with emissions of 120g/km or less with the main benefit of improving the bottom line for companies and fleet car users. As you might expect, the aim is to deliver environmental benefit as well.

According to the excellent Clean Green Cars motoring guide, you can choose from 30 cars at this level. I should mention that three ‘city cars’ are more or less identical, dropping the choice to 28. However, the 100 percent first-year capital allowance on car purchases has just dropped from sub-120g/km cars to those under 110g/km. Have you tried finding a car under 110g/km? (I have – I ended up at 139g/km. Smack, smack, naughty boy. Except I had my reasons.) The Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic IMA are the only two family-sized cars that fit the bill. Or you can choose from three superminis and the multi-manufacturer city car (Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 107) mentioned above.

The report notes that 49 percent of companies have a formal ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Environmental Policy’. Of those who do, only 33 percent address the impact of motor vehicles. If they were to take things more seriously then they could save money through fuel savings and lower taxes and duties, improve their environmental credentials which would help them secure work from large organisations and they could polish their public image to boot.

The report talks of upcoming taxes, like Vehicle Excise Duty for the largest cars rising to £950 in the first year and £455 in subsequent years. This comes into force in 2010. The impact on the residual value is likely to impact vehicle leasing costs. And, of course fuel costs are not going to stay still.

If you’re interested in the full sweep of the discussion, read the document. Or contact the Energy Saving Trust for a fleet survey. But always bear in mind that a lot of energy and raw materials go into building and shipping new vehicles to you. It may be that hanging on to a car for a bit longer could be the most environmentally friendly action you could take.

As editor Alex suggested, one day we could “get prestige for turning up in an old banger, rather than the latest model with a new reg plate.”

Nice one Alex.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. One thing that’s frustrating is that there are no good green van options, in particular no good electric vans. We trialled an electric van but it felt a bit like it had been made by a mad inventor in their shed at the bottom of the garden and not something that we could rely on to run our business. A shame as we could have saved a fortune on the congestion charge and been good eggs to boot. Right now, the available options simply aren’t good enough.

    PS you can read more about our reflections on the trial we had with the electric van by clicking my name above (I put it as the link).

  2. Hi Will. Hope your wrist has fully recovered. (This is a reference to an accident he had last year.)

    I notice that Sainsburys is using an Edison van: http://www.whatvan.co.uk/newvans_s.asp?id=5100

    Just in case you want to try again.

  3. Thanks, David. The wrist is all fine and dandy (though people tend to wonder if I tried to top myself, due to the scar from the op!).

    I did actually look at the Edison when I realised the other options weren’t going to meet our needs but the price, currently, is prohibitive. My guess is it’ll be at least 2 years before the market in commercial vehicles is ready for normal businesses rather than the big boys trying to burnish their green credentials.

    Of course, if you’ve got deep pockets and a taste for PR, the modec (http://www.modec.co.uk/) is pretty amazing (we had a test drive), though it’s very expensive and very large (so, for us, it’s both unaffordable and impractical). I believe Tesco have a fair few.

  4. Hi Will. Again. I’m sure you’re right. It is very early days for all this stuff. And most companies can’t afford to go green just for the sake of it.

    In order, our research has found that money comes first, then regulation, then PR value. ‘Concern for the environment’ is fifth in a list of six reasons.

  5. Thanks, David. I’d love to know what 4 and 6 in your survey were!

  6. 4: sales/expectations of customers
    6: pressure from shareholders/investors

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