IT is time to look at the wider picture on vehicle operating decisions as the default fuel choice is no longer diesel.
The government’s recently published consultation document on measures to improve air quality highlights the potential introduction of Clean Air Zones across towns and cities nationwide and calls on Whitehall departments and public sector fleets to take the lead and “choose ultra-low emission vehicles where possible” and “avoid purchasing diesel vehicles wherever possible”.
As a result we have published a new white paper called “Shaping Fleets for the Future: What Fuel Choice Will You Make With Your Next Vehicle?”.
There is no definitive right fleet fuel and, while diesel, petrol, pure electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars all have their merits there are also drawbacks – financial and operational – that have to be taken account.
For the foreseeable future there will be a mix of fuel types, but the trend will be to move towards more plug-in technology.
There are many pros and cons regarding all vehicle fuel types.
Ultimately it comes down to vehicle whole life costs based on the type of journeys company cars will be undertaking. The white paper gives fleet decision-makers food for thought and raises various factors that must be considered for each fuel type that can be used as a starting point in the decision-making process.
Many employees that have fleet responsibility today are not full-time fleet professionals so may not be aware of all the nuances that must be taken account of when reviewing vehicle replacement.
The 2002 introduction of a company car benefit-in-kind tax regime based on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and subsequently other motoring taxes, Vehicle Excise Duty and capital allowances also being linked to CO2, drove fleets along the diesel car route.
As a result many businesses automatically replaced diesel company cars with more diesel models when replacement was due.
But current and future vehicle taxation, fuel prices, residual values, improving electric vehicle technology including increases in mileage range, whole life costs and government strategy in respect of Clean Air Zones, which are due to be in place before 2020, with entry criteria that will favour ultra-low emission vehicles, make fuel choice far less clear cut when considering company car replacement programmes.
Rather than predicting the death of diesel as a fuel option for company car fleets, diesel is likely to remain the preferred choice for high-mileage motorway driving and where a large number of journeys are made in non-urban environments. Alternatively a mix of motorway and urban driving is likely to lend itself to the petrol option.
Meanwhile, for company car drivers focused on largely urban driving, plug-in hybrids, pure electric and range-extended electric vehicles are likely to prove to be the optimum fuel choice with hybrids proving to be a halfway house.
Having researched the pros and cons of each vehicle fuel type, fleet decision-makers must carefully marry that to the typical journey profile of individual company car drivers to make the definitive informed choice.
Making a decision without possession of all the facts could ultimately prove costly to fleets and company cars drivers.