Fleet special: emission possible

Being green doesn’t equal being mean when it comes to company car provision,
you just have to use your head.

At first glance, making a fleet more fuel efficient would hint at a company
launching a supermini-only policy with a generous provision of company bicycles.

But modern technology means drivers can enjoy luxury and pamper their
environmental conscience at the same time.

There are several ways fleets can combine glamour and green for drivers; for
example, through simply being associated with a select group of fellow car

There are so many Hollywood stars like Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and
Alicia Silverstone now driving fuel-efficient hybrid cars that there are now
even websites dedicated to them.

The most popular hybrid of the moment is the Toyota Prius, which combines a
small 1.5-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. At low speeds, the car is
electric-only, with the petrol engine only cutting in when more power is needed.

The car uses energy from the brakes to recharge its batteries and it doesn’t
use any fuel when coasting or stopped at the lights.

According to official figures, it can hit 65.7mpg, compared to mid-30s mpg
for a petrol car of a similar size. Even London mayor Ken Livingstone likes it,
so if you register, the car gets a 100% discount on the (for now) £8-a-day
congestion charge.

E.ON UK, the company which runs Powergen, announced last May that it plans to
take on 70 hybrid petrol-electric vehicles for its pool fleet and is hoping to
save more than £150,000 on fuel costs.

The group operates a 1,300-strong company car fleet, 250 of which are pool
cars. It has opted for petrol-electric Toyota Prius models and plans to convert
the majority of its pool fleet to hybrids over the next three years.

Honda provides an alternative, the Civic Hybrid, which works in much the same
way and achieves similar fuel-saving results.

But even if a car is driven by stars, it may not stop your fleet drivers
feeling like an idiot using one, especially if they have to trade down from a
BMW or a Mercedes-Benz.

Luckily, there is an answer, courtesy of Toyota’s luxury brand sister
company, Lexus.

It is in the process of introducing hybrid options to almost its entire range
and said last year that the petrol-electric range could account for up to 50% of
sales of some Lexus models over the next few years.

It has even managed to make off-roaders green, with the RX 400h, which
combines a 3.3-litre V6 engine and two electric motors to offer enough power to
take the sports utility vehicle from 0-62mph in under 8 seconds, while still
offering average fuel consumption of about 35mpg.


At £36,350 it isn’t cheap – the latest technology never is – but it’s all in
a good cause. And as it’s a hybrid, it still gets the congestion charge
discount, too.

Or you could join Conservative leader David Cameron and opt for a BMW
5-series rival, the Lexus GS450h, a snip at about £38,000 on-the-road. Here the
combination of a 286bhp petrol engine and an electric motor offering the
equivalent of 190bhp means Porsche-worrying performance of 0-62mph in less than
six seconds, yet combined fuel economy of just 35.8mpg.

And if the chairman is feeling a little left out then, before too long, there
will also be a flagship Lexus LS600h, a rival to the Mercedes-Benz S-Class,
combining a 5.0-litre V8 with battery power to produce 430bhp, equivalent to a
V12 unit. Expect to see little change from £60,000.

Within the next few years, hybrids will be everywhere, with all the major car
companies looking to introduce the technology. But for those who can’t wait,
there are alternatives, such as following the army of drivers who have switched
to diesel over the past few years.

Some suppliers in the fleet industry have reported that as much as 70% of
their vehicle order bank is now diesel, driven by changes to the company car tax
system, so that drivers pay tax based on the carbon dioxide emissions of their
company car. Carbon dioxide is a key cause of global warming.

Diesel vehicles produce less CO2 than their petrol equivalents, which means
drivers have a lower tax bill, but the other benefit is that fuel economy is
also much better.

For example, while a petrol-engined BMW 530i SE auto achieves 30.4mpg
average, a 530d SE diesel achieves 37.7mpg. Over three years/60,000 miles, the
diesel burns 382 gallons less fuel than the petrol.

The diesel costs £500 more than the petrol to buy and diesel is more
expensive at the pumps. Yet, still the petrol will use £8,286 of fuel at current
prices over 60,000 miles, and the diesel only £6,952, a saving of £1,134.

Across an entire fleet, companies are finding the savings from moving to
diesel, despite the recent price rises at the pumps, run into tens of thousands
of pounds.

But even the most fuel-efficient cars can be turned into gas-guzzlers by
lead-footed drivers who don’t have the same concern for the environment as their
fleet manager.

Education is a low-cost way of helping the environment, simply by ensuring
drivers understand the cost of their actions.

Vehicle leasing and fleet management giant LeasePlan recently claimed drivers
were oblivious to the true costs of running a company car, creating a potential
financial black hole for fleets. It quoted a study showing that more than
three-quarters of 1,000 drivers questioned did not know how much a vehicle costs
to run over a 12-month period. But despite this, drivers are keen to go green if
they are given the right encouragement.

The opinions of 1,000 fleet motorists were sourced in a survey by Leasedrive
Group, which found that 93.8% of respondents would happily drive an eco-friendly


Alternatively, driver training can help employees cut their fuel use, in some
cases by more than 15%, just by showing them how to set off and drive more
efficiently so they burn less fuel. If all these ideas seem like they won’t get
past the boardroom, then there is a straightforward alternative.

You can simply turn your company carbon neutral by offsetting emissions,
paying into a fund that supports schemes that grow forests and pay for
zero-emission projects, such as hydro-electric power stations.

If all else fails, then opt to simply only pay for vehicles when you really
need them and promote car-sharing. It doesn’t sound attractive until you look at
companies such as Royal Silver Service, which offers a Maybach62 worth £300,000
for rent with a chauffeur at £2,500 a day.

It sounds steep but, divided by three board members, it is relatively good
value compared to providing them all with company cars and its 17.8mpg becomes
the equivalent of 53mpg because they are sharing rather than using three
separate vehicles to transport themselves.

Running a cleaner, greener fleet is a choice every company will have to take
as resources become scarcer, but if you have the right technology and training,
there are plenty of ways to reward employees with a nice set of wheels.

John Maslen is supplements and events editor on Fleet News

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