Nine fleet operators join Clean Van Commitment as ULEZ launches in London

Siemens, Mitie and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) are among a group of nine business fleets organisations to have joined the Clean Van Commitment this week, in light of the launch of London's Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).

Nine fleet operators join Clean Van Commitment as ULEZ launches in London

In total

The scheme, which launched late last year and is organised by sustainability NGO Global Action Plan, commits signatories to replace a proportion of their van fleet with electric vehicles (EVs) by 2020, and to electrify their entire fleets by 2028.

It is worth noting that the 2028 goal only needs to be met on the condition that “sufficient” charging infrastructure and “competitively priced” electric vans are available – incentivising members to lobby for wider industry action and policy changes which spur the EV transition.

The nine organisations to have joined the commitment this week are Arval, Mitie, Siemens, BHF, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Novus Environmental, Commercial Group, Bywaters and Poplar Harca, with many citing the launch of the London ULEZ as a driving factor for their signing.

In total, 25 organisations have now signed up to the commitment. Founding members include the likes of Tesco, Network Rail, United Utilities and ENGIE.

Global Action Plan estimates that by 2028, these 25 organisations will collectively have electrified 65,674 vehicles – equivalent to one-sixtieth of the UK’s current van stock. The body claims that there are currently just 5,000 zero-emission vans on the UK’s roads.

Global Action Plan’s senior partner Chris Large said the expansion of the Clean Van Commitment, combined with measures such as the ULEZ and the Government’s 2040 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vans and cars, should serve to catalyse the electric van market.

“We can count the commercially available electric van models on one hand – and this will not meet our signatories’ needs,” Large explained.

“There is an incredible new market at a time when the UK motor industry is talking of job losses. Some of our signatories are now turning to UK start-ups to meet supply because established players cannot give them the vans they need.”

ULEZ impacts

Launched on Monday (8 April), the ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and charges drivers £12.50 per day for driving vans, cars and mopeds which do not meet certain emissions standards within Central London. It is set to affect between 40,000 and 60,000 vehicles each day and to be widened to cover the North and South Circular roads in October 2021.

Global Action Plan estimates that by taking the Clean Van Commitment, the scheme’s 25 current signatories will save around £96m in ULEZ charges over the next 10 years, while playing their part in tackling the capital’s air pollution and transport emission challenges.

The view that a desire to avoid the ULEZ charges – and to prepare for the introduction of similar Zones in areas such as Oxford and Birmingham –  is likely to spur fleet electrification among the UK’s public and private sectors has also been voiced by bodies such as ZipCar UK, Go Ultra Low and The Climate Group’s EV100 team. Indeed, the EV100 initiative has seen 31+ firms committing to help make zero-emission transport “the new normal” by 2030 since its launch in 2017.

However, several SMEs, NGOs and charities have argued that the ULEZ charges are likely to affect their turnover to the point that they can no longer operate viably within Central London. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), for example, has said that many small firms are “very worried about the future of their businesses” as a result of the “additional cost burden”, while organisations that were previously advised by the Government to switch from petrol to diesel have also expressed grievances.

To help overcome these concerns, London Mayor Sadiq Khan recently launched a £23m scrappage fund to help charities and small businesses with 10 or fewer full-time staff switch older, polluting vans for cleaner vehicles. He has additionally added an extra £25m into a Government scrappage scheme for old and polluting cars, which is open to both business and individuals. Khan previously told edie that he would only be able to achieve his clean air vision for London with support from the city’s business community.

Sarah George

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