Over the past decade, a wider range of green cars has become available on the market, widening the choice for fleet managers. Opting for a green car fleet is now a more common option for businesses. Many reasons justify this choice:
However, green cars are more expensive to buy than traditional petrol/diesel ones.
As the “green” car market is relatively new and expanding, leasing rather than buying seems to be the most appropriate option to ensure businesses benefit from the latest technological progress and to acquire the latest green and fuel-efficient vehicles in their fleet.
Main types of green cars
Green cars have been around for a while but it was not before the launch of the hybrid Toyota, with a hybrid gas/electric motor in 2000 that corporate interest in these vehicles grew.
Hybrid cars use an internal combustion engine and an electric motor: most of the power comes from the regular internal combustion engine (petrol or diesel for instance). The power needed for the electric motor is generated whilst driving, there is no need to plug in to charge. The electric motor is like a generator. Though the latest hybrid vehicles allow driving on electric power alone for low speed, the electric motor is usually used to provide an extra boost.
These vehicles are more recent but the principle is the same as previously, i.e. combining an internal combustion engine with an electric motor based on a high capacity battery; still the internal combustion engine is the primary engine, the electric motor can also be used to power the car at normal speeds. The car needs to be plugged into a power outlet to charge the battery. Plug-in hybrid vehicles are more environmentally friendly than hybrids, with lower fuel consumption and less greenhouse gas emissions.
With a fully-charged battery lasting under 100 kilometers, it means the PHEV is adapted to most commuting but not for long distance business journeys.
These vehicles are more recent. The combination of an internal combustion engine and an electrical motor is the same as previously; however, the electric motor is here the primary engine. The internal combustion one is there to power a generator that recharges the batteries (therefore extends the operational range of the vehicle). To be most efficient, it needs to be plugged into a power outlet to charge the battery. Vehicles with range extenders are similarly environmentally friendly to hybrid cars, with lower fuel consumption and less greenhouse gas emissions than regulars cars.
With a fully-charged battery lasting under 100 kilometers, it means this type of car is adapted to most commuting but not for long distance business journeys.
Electric vehicles are run thanks to a rechargeable battery. They do not emit any pollutants and are very quiet and smooth to drive. They require less maintenance than internal combustion engines. Drawbacks are the full recharge time for the battery (4 to 8 hours), driving range (around 100 kilometres) and availability of charging stations. The battery is also quite bulky and expensive to replace. Most main manufacturers have a range of electric vehicles.
There are other types of green cars available (fuel cells, biofuels, LPG...) however these are not the most convenient as commercial fleet vehicles and refuelling stations are not always available.
Managing the green car fleet
The first step is to know the precise requirements of the business (goods transport or people carrier, company travel patterns, mileage...) and define the type, shape and size of vehicles needed as well as the type of engine.
Then see what green lease vehicles meet the company’s requirements and check consumer-specific driving data as they will be more accurate than the advertised vehicle consumption as promoted on the manufacturer’s manuals. Statistics show that fuel consumption is on average 15% higher than what is indicated by the manufacturer. This bit of research will help choosing the “best in class” car, the one that meets the company’s budget and performance needs (fitness for purpose). Data recorded must include not only consumption and acquisition, but also pollutant emissions, road performance and depreciation. This data will be the basis on which to set up improvement targets.
Preparing a “green fleet travel guide” tailored to the business will anchor the topic within the company’s culture; it will include the promotion of green vehicles, the management of fuel/electricity consumption, mileage reduction, journey planning, travel expenses and the driver’s training and objectives as best practice.
Statistics show that drivers are usually less careful with fleet vehicles than they would be with their personal cars, which results in double the mileage, fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
This situation, and the fact that hybrids or electric vehicles require modified driving techniques makes it necessary, when opting for a green fleet, to provide some training to drivers on awareness of environmental issues, efficient driving and cost reduction. Indeed, company drivers must learn about the specifications of their hybrid, plug-in hybrid, range extenders or electric vehicle to adapt their behaviour and drive in a fuel-efficient manner in order to achieve fuel consumption close to that indicated by the manufacturer and generate savings. Longer journeys may be replaced by conference calls or made by public transport as the green car will be inadequate. Speed limits need to be observed, and commercial vans are more and more often equipped with speed limiters.
Employees need to be on board to make sure the green fleet experience is successful and it may be helpful to count on some HR support as well. Without this “green driving” education, corporate drivers will not make the most of the car and expected savings and green objectives will not be realised.
Maintenance and monitoring
As for traditional vehicles, regular maintenance and services help with lowering consumption and carbon emissions: tyre pressure, oil change, clean air filters, all helps bring down pollutant emissions.
There are also technological tools to help maximise efficiency such as GPS (Sat-Nav), fuel management software, etc. that help with efficient route planning and mileage control.
Monitor by doing a regular fleet health check: Track and collect data on the performance of each fleet car on a regular basis: Consumption, pollutant emissions, road performance, distance covered and depreciation. This will give a clear idea of whether or not the vehicle is driven efficiently – as a badly driven green vehicle can generate even more greenhouse gases than a traditional car. It will enable a comparison on how drivers perform against one another and identify opportunities for improvements.