Baroness Kramer

Whitehall to plug-in its fleet

Transport Minister Baroness Kramer explains a new scheme that will allow every 
central government department to review its fleet arrangements and consider how
 ultra-low emission vehicles can be used, with the aim of making electric and plug-in vehicles common place on the government’s fleet

There are times when Government should lead by example. That is why in July this year, I launched a new scheme designed to increase the number of ultra low emission vehicles in UK government fleets. The launch in July was for the first phase of a wider £5 million scheme demonstrating our commitment to ultra low emission vehicles, and our strong desire to lead the way in converting government fleet vehicles to ULEV alternatives.

Sales of ultra low emission vehicles in the UK have increased radically in recent months and July 2014 was the best month ever, with sales over 400 times the levels seen in the same month last year. While we are seeing an increase in the number of ULEVs purchased for private sector fleets, the number of ULEVs purchased by the public sector to date remains disappointing.

I am determined that is going to change. Because we are going to offer the opportunity to save money and improve the service you offer to your customers. By introducing a zero risk, minimal cost offer, we want to demonstrate that ULEVs, when put in the right place, and used in the right way, can save money, while improving the driving experience and without restricting vehicle usage.

The offer
We are offering a fully funded fleet review for all UK central Government departments and their agencies. Fully subsidised 24 month leases for any vehicles identified in the review as suitable for replacement by a ULEV, and fully subsidised charging infrastructure to support these vehicles. We are absolutely determined to get this right.
Fleet reviews have been designed with managers in mind to address any barriers that could make them think twice before ordering ULEVs, but also to identify where, where petrol and diesel vehicles are currently used, ULEVs could prove to be a better option. We want this to show how ULEVs can increase performance and provide cost savings – especially on running costs – and at the same time reduce their carbon footprint and improve air quality too.
Our aim is to get about 150 vehicles into central Government fleets through this scheme, and, importantly, influence future purchasing decisions so that we start to see significant numbers of ULEVs across public sector fleets over the next few years.

Progress to date
Since launching the scheme in July, I have been delighted with the response from Government departments and their agencies. At the time of writing, nine departments have already started their fleet reviews, and by the time you read this, we expect to have heard from a further six to 10 departments. This scheme has also received strong support from the start from the participating Government departments. Nigel Morris from the Foreign Office, the second department to sign up to the scheme said: “We are delighted to take part in this programme and are committed to lowering the emissions of our fleet. We’re looking forward to receiving the results of the fleet review.”
At the launch I was able to speak to some of the fleet managers who are participating in the scheme and like the public at large, they are already starting to think differently about ULEVs. I’ve been particularly encouraged by requests received to widen the scope of reviews to include greater proportions of vehicle fleets than originally planned; and by the enthusiasm of several fleet managers, who are considering ways to build larger numbers of electric vehicles into their fleets (subject to review outcomes).
There are now over 25 grant eligible vehicles, which span most of the vehicle segments and more will be added in the coming months. We are working to ensure that the right vehicles are recommended, and with manufacturers and leasing providers to ensure that they can be supplied as quickly as possible.
If you’re reading this and want to get involved but haven’t already I would strongly encourage any UK Government department or agency who has not yet contacted my officials to do so immediately.

Next steps
I am hoping to see the first vehicles delivered before the end of the year, and the numbers will really start to increase in the first few months of 2015. There are already some fantastic examples of public sector fleets taking a risk on ultra low emission vehicles and being delighted with the results, and I applaud these visionary fleet managers for their efforts. We want to build on this example when we announce the wider public sector scheme in the autumn.
ULEVs will be a major area of future growth for the hugely successful UK automotive sector. They are currently worth over £11 billion to the economy, and we expect the value only to increase. By investing in ULEVs public sector fleet managers will be helping the UK create the kind of high-tech, clean and green jobs we need in the future.
We are setting an example, we are supporting industry, we are demonstrating the usability of ULEVs and helping government fleets to drive costs down. This is a unique project and I am thrilled to be endorsing it.

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