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Jim Kirkwood

Transitioning to EVs isn’t just a tickbox exercise

Home > News > Transitioning to EVs isn’t just a tickbox exercise

Jim Kirkwood

Upskilling EV drivers to make the most out of their vehicles can improve safety, enhance corporate compliance and boost a business’s bottom line says Jim Kirkwood CEO of TTC

With an eye on ticking the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) box, more companies are asking their fleet drivers to choose electric next time their vehicle replacement comes around. Many drivers are happy to do so, but others who perhaps live in flats with no access to home-charging, or drive long business journeys, remain less enthusiastic.

While a missive from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to transition to electric will help that CEO ensure they run an economically and socially responsible business, often it is fleet management’s job to go the extra mile. It’s up to them to not only arm their fleet drivers with the vital electric vehicle (EV) knowledge and training needed, but often inject some EV fervor into stanch Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) drivers.

Senior management have many plates to spin while operating their business, so those in the boardroom could be forgiven for thinking that transitioning to vehicles to reduce their carbon footprint is as simple as switching out ICE with Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFVs). 

Yet, dedicated fleet managers are all too aware that it takes so much more.  The importance of training future EV drivers on safety and compliance surrounding them, for the benefit of the drivers and the business is fundamental to successful EV transitioning.  In fact, many fleet professionals committed to raising best-practice standards beyond the bare minimum, are already incorporating this into their on-going fleet training, to ensure that drivers are EV ready the minute they take delivery of their new electric vehicle.

2023 has been a record-breaking year for EVs joining UK roads and with Benefit in Kind (BiK) rates fixed at 2% until 2025, it seems the fleet sector will continue to lead the charge in electric adoption.  Without fundamental knowledge and training, however, many businesses are not getting the most out of their EVs.  So, what’s so different about driving an EV and what do drivers and businesses need to learn before driving off the forecourt? 

It’s important to understand that it is both the business and the driver who benefit from training on EVs and AFVs. Learning about how electric and hybrid vehicles work, their range, maintenance and how to maximise the battery life will smooth the transition for drivers.  ICE drivers have been used to the simplicity of a five-minute fuel re-fill at a motorway service station for so long, it’s easy to see how learning about the where’s and when’s of how to charge an EV and understanding the benefits of a ’top-up’ will really aid the new electric vehicle driver.  Importantly though, all this knowledge also helps to reduce any risks in terms of business performance, for example short, or longer-term downtime for badly timed charging stops or repairs.

Safety of the vulnerable road user also needs to be considered by EV drivers and fleet management.  Basic knowledge is needed of how to adopt a suitable driving style to their new vehicle, which may have a different sound level, or stopping distance, to increase safety and reduce risk.    

As policies change, it is also difficult for fleet management and business owners to keep pace of the costs associated with driving EVs and AFVs.  Government fiscal benefits to encourage adoption come and go, so fleets must constantly monitor the grants and subsidies available to their company, as well as any fiscal changes to charging costs and road tax.

With increasing numbers of companies committing to improving their sustainability credentials by transitioning to AFVs it remains clear that many are not maximising the benefits.  It’s obvious that limitations of EVs and AFVs vary between each type of fuel.  That’s why many companies are now using a registered trainer, for example someone from the National Register of LGV Instructors (NRI) or National Vocational Driving Instructor Register (NVDIR) to deliver courses to their drivers that provide them with an official certificate as evidence that they can legally drive an AFV.  This gives the participant a bow to their arrow in terms of personal professional progression, in addition to on-road peace of mind, and arms the business with documentation that will support its duty of care and driver compliance policies.

As the company car continues to play a vital role in aiding the UK’s transition to net zero by 2035, those businesses who choose to upskill their AFV drivers will go far beyond improving their business’s environmental position, but also improve safety for drivers and road users while potentially improving their business’s bottom line.

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