Electric vehicles for business: big challenges, bigger opportunities

Phil Gilbert, Director of Customer Solutions, E.ON for Business

The growing popularity of electric and hybrid vehicles poses two significant questions for businesses in general and energy or facilities managers in particular: how will you provide charging infrastructure to manage staff and customer demand, and how could you make the most of e-mobility to lower operational vehicle costs and meet forthcoming legislation on operating in low emission urban areas.

Zero and low emission cars might make up only a small percentage of the overall market – less than 3% of the record 2.6 million new registrations last year – but data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that low emission vehicles are outstripping the wider market across all categories. Sales of plug-in hybrids more than doubled in the last year, with pure electric vehicles also selling about 50% more in the same time period.

All that means that electric vehicle charging at work, at one stage possibly relegated to a forgotten corner of the car park, is now rising on the agenda for many companies, with charging bays fast becoming some of the most prized spots on the lot. Ally that to the cost-effectiveness of e-vehicles in commercial fleets and you can see the reasons for increased interest.

From a purely commercial perspective, just as shopping centre visitors and hotel guests have come to expect Wi-Fi as standard, it’s plausible to assume there will be significant benefits for businesses able to service those customers who demand similar facilities when it comes to vehicle charging.

Energy managers and facility managers will be thinking about electric vehicles on two levels: firstly the practical point of what an organisation needs to do to install charging stations – for colleagues, visitors or customers – and to handle the increased energy load that will result. The second is how you look to manage access to that new infrastructure and whether you have the desire or the potential to recoup costs.

E.ON already has a network of charging points throughout Europe; fast-chargers on Germany’s autobahns that can fully charge a car within half an hour as well as more than 2,000 charging points across Denmark, and we are now bringing that expertise to the UK with a charging point solution which offers a fully-managed service with little disruption to operations and backed by smart access systems for remote monitoring and servicing.

That smart capability also allow companies to provide different levels of service to different people. For example it would be possible to restrict access to employees and visitors during working hours but then offer more open access – perhaps with an associated fee to recover costs – to the public during off-peak periods.

The smart system also provides access to a wealth of data about usage patterns, peak demand periods and a baseline figure for carbon saving. In the coming years, this could provide welcome evidence for brand reputation or corporate responsibility assertions – not to mention evidence of success for internal Board decisions!


From a commercial vehicle point of view any increased power demand from electrifying the fleet can be offset against the fossil miles being displaced by taking diesel vans off the road. From an energy/fuel perspective that could lead to an overall reduction in fleet costs as well as a possible improvement in fuel efficiency and your company’s carbon footprint as you seek to ‘green your fleet’.

That will become more vital as cities progress towards ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) restrictions to improve air quality in built-up areas – with London confirmed as the world’s first to launch in central London in September 2020. ULEZ will require vehicles travelling in the congestion charge zone to meet new emission standards 24 hours a day, seven days a week or pay a daily charge.

Clearly that will impact on businesses and public sector bodies across a range of sectors. Which is why we are looking to provide solutions for clients ranging from house builders or shopping centres to universities and office campuses, optimising the logistics and economics of installing the new technology. We expect some businesses to be able to use it not just as a cost-saving measure for their fleets or from a corporate responsibility perspective, but potentially also as a revenue stream.

Because real savings can be made.

Our own trial with our field operations teams found that based on an average travelling distance of 15,000 miles a year, each vehicle saved around £513 on annual running costs compared to diesel alternatives and reduced carbon emissions by more than 1,400kg.

Based on fuel cost and efficiency assumptions, our trial found that running costs were around 7p per mile cheaper with CO2 emissions reductions of 96g per mile. That means that 8,000 business miles per year was the break-even point for businesses looking to switch their commercial vehicles from diesel to electric motoring.

That becomes all the more important when it comes to meeting forthcoming legislation on ultra-low emission zones in dense urban areas.

For more information on how E.ON can help your business head to eonenergy.com/unexpected