By Alistair Clarke, Managing Director of eConnect Cars

The past few years have seen a dramatic rise in the use of hybrid vehicles as company cars, however with The Committee on Climate Change wanting to see 1.7m electric vehicles (EV) on the roads by 2020 to meet its greenhouse gas targets, electric vehicles are the future of eco-friendly transport.

EV’s have a number of advantages for businesses. From purchase grants to tax breaks the Government is generously supporting the uptake of EV’s. A 2013 IPPR report* showed that ultra-low emission vehicles could bring down motoring costs over time, particularly for organisations buying large fleets of vehicles. This, added to the increasing pressure on businesses to improve their CSR, means that it’s vital for businesses to lead the way and make a positive impact on the public’s perception of electric car use, starting with convincing employees of the benefits of adopting electric vehicles as company cars.

The process of introducing employees to electric vehicles does present challenges which companies will need to plan for and address and it’s not as simple as just adding EVs to the company car list. As with any changes to the status quo, employees can be reluctant to adopt new ways of working and with electric vehicles still using relatively new technology, company car drivers will have concerns about making the change to electric vehicles.

The best way to address these worries is to involve staff in the decision making process and implement a programme which will demonstrate the benefits to them, the company and the environment. To ensure they are engaged and enthused about the change, it’s essential that they feel involved in the process.

By familiarising employees with using EV’s it becomes easier to encourage them to consider the benefits. Many companies use chauffeur companies and by simply switching to a specialist company which uses EV’s, businesses can ensure that their employees experience the benefits for themselves and can potentially challenge some of their apprehensions. The sheer quietness and performance of the vehicles is often enough to convince people that electric vehicles are a more pleasant way to travel.

The next stage is to get employees behind the wheel. There are differences between living with an EV and a combustion engine, so drivers need to learn how to use them. Highlighting the acceleration, handling and responsiveness of EVs are key selling points but this must be balanced with economical driving techniques to get the most out of their car.

Organisations also need to reassure employees that it is convenient and practical to charge their vehicles. For most drivers the majority of charging will take place at home, overnight, using a freely installed home charging point from companies such as British Gas. The Government recently announced that an additional £37 million is being made available to local authorities to offset installation costs of electric vehicle charge points and with different schemes operating across the UK to ensure that everyone has access to charging points, employees will be able to see how ‘charging’ their car can be just as convenient as ‘filling up’.

It’s also helpful to have someone who will act as a ‘champion’. People are more likely to accept change if someone they trust is already enthusing about it, so identify someone who will be an early adopter and who will be happy to espouse the benefits to their colleagues. Senior management also need to play their part by adopting the technology themselves — if you expect your staff to make the change, management need to lead by example.

Companies can be at the forefront of this move to electric vehicles and by being early adopters of electric vehicles they can lower their carbon emissions and meet their CSR targets.

As with any new concepts, engaging with staff is vital to ensure that they are on-board with new ways of working and with something as new as electric vehicles, starting the process early is the key to success.

*IPPR, 15 April 2013.

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