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Deep Dive: How electric vehicles could transform your business


The phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles over the next two decades and increases in range and charging points mean the electric vehicle industry is starting to take off. 

The announcement by the Government in 2017 that it would ban the production of 

petrol and diesel cars in the UK by 2040 – with the Scottish Government aiming to eliminate them by 2032 – has seen a sharp rise in interest in electric vehicles. 

Along with plug-in hybrid vehicles, which use a combination of electric batteries and petrol engines, electric vehicles are currently the only viable alternative to traditional engines, meaning the industry is set to grow rapidly over the coming decade. 

Aside from the environmental benefits – electric vehicles emit no pollution at the tailpipe and are considered significantly more environmentally friendly – there are financial advantages, too. Running costs can be as low as 2p a mile, compared to around 13-16p for petrol or diesel engines.

Many electric vehicles also attract favourable tax treatment, although this is no longer the case for all models. 

For many small business owners considering whether to invest in an electric vehicle or fleet, the upfront cost is likely to be a factor. A Suzuki Ignis hybrid model can be bought for just £13,875, while a Renault Zoe electric vehicle has a recommended retail price of £22,220 and a Nissan Leaf £27,235. Costs can be reduced further with a Government grant of up to £4,500, and have come down significantly in recent years.

Electric vehicles, however, still tend to attract a heavier price tag than many traditional equivalents, so any prospective buyer would do well to weigh up the savings they could make in running costs before making a decision. 

There are two more factors which have held the market back in recent years: range and availability of charging stations. Both of these have significantly improved, although arguably not yet to the point where there is no cause for concern.

Some electric vehicle manufacturers now claim their models can travel as many as 300 miles on a single charge, although many still have ranges of less than 100 miles. Even that is still likely to be in excess of what the average small business owner requires for a typical trip, although ‘range anxiety’ is certainly a concern for some, and may mean hybrids are a safer option for now.

The number of charging stations, meanwhile, has increased significantly in the last five years, with around 17,000 now in existence across 6,000 locations, and more being added each month.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling recently announced plans to significantly increase this figure, with a particular focus on installing home and workplace points. Ideas currently under discussion include installing charging points in all new homes and offices, as well as incorporating them in new street lighting schemes. 

In the longer term, it’s possible that hydrogen fuel cell cars, where compressed hydrogen is turned into electricity, may prove to be an alternative to, or even supplant, electric battery-operated vehicles – but even were that to happen, it would be some way into the future. For now, the focus is firmly on electric vehicles.

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