As more cities across the UK introduce emissions charges, it’s no wonder businesses nationwide are making the switch to electric. unLTD’s Sasha Mossman spoke to a range of businesses to get a steer on how they are helping get Sheffield City Region on the road to a greener future

In a bid to reduce emissions on our roads, the Department of Transport has announced that a major strategy to grant drivers of zero-emission cars special privileges is in motion.

If the strategy is passed, motorists would be allocated green licence plates, allowed to use bus lanes and given the right to pay reduced parking fares.

Following the phenomenal success of the initiative in Canada, many businesses in the UK are following suit in order to stay ahead of the curve.

Stoneacre

Stoneacre are another such dealership taking steps to introduce more EVs, having recently announced the completion of a brand-new Volvo showroom in Sheffield.

The Stoneacre Volvo team moved into the state-of-the-art new development in December, with an official launch event taking place later this month. The site will serve as the flagship showroom for Stoneacre Motor Group’s 8 Volvo businesses across the country.

It’s at this new development where motorists can find Volvo’s wide range of e-vehicles and hybrid cars – from the S90 and S60 saloons, the V90 and V60 Estates to the XC40, XC60 and XC90 SUV Crossovers.

In a conscious effort to reduce their emissions, Volvo have pledged to focus primarily on expanding their e-vehicle range – namely, planning to make all-electric cars account for 50 percent of global sales by 2025 and plug-in hybrid to make up 20 percent of total sales in 2020.

The recent release of the XC40 Recharge – their first fully electric vehicle – is another step in Volvo’s bigger plans for electrification. Plans have already been put in place to triple production capacity for e-vehicles, and Volvo have scheduled the release of a new e-vehicle every year for the next five years.

Area Manager Steven Morris said: “We’ve been eagerly preparing for the opening of our new development over the past 6 months and we’re excited to get up and running – especially as we’ll be displaying Volvo’s ever-expanding low emissions range, particularly the XC40 Recharge.

“By combining two electric motors, one mounted on each axle, the XC40 Recharge can go from 0-62mph in just 4.9-seconds, while top speed is limited at 112mph – in line with Volvo’s commitment to road safety.

“Volvo claims the car will be able to do 248-miles on a single charge, and when you do need to recharge, you’ll have the option of either an 11kW AC charger or a 150kW DC fast-charger – which will be capable of delivering 80 percent charge in 40 minutes.”

The Sheffield team are no strangers to the brand either – with over 160 years combined experience at Volvo, they were selected to work at the development down to their strong expertise and ability to deliver premium service to those looking to make the switch from petrol to electric.

This team includes members such as Steven, who has worked with Volvo for 35 years and Russ Sorsby, Dealer Principal, who has lived in Sheffield all his life and has a first-rate understanding of the area.

Burrows

For bosses across South Yorkshire seeking to strengthen their environmental policies, Burrows have a variety of solutions to support the switch to EVs and hybrids. The family-owned dealership, who have sites across Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, boast three different environmentally friendly options.

Adam Hughes, Local Business Development Manager at Burrows, said: “Sometimes consumers see electric vehicles as something to fear, but Toyota pioneered the Hybrid revolution back in 1997 with the first-ever Prius and developed this massively over the past two decades – so at Burrows we’re dealing with fourth generation technology.”

For Burrows, the increase in demand for e-vehicles – particularly hybrids – is much more prevalent for businesses than individual customers.

Adam said: “General consumers still benefit from buying either electric or hybrid vehicles, but the impact is much more noticeable when companies make the switch – particularly in order to reduce their Co2 emissions and carbon footprint as an entire business.

“The market for EVs is moving extremely quickly, and our private customers are looking at green policies for their companies for fleet vehicles – nobody wants to be seen to be working against environmental strategies.”

Fully electric vehicles on offer at the include the bestselling Kia E-Nero, which, despite having far lower range limits, produce the least Co2 emissions and require no petrol at all.

Adam said: “These fully electric vehicles are not practical for all drivers; however, they can be ideal for smaller commutes should the driver be equipped enough to charge them at work and home.”

Burrows also offer two forms of hybrid car – self-charging and plug-in. These vary from model to model, but the Prius is most popularly sold at the dealership.

The self-charging hybrid combines a traditional petrol combustion engine, battery and electric motor, and alternates between petrol and electricity usage dependant on speed. When the driver breaks, the vehicle begins to self-charge – eliminating the need to plug-in the vehicle.

