How to get EV acceptance? Get “bums on seats”

Swansea Universtiy scooped GreenFleet’s Public Sector Fleet of the Year Award in the small to medium catergory last year for its impressive work integrating electric vehicles into its fleet. We catch up with Nigel Morris to find out how things are going

Swansea University operates a fleet of 30 cars, light vans, pickups, large vans and minibuses to support its operations. The university recognises a corporate responsibility to reduce its environmental impact and have introduced zero and ultra low emission vehicles as part of this responsibility.
 
Which and how many electric vehicles do you have?
As of June 2018 we had seventeen zero or ultra-low emission (ULEV) vehicles on our fleet. These include three Renault Kangoo ZE vans; two Nissan LEAF 24 kwhs; five Nissan LEAF 30 kwh; one Nissan e-NV200 combi 5 seater; one Nissan e-NV200 combi 7 seater; three Nissan e-NV200 vans; one Hyundai ix-35 FCV Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicle; and one VW Passat GTE PHEV Estate.
 
How are the electric vehicles being used?
We have a travel plan to reduce vehicle mileage by opting to walk, cycle or take a bus. When vehicles are most suitable we use ZE/ULEV/ICE as appropriate.

Most of the ZE vehicles are allocated to Professional Service Units or Academic Colleges. These vehicles are available to drivers via a booking system.They are used to travel between our sites, attend meetings and events, travel to external collaborative partners, carry equipment, and so on. The rest of the ZE vehicles are dedicated to a business function, such as catering, mailroom, student accommodation services, and engineering workshop. In general we operate within the vehicles’ range in relation to our nearest EV charge point and the destination EV charge point if there is one.
 
Where are the electric vehicles charged and where does the electricity come from?
All the grid electricity we buy is renewable sourced. This was an existing policy put in place by our estates and sustainability teams and it fitted the EV fleet perfectly. As of June 2018 we have 18 EV charge points across three sites. Most are 7kw ‘fast’, three are 22kw ‘faster’ and we have one Rapid Charger. We are now working to integrate V2G capable EVs into the energy usage pattern of our Active Buildings using V2G chargers so the vehicle batteries can be charged from the building solar panels and/or energy store and then return power to the buildings during periods of peak demand or higher unit cost. 

Additionally we are developing our policies for staff and visitor EV charging to cater for the increasing demand for workplace charging.
 
How have the drivers taken to the electric vehicles?
Generally very well. Any initial scepticism is usually overcome with first-hand experience. Across the board of driver profiles the EVs are a popular choice. The drivers of the dedicated function EVs prefer them to conventional vehicles because they are more relaxing to drive in every way, being smoother, quieter, cleaner, less smelly and better suited to stop start urban traffic. They are pretty nippy too.
 
How much will you be saving in emissions and costs?
The more you drive, the more you save. When our fleet completed its first 100K miles, I calculated conservatively that we had saved 25 tonnes of CO2 emissions and £12.5K in running costs at that point.
 
Are there any other benefits to EVs other than emissions?
As mentioned they are smooth, quiet, usually well equipped, perform well, have reduced running costs and help to improve the local air quality.

Swansea University works in collaboration with the City and County of Swansea and other Low Carbon Swansea Bay members. All our ZE vehicles carry not only our individual logos but also the Low Carbon Swansea Bay logo. This helps to raise public awareness, promote the leading role we are playing in EV adoption and stimulate uptake, simultaneously helping to further improve local air quality and the local economy.

Once drivers get the initial silent whoosh of instant torque acceleration out of their system the EVs induce a much more relaxed driving environment. Drivers soon adapt to the eco settings and regenerative braking and adopt a smoother more anticipatory driving style.
 
Are you greening your operations in any other ways?
We have carbon, energy, waste and travel plans in place. Basic driver training is limited to an overview of the vehicle, the main differences between an ICE and an EV and how to plug them in to charge up.

Some telemetry function comes as standard with Nissan connect and we fitted some of the vehicles with additional telemetry so drivers can find them across the estate.

As the V2G project develops we see telematics playing a significant role. We see a scenario where our buildings will be aware of an EV returning to campus with 60 per cent battery capacity available that can be fed into the building or grid during peak demand, then the EV will inform the building that it needs a 100 per cent battery by 07:30 the following morning because it is booked to drive to a meeting in Cardiff for example.

As our existing leases come up for renewal, as EV ranges increase and as the EV product base broadens we will continue to adopt ZE/ULEV where appropriate.
 
What advice would you give to other fleets looking to buy electric vehicles?
Look for a good place to install a simple 7kw charger. Get it subsidised if you can. Then talk to your manufacturer, dealer and lease company fleet account managers. Get a range of demonstrator vehicles in for a week at a time. Use them appropriately and run a ‘bums on seats’ campaign for your drivers to experience for themselves and dispel myths and preconceptions. Even if you start with just one vehicle and one charge point you will see the strengths and weaknesses and find out which EV is appropriate for which job. If you get one, logo it with Zero Emission, 100% Electric – it is good value, high tech, clean, green, responsible advertising as you go about your business.

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