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The Government is extending the low emissions zones (LEZs) and ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZs) in London – and outside of the Capital otherwise known as Clean Air Zones (CAZs) and Zero Emissions Zones (ZEZs) – declaring poor air quality as ‘the biggest environmental risk to human health’.

An overarching challenge facing the transport industry is the transition towards net zero. We all know that vehicles powered by petrol and diesel combustion engines will no longer be sold in the UK by 2030.

As we lead up to that deadline, the government is putting in place a series of measures, like the ULEZ and CAZs, to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

Although each CAZ varies in terms of their rules and radius, they all have one thing in common; electrically propelled vehicles (EVs) whether battery- or fuel cell-powered are the only vehicles completely exempt from charges and restrictions.

At a domestic level, CAZs present many with an opportunity to rethink their means of transport. But for those who manage fleets, or who rely on vans for transportation of their products, the story isn’t so simple, because overhauling fleets could be a costly and time-intensive job whether the vehicles are bought as new or are refurbished to be compliant.

So, what do UK fleet managers need to know, and should they start upgrading their fleets to electric now?

CoolKit’s CEO and founder, Rupert Gatty explains.

What do LEZs and CAZs mean for van and fleet operators?

Non-compliant vehicles face significant charges whenever they drive through CAZs; in London, if your van doesn’t meet the emission standard of Euro 6 for diesel engines, there’ll be a cost every day you enter the ULEZ, plus the congestion charge of £12.50 per day[1]. For fleets making multiple trips or deliveries, that can soon add up.

Rates for different CAZs vary across the UK, but the easiest way to ensure you’re not subject to fees is to convert your fleet to electric.

But this is easier said than done.

There is currently a global supply chain shortage of some of the key components required to build all types of vans, meaning lead times can be longer than usual. Even if this wasn’t the case, buying entirely new, electrified fleets is a cost outlay that some smaller businesses may not be able to cover at the moment – not least of which may be adequate electrical infrastructure locally.

Electric vans also tend to be heavier than their combustion engine powered equivalents, meaning that their payload – the amount they can carry – can easily be compromised. If this issue is not addressed, it could lend itself to the unwelcome outcome of increased road traffic congestion – something that goes against the objectives of LEZs. Having said that the DVLA is making concessions to permit certain 3.5 tonne vans to be registered at up to 4.25 tonnes.

But for those operating temperature-controlled fleets, the good news is that CoolKit is taking steps to reduce unladen vehicle mass, and this is a core strategy for improving vehicle productivity for our customers. Ensuring maximum payload remains a key focus for us as we start to see an increase in the percentage of our sales mix that is EV – with one in 20 of the vans we convert nowadays being zero emission.

Scrappage schemes to entice traditional vehicle owners to cash in their cars and vans in favour of electric alternatives seem to ignore the needs of fleets[2], while the infrastructure available in the UK to power electric fleets is also still widely criticised.

The Government has said that it wants to build a ‘world-leading charging network that will enable EV drivers to plug in and charge anywhere, be it on the street where they live, where they shop, or en route to their destination’. This, they say, must extend beyond private cars and be just as accessible to drivers of commercial vehicles. Although we understand that a full infrastructure for recharging battery-powered electrically propelled vehicles (EVs) is yet to be fully realised in the UK, we therefore expect to see more investment made in this area as the Government pushes forward the EV transition.

Creating the electric fleets of the Future

We’re now just seven years away from the 2030 ban, so the roll out of ULEZs and CAZs will serve as a reminder for fleet managers to keep the transition to electric vehicles front of mind.

At CoolKit, we’re pioneering electric vehicle temperature-controlled conversions, addressing challenges of payload, range and total cost of ownership.

We’re taking this innovative approach against a backdrop of other initiatives designed to make electric fleets more accessible. For example, until 2030 the Government is encouraging early adoption of electric vans by offering a wealth of financial incentives. The Plug In Van Grant (PIVG**) is available to support purchases of new electric light commercial vehicles to the value of 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £5,000 for larger vans, or £2,500 for smaller vans up to 2,500kg gross vehicle weight.

In addition, the EV infrastructure grant for staff and fleets is being offered to SMEs to install charging infrastructure in their commercial car parks. The grant covers up to 75% of the cost up to a limit of £15,000 per grant.

And to help those who want to scale up their electric fleets at pace, we’ve worked closely with our professional partners to build a wealth of new stock that is ready-converted and available to buy.

We’re all aware of the role we each need to play in reducing vehicle emissions and the deadlines we need to meet. And we’ve placed this at the forefront of our operation.

Although many fleet operators may be considering a phased approach to their EV transition – it is inevitable. Businesses with both eyes on the sustainability agenda can benefit from working with a converter partner like us, ensuring you can accelerate your move towards a more environmentally friendly and productive fleet today.

Contact a member of our sales team to find out more about going electric.