The plug-in works the same as a self-charging, however, the vehicle offers the option to literally ‘plug-in’ to boost battery power.

For businesses in the early stages of switch, self-charging stands out as the ideal switch from diesel for most, according to Adam.

Adam continued: “Hybrids are far more cost-effective and desirable to businesses than the more traditionally-used diesel, which has seen its value drop considerably as the public become more environmentally conscious.

“Self-charging cars particularly are the most popular for businesses looking to change their fleet cars. When people make the switch, hybrids can ease the transition, as they are most similar to a traditional petrol-ran car.”

Utility Alliance

Now more than ever, vehicle owners, businesses and fleet operators are seeking to reduce their carbon emissions. The stats only prove this further – experts believe that by 2030, there will be 5.6 million EVs used by workers for their daily commute.

Despite the obvious benefits, the massive increase in e-vehicles on our roads will provide some challenges: as 40% of UK homes having no access to off-street parking, the need to charge these vehicles is not one currently accommodated for.

Currently, 76% of EV drivers are looking for more conveniently located charging solutions – a stat Sheffield energy consultancy Utility Alliance found hard to ignore. To encourage more businesses to ‘go green’, Utility Alliance offer several options to ensure EV drivers can always stay charged.

For forward-thinking businesses, Utility Alliance can supply and install a number of workplace charging solutions – from more affordable single-bay options to covering full-site parking, including smart load management. Additionally, the firm also coordinate all government grants and incentive schemes.

Daniel Potter, Managing Director at Utility Alliance says: “We believe that workplace charge points will be essential to enabling EV-mobility, which is why we’ve developed a business-friendly EV charging service for businesses that is hassle-free, low cost, and fully managed.

“It’s a solution that is suitable for any sized business, from start-ups to blue chip corporates – and with over 2,000 customers with us, we believe we’re a natural partner to work with.”

Utility Alliance also provide charging options for larger commercial vehicles such as buses, delivery vehicles and EV fleets. The firm design and deliver high load, high availability charging solutions.

In a drive to make charging more accessible during downtime, Utility Alliance also design, supply and install rapid charging solutions for ‘destination charging’ such as shopping centres, cinemas and retail parks.

Daniel added: “We are uniquely positioned in that our Energy Services team can offer a range of services alongside EV charging – including on-site generation, energy storage and similar flexibility services.

“In line with this, our intelligent software system has been designed to integrate with your business’ energy management systems to control and optimise power output to chargers in line with site energy demand and costs.”

Additional benefits offered to drivers by Utility Alliance include access to a self-service portal that gives total control over their EV charging needs, account management and setting payment plans and access to planning tools that help to identify, reserve and navigate to their next charging point.

Daniel said: “Utility Alliance’s EV charging solution has been designed to be fully scalable as your EV charging needs grow – so it’s easy to start small and build up when you’re good and ready!”

City Taxis

Businesses and independent drivers are not the only ones benefitting from switching to e-vehicles however, as City Taxis are leading a green revolution of their own.

Following a successful rebrand, the taxi firm has launched three different city-wide schemes: food delivery service CityGrab, local charity initiative CityCharity and CityElectric, an e-vehicle offering designed to promote sustainability in Sheffield.

The CityElectric scheme will be ambitiously trialling using ten e-vehicles in and around Sheffield in order to see the impact it will have on drivers and riders across the city.

The trial will take place with a view to expanding to their over 2000 strong fleet – the third largest fleet in the UK – if successful, making City Taxis the first of its kind to attempt a scheme of this size.

Amy Tingle, Business Manager at City Taxis said: “We’re aiming to have a fully EV fleet by 2025, although there are a few factors that we’ll need to consider in order to succeed with this.

“We want to ensure our drivers are looked after and need to find an offering that’s right for them – but equally, we need to get the infrastructure in Sheffield right first so that e-vehicle chargers are easily accessible.”

A disadvantage to making the switch to using e-vehicles as taxis immediately is the lack of charging hubs – something the firm have already taken into account.

Amy added: “We have a vision to build 12 accessible charging hubs across Sheffield to ensure drivers and the public can easily access charging facilities in support of Sheffield’s bid to tackle climate change. We are working with the council and local businesses to consider different locations to house the charging hubs.”

“We’ve already begun work on our first prototype, which is due to be launched at Kelham Island within the new year.”

This prototype has been developed to charge 10-12 vehicles: comprising fast and rapid chargers which can fully charge an EV within as little as 30 minutes