UK’s largest fleet operators pledge to electrify portfolios by 2028

Tesco and Network Rail are among a group of 16 major businesses and organisations that have today (6 September) committed to replace their van fleets with electric vehicles (EVs) by 2028.

Led by sustainability NGO Global Action Plan, the coalition has committed to collectively invest £40m in decarbonising their respective fleets over the next two years under the newly-launched Clean Van Commitment.

Global Action Plan estimates that this investment will enable the group to purchase 2,400 electric vans – more than the amount bought by the entire UK industry over the past year.  

By signing up to the Commitment, signatories have pledged to replace a proportion of their van fleet with EVs by 2020, and to electrify their entire fleets by 2028 on the condition that “sufficient” charging infrastructure and “competitively-priced” electric vans are available.

If the 2028 commitment is met, the Department for Transport (DfT) estimates that 18,000 new EVs will be put on the road. Meanwhile, the DfT believes that achievement of the 2020 target would deliver up to £55m in lifetime savings from health costs related to air pollution.

Global Action Plan’s head of air quality Bex Bolland said the pledges mark a “significant moment” in the UK’s van sector’s transition to sustainable mobility.

“These 16 fleets will pave the way for the national fleet of four million vans to become zero-emission, significantly improving the air we all breathe,” she said. “Their collective purchasing commitments show manufacturers that demand is thriving, and will help the energy sector, local authorities and central Government planning.”

The Commitment has been signed by Abel & Cole, Anglian Water, Engie, The Environment Agency, Gateshead Council, Leeds City Council, the London Borough of Hackney, the London Borough of Waltham Forest, Network Rail, Northern Gas, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Council, Tesco, United Utilities, Yorkshire Ambulance Service and Yorkshire Water.

Signatories are calling on the Government to fund more charging points and introduce tax changes to support EVs. They also recommend that carmakers should offer a greater choice of electric van models at more competitive prices, and suggest that landlords should be more lenient in granting permission to add charging infrastructure to depots.

Airs and graces

The launch of the Clean Van Commitment coincides with the publication of new research on the UK’s air pollution levels, which reveals that pollution from diesel vans costs the nation £2.2bn annually in NHS outlays and missed days at work.

The analysis, conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Bath, concludes that the cost of the damage to public health caused by vans is more than three times the impact of cars.    

In an urban location such as inner London, a single diesel van could cause the equivalent of up to £24,555 worth of damage to public health each year, the research claims.

The analysis comes after the UK was referred to Europe’s highest court for failing to tackle illegal levels of air pollution. The nation now faces a multimillion euro fine from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after levels of nitrogen dioxide were found to have been illegally high since 2010 in the majority of urban areas.

Sarah George

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