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    Industry Event Review: Energy Saving Trust Fleet Heroes Conference

    The 2018 Energy Saving Trust Fleet Heroes Awards included a conference about the latest developments in the area of ultra-low emission vehicles and fleets – so what’s the latest news in the industry?…

    Dr Bob Moran, Department for Transport, talked about Fleets on the Road to Zero. Bob highlighted that we need to tackle climate change quicker than we thought, and that 90% of world’s children breathe toxic air every day, so we need to get more people into cleaner vehicles, and the next CO2 targets for car manufacturers need to be ambitious.

    The UK government’s Road to Zero strategy was launched earlier this year, and the 100-year evolution being swept away by the zero emission vehicle revolution is coming far quicker than most people anticipated – and to accelerate the progress, more collaboration is needed than was ever imagined. One potential area for improvement, acknowledged by Bob, is with EV charging.

    The prizes for working together to develop solutions in this sector are clean growth and a healthy environment. Towns and cities are leading the way with the move to zero emission transport, and many of the organisations at the forefront of the shift were amongst the winners at the awards ceremony.

    Matthew Eastwood, Energy Saving Trust, reiterated the message from Bob Moran that 2018 has been a pivotal year for EVs, with initiatives such as the Road to Zero and the Prime Minister’s Zero Emission Vehicle Summit. The Energy Saving Trust has been working with public and private sector fleets around the UK to achieve significant emission and cost savings. Matthew also confirmed the view that the best way to convince drivers of the benefits of zero emission vehicles is to get them behind the wheel.

    Mark Thompson, Innovate UK, stressed the business opportunity for the UK as a result of the move to zero emission vehicles. The automotive industry is undergoing huge change, and is having to work ever more closely with the energy industry.

    The charging of electric vehicles is an area that is much debated, and Mark believed that there wouldn’t be one ‘silver bullet’, but that diversity would be the way forward – in other words, different solutions for different people. We’re also moving to a situation where there will be rewards for helping the grid – EV owners will get paid to charge, if the grid can then take back energy if it’s needed.

    Innovate UK is involved in a range of projects associated with electric vehicles and charging, including the £246m Faraday Challenge to develop batteries in the UK, a £30m V2G programme, and OLEV has £40m for 10 projects including in the area of wireless charging, such as for taxi ranks.

    David George, MINI, talked about four areas of change for the car industry: Electrification, Autonomy, Connectivity and Car Sharing. There has been significant growth in EV sales over the last 12 months, although EVs still represent a relatively small proportion of new cars, but many more models will be appearing over the next few years. David referred to Norway, where, due to government tax incentives, over a short period of time 50% of vehicle sales are now electric.

    Linked in with the increase in EV sales, BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Ford have collaborated on the IONITY rapid charging network in Europe, with the aim of providing a charging solution for long journeys.

    Car sharing is also a rapidly growing trend; Drive Now is an initiative from BMW and MINI offering people cars when they need them, without having to own one.

    A pure electric MINI will be launched in 2019 – the same year that the MINI brand will be 60 years old. By 2025, 25 BMW Group products will be electrified.

    Ian Cameron, UKPN, explained about the challenge of local electricity networks coping with the charging of rapidly increasing numbers of electric vehicles. Like Mark Thompson, Ian used the phrase ‘diversity is key’, but in a different context, this time referring to the need for EVs to be charged at ‘diverse’ times – in other words, not all being charged at peak times.

    UKPN carries out ‘EV Impact Mapping’ to forecast where EVs are likely to be connected to the grid. The challenge with capacity lies at a local level, on the low voltage networks. Increasing the network capacity is expensive and takes time – potentially up to 18 months – so smarter solutions are being rolled out where possible. Incentives will be coming, to pay EV owners who are able to be more flexible with their charging. This applies to individual EV owners, and the impacts are magnified many times with large commercial fleets – including large electric bus depots, which are already appearing in London, and many more will be needed: there are 143 electric buses in London now, with 8,600 to go…

    Caroline Sandall, ESE Consulting, agreed with other speakers that we’re in a period of unprecedented change, for the automotive industry and for fleets. With ongoing issues including BIK, WLTP and Brexit, it’s hoped that the Spring 2019 Budget will give some clarity for fleets, and cities around the UK are due to provide more details about their Clean Air Zones over the coming months.

    Keith Kelly, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, talked about Enterprise Car Club, which aims to provide a solution to the ever-increasing issue of congestion, by encouraging car sharing rather than car ownership. Keith explained how the average car spends 80% of the time parked at home, 16% of the time parked elsewhere, and it moves just 4% of the time.

    The Fleet Heroes Awards showed that the Energy Saving Trust is a key partner in the collaboration that is now developing between government, the public sector and the private sector to accelerate the transition to ultra-low and zero emission vehicles.

    You can view all the winners of the Fleet Heroes Awards here

    Paul Clarke

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham