Cleaning up for future clean-air zones

With several cities due to implement clean air zones by 2020, private fleet operators can benefit from taking early action to comply. Experts from Cenex suggest ways to do this

Over the course of the last year, local authorities in Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton have rolled out strict new environmental standards for large vehicle fleets ahead of the new government‑mandated clean-air zones (CAZs) set to take effect in 2020.

While similar targeted urban air-quality initiatives have proven effective in other European cities without significant impact on local businesses, fleet operators working in these cities are rightly concerned about the costs and logistical challenges of modernising their largest, and most critical, vehicles in just four years.

In this article we suggest a roadmap of activities that fleets can consider, including how to conduct a comprehensive assessment, the importance of driver training and SMR schedules, redefining procurement, and road-testing new strategies.

Crunching the data

By Rob Anderson, Cenex senior fleet specialist

Despite the ongoing efficiency improvements being made by vehicle OEMs, their published data on fuel consumption continues to be treated with a level of scepticism. Most fleet managers have therefore resorted to installing monitoring systems to record the fuel economy and carbon emissions of their high-mileage vehicles.

However, the cost-benefit ratio of deploying such on-vehicle telemetry means that low mileage, and grey-fleet, vehicles typically go unmonitored. Therefore, opportunities to reduce emissions from these low-mileage vehicles are being missed; they may be suitable for some level of electrification.

The Cenex fleet team has developed a new vehicle-monitoring and assessment approach called CLEAR Capture, which, with support from Emissions Analytics, offers a low-cost means by which fleet managers can gain valuable insight into the real‑world pollutant and carbon emissions from their vehicles.

The CLEAR Capture system (see panel, page 31) utilises a simple, cost‑effective device that is plugged into the vehicle to gather accurate real-world drive-cycle data.

The CLEAR Capture analysis of any fleet can be simplified into three steps. The first step is to segment the fleet into different groups – this could be on operational need, journey type or drive cycle.

Segmenting the fleet allows a more thorough assessment to be made as it focuses on like-for-like operations or journey types. Step two is to monitor the existing performance of the segmented fleet – while this can be done through a variety of methods, including paper-based systems, the key is to ensure that the data gathered is as accurate as possible. The Cenex CLEAR Capture system ensures that accurate mileage and journey data can be gathered via the fitting of an unobtrusive device into the vehicle’s 12V socket or OBD port.

Step three is to analyse and report on the data. The Cenex CLEAR Capture system analyses the performance of existing fleet vehicles against comparable low‑emission vehicles, based on the captured real-world data, using Cenex’s unique fleet simulation software. For car models the analysis compares a conventional car against a similar electric (EV), plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and a range-extended electric (REEV) car.

Vans (up to 2.2 tonnes GVW) are compared against a similar electric model only; this is due to the current technology maturity and market availability.

The CLEAR Capture report provides fleet managers with a journey‑pattern overview, a total cost of ownership and potential cost‑savings assessment, an emissions report that includes carbon dioxide and NOx savings, and an electric vehicle charging assessment.

The analysis also includes an optional 30-minute consultancy call to allow fleet managers to discuss the report and the results in more detail.

The role of drivers and SMR

By Victor Lejona, Cenex technical specialist

The key to successful and sustainable implementation will, of course, be to consider the long-term management of these new vehicles, as well as how best to manage their operational capability to maximise utilisation.

One key opportunity is to look at driver training for vehicles that may not necessarily be ideal for electrification. It is recognised throughout the fleet industry that driver training has the potential to reduce fuel consumption, as well as wear and tear to fleet vehicles. Such programmes allow drivers to gain insight and understanding into how their driving behaviour impacts fuel consumption, vehicle lifetime, driver stress and many other aspects.

Results from driver-training programmes can vary from driver to driver, depending on their existing driving styles. However, various research has shown encouraging potential.

The Energy Saving Trust has estimated fuel savings of up to 15 per cent for company cars. A study of the national SAFED HGV Scheme, undertaken in 2008, showed average fuel savings of five per cent per driver. In addition, research into the national SAFED for Vans Scheme has shown average fuel savings of 20 per cent per driver.

In addition to direct fuel savings, a smoother driving style can reduce vehicle and engine wear and tear. However, such fuel savings are subject to reductions as drivers revert to their previous habits; therefore, it is necessary to undertake annual driver monitoring and retraining. It also makes sense to focus early implementation on the vehicle segment (e.g., light commercial vehicles) that holds the predominant fuel users, and hence will yield the quickest return on investment.

Where electrification may be possible, EVs boast additional long‑term cost and efficiency savings when it comes to vehicle maintenance and repair. When managed correctly, EVs have significantly lower service, maintenance, and repair (SMR) costs than their conventionally fuelled equivalents, with estimated cost savings of 25 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively, compared to SMR costs for a petrol or diesel car.

While in-house SMR is a relatively simple activity for fleets operating conventional fuel and diesel vehicles, low-emission vehicle technologies require investment in additional training to deliver safe and effective in‑house maintenance. The legal requirement for training on high-voltage vehicles is covered by health and safety laws that ensure employees are competent enough to undertake this work.

If in-house SMR is desired, quantity is key. The evidence suggests that in-house SMR for EVs works best for fleets with high volumes of vehicles. For example, a basic estimate is £12,000 to train two workshop technicians and purchase the equipment required to service and maintain the Nissan Leaf and e-NV200. Other vehicle manufacturers estimate costs from £9,000 for initial training and equipment investment.

Today, most manufacturers manage SMR of their EVs in‑house, as the training and equipment costs make it uneconomic to self-service fleets of less than 50 EVs, considering the routine service for a Nissan Leaf is typically £99 per annum. Manufacturers develop bespoke self-servicing training agreements, but only to meet the demands of high-volume customers (typically those buying 20 or more vehicles at a time).

Upfront investment in technical training and equipment means smaller fleets might not be able to realise the cost savings from bringing EV SMR in-house. However, there is potential for larger operators to partner with smaller fleets, allowing nearby fleets to pool their SMR services, like how a local authority may operate SMR of Hackney carriage vehicles and offer its shop to local businesses at a fee.

Infrastructure procurement


By Luke Redfern, Cenex project manager

It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing all the procurement efforts on getting the best deal for the vehicles, with the associated recharging infrastructure as a second thought. Successful procurement of infrastructure comes down to clear specifications and requirements that minimise uncertainty and future-proof any purchases. Infrastructure technology is moving forwards, but there are certain parameters that can, and should, be included in procurement specification before tenders are released.

Where possible, a financial tender should include a shopping list, or basket of goods, that suppliers are asked to quote against, including the cost of groundwork and installation, project management, and the hardware/software aspects to allow a fully rounded, accurate financial analysis. Where possible, limit the suppliers to only the fees stated in the proposal (e.g., they provide their maximum price).

Quality should also be assessed, and recommendations are to put a higher weighting on the quality aspects, particularly around service, maintenance and repair packages. Most charge points come with three years’ warranty (some manufacturers offer up to 10 years), but additional warranty can be purchased for years four and five if desired.

There are some existing frameworks that public bodies can access on the Crown Commercial Service framework under Traffic Management Technology 2 (Contract ID: RM1089), namely Lot 10 Sustainable Transport Infrastructure and Lot 15 Catalogue.

Private Bodies do not have access to frameworks; however, the Office for Low‑Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has released the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme approved changepoint model list (available here), which is a good starting point for any procurement exercise. Where possible, Cenex always recommends gaining three quotes from local suppliers (or companies that have service depots close to you) and comparing them to ensure maximum value for money and quality.

Concession contracts are preferential to service contracts (provided it is a “pay-for-use” network), and these are becoming industry norm, as they allow for better future proofing and service schedules, as well as higher KPI/SLA potential.

Industry documents that should be consulted during a procurement exercise include: the Office for Low-Emission Vehicles’ Minimal Technical Standards, which define key technical specifications and requirements for installations using public money; and the UK Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Association Procurement Guidance, which is a general procurement guide for private and public-sector organisations wishing to purchase equipment and services to support the conductive charging of EVs.

Road-testing new strategies

By Keith Budden, head of innovation support

First, you need to test the vehicles out. Try-before-you-buy schemes are useful, as are attending events such as Cenex‑LCV and GreenFleet events across the UK. Manufacturers may also loan you a vehicle if you speak to their fleets and dealerships. You need to monitor how the vehicles perform in your specific operational duty cycles – again, through accurate data collection. It’s also vital to gather feedback from the drivers. What do they like and dislike? What additional training would they like to receive?

Then, if the case is proven, consider what uptake scenarios can be achieved, and how quickly you can or need to implement vehicles in line with your own vehicle replacement strategy. Finally, keep up to date with industry news. Vehicle ranges and prices are always improving, so keep informed, and your business will benefit in the long run.

Cenex has a wide and dedicated team to support the uptake of low‑emission vehicles and advise on the most appropriate strategy. We also have a vast fleet‑services portfolio, including light-goods vehicles, HGVs and plant equipment.

We will assess your fleet using the three-step process defined above, and provide you with a report, explanation and recommendations.

Contact us to see how we can help you.

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