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24 May 2023 < Back

The good, the bad & the frustrating aspects of going all-electric!

As many of our members will know - you rack up a lot of miles throughout the year! But high miles mean a high environmental impact and back in 2022, PCA member JBB Knotweed Solutions made the commitment to begin the shift to a fully electric fleet for their teams.

Having spoken to a few people at the 2022 Invasive Weed Conference last November on the topic, they are sharing the good, the bad, and the.... frustrating aspects of how it has been going in this guest blog! So, if you have been considering going 'all electric'...then this is certainly a read for you!

So...why would a company go all-electric?

Electric vehicles (EV) have been posited as the future and form a part of a lot of UK businesses' ESG agenda. We will let you form your own opinion of whether EVs are the way forward over the long term, however, there are several compelling reasons to consider adopting an electric fleet. Here are a few of the thoughts behind our decision:

Reducing operational costs is without a doubt a major consideration - it would be a tough sell if EV's resulted in an increased expense line on the P&L, right? Whilst it is slowly becoming less financially appealing with increased electricity costs, there are some good EV-focused tariffs on the market.

Tax incentives are still very good and despite changes being on the horizon, the bottom-line benefit is still very worthwhile. Additionally, EVs have far fewer mechanical parts which typically correlates to reduced vehicle maintenance. Whilst the long-term maintenance costs of EVs remain largely unknown functionality like regenerative breaking will likely reduce normal wear & tear experienced with fuel cars. Major cities across the country have or are introducing Low Emissions Zones (LEZ) with charges for non-compliant vehicles.  In Scotland, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Dundee have already implemented LEZs with Glasgow's becoming live in June 2023. Elsewhere in the UK, Low Emission Zones (and Ultra LEZ's) are already a factor, with the Greater London area, Birmingham, Manchester, Birmingham... to name just a few, with several other districts announcing plans for the future.

Enhance your company's environmental credentials. Tens of thousands of miles every year means a lot of CO2 emissions! Invasive Weed companies are already playing an important role by helping to reduce the environmental and ecological impact of non-native invasive species in the UK. Championing this aspect of the industry should be a core part of our message, as the sector continues to evolve away from the omni-focus on property and infrastructure damage. Reducing your company's carbon footprint can enhance your company's reputation and at the same time inspiring others to do the same.  Furthermore, if your firm competes for any tendered work, demonstrating that your company operates with EVs can be a source of added value and help improve your environmental scores.

Employee satisfaction. Ok, so it isn't all rosy.... and we will get to some of the challenges shortly, but the EV driving experience is awesome. Our teams find the overall EV driving experience to be extremely satisfying, particularly on long journeys. Again, this is somewhat subjective and will differ between vehicles and opinions, however EVs are typically seen as premium vehicle options and therefore seen as an extra benefit to employees.

OK... So EVs are not without their challenges! Here are some of the problems we have encountered.....

The charging network simply isn't good enough. You may recall the horror stories at Christmas of EV drivers having to queue for hours due to the demand for charging stations.  Whilst this is not our day-to-day experience, we have experienced queues, broken charging units and difficulties when trying to charge across the border. If you are considering going electric, be warned - charging will be a big hassle sometimes! In fact.... quite a lot of the time! 

Charging costs are increasing. Whilst there are still some local authority districts that offer free or heavily subsidised charging rates, they are becoming few and far between and likely to disappear altogether over the coming 12 months. In Scotland, the largest public charging network (Glasgow) has gone from being completely free to being one of the most expensive, charging 79p per kw/hr for fast charging from April 2023. Does £60 for around 230 miles sound like an extraordinarily attractive proposition to you......?

Scotland. 5 million or so people spread over huge, and at times challenging to access areas. A population density in the region of 70 people per square kilometre means that the availability of reliable charging facilities can be a problem as you head to more remote parts of the country. We have experienced lots of delays and challenges in charging - that 5-hour round trip can easily become 8 hours!

Planning can become a big factor, both to ensure that you can make it to and from your destination, but also to ensure that you utilise the downtime for charging effectively. The night before you will need to make sure you have sufficient charge to make it to your destination on time, but you will probably want to make it home too! Depending on the network that you are using, this isn't as straightforward as picking the one you want on the map before you set off - you will often need a plan A, B, & C! Queues and broken stations are pretty common (and range anxiety is real.....)

Battery depletion in cold weather. In winter, expect to get way less milage than you would in summer! Batteries simply aren't made for UK winters, and as a result, it is likely that you will experience a significantly reduced range. From our experience, this was around 15-20% fewer miles per charge over the winter months. What does this mean? More planning, more charging, more cost, more hassle....!

Vans on the market just don't have the range or the network to rely on. We have found that for surveyors, EVs work in Scotland. Downtime at charging stations can still be productive. For field operations that require equipment and chemicals to be transported, the range and availability of fast chargers simply isn't where it needs to be yet.

So....would JBB Knotweed Solutions recommend adopting an EV fleet for surveyors?

Yes... but it will change how your team need to plan their day if they typically rack up the miles. Meetings, desk time, and emails will often be most effectively done on the road (otherwise time would be spent staring at the 'percentage-charged' level!)

Vehicle choice is a big factor. We looked at various options and for us found that the range and network offered by Tesla models gave us the best solution. Your area may be different but do your research carefully.

There are plenty more questions than we can cover in this short update, such as:

  • Can your office support EV charge point loading?
  • Are there insurance implications for your business?
  • Is reducing your carbon footprint important to you or your organisation's values?
  • Will you install charging points at home for your staff?
  • Can your office infrastructure support an EV charging network?

Get in touch - happy to chat and to tell you more!

If you are considering making a shift to EV's and would like to pick our brains a bit, please get in touch via the button below and we'll be happy to talk it over with you!

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