Fuel-efficient cars pay off

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• Manufacturers have been investing a lot of time and energy in developing eco-friendly cars, and most now offer hybrid ranges.

• When considering electric cars, it is important to look at journey type and access to recharging points.

• Selection should be about the efficiency and cost of the car as a whole, not just fuel-efficiency.

Fuel-efficient cars are becoming the norm for company fleets and the benefits are manifold, says Nic Paton

Fleet and employee benefits managers have long recognised that fuel-efficient cars bring a number of benefits: fuel efficiency, obviously, but also significant advantages in terms of the tax treatment of lower carbon dioxide (CO2)-emitting cars and, more widely, kudos as a green employer.

So, when it comes to choosing the right car for a fleet, the first thing to note is that manufacturers, recognising the way the wind is blowing, have been putting a lot of energy and focus into developing well-performing, reliable, eco-friendly cars.

Helen Fisk, AutoSolutions manager at ALD Automotive, says: “Fuel efficiency is extremely important now because of the cost of fuel and a focus on employers’ environmental policies. There are more petrol hybrids coming onto the market, more diesel hybrids and more electric cars.”

Paul Hollick, sales and marketing director at Alphabet, adds: “All the main fleet manufacturers now have environmentally friendly models to offer, emitting below 120g/km of CO2 or even 110g/km. Sub-110g/km is, of course, incredibly environmentally friendly.”

There is now a vast range of hybrid and low-emission cars to choose from, and popular lines include BMW’s EfficientDynamics range and VW’s BlueMotion, says Hollick. Among recent launches, Peugeot has unveiled a diesel hybrid, the 3008 Hybrid4, Citreon has launched a DS5 diesel hybrid and Volvo has developed a V60 plug-in hybrid.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead includes Ford’s Fiesta Econetic in its fleet. To help drivers and managers choose the right car, Mark Green, fleet manager at the council, has developed a 22-page selection guide.

“It empowers me to make decisions for end-users, as well as being able to source the most CO2-friendly car in that class,” he says. “We tend to go for the lowest CO2 model in any class. It has proved popular.”

Electric cars

Its fleet also includes electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf EV. Green adds: “Before the decision was made to include the Nissan Leaf in our fleet, a cost and environmental impact analysis was carried out, just like for any other car on the council fleet.”

Whether an employer goes down the route of electric cars will depend on access to recharging points plus the sort of journeys to be made, with electric cars more suitable for short urban hops than long motorway or rural drives.

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead operates two recharging points of its own, with plans to add more, and there are other points around the borough, says Green. It also invests in telematics, through provider Masternaut, to help drive down journey and fuel costs.

“Employers can reduce mileage by tracking their cars and using telematics,” says Green. “We have managed to make big reductions in the amount of journeys made.”

ALD’s Fisk adds: “We are seeing more plug-in recharging areas outside London as well as a growing number inside London.

“But choosing the car for a fleet is not just about fuel efficiency, it is about the efficiency of the car as a whole. It is about total cost: fuel, tax and environmental efficiency, its residual value, maintenance, performance and driving experience. It cannot be one aspect in isolation.”

Alphabet’s Hollick says employers need to look at the whole-life cost of a car and what the key benefits will be for them and the employee. “They also need to think about the optimum cycle and at which point it will make sense to step out and replenish or renew their fleet.”

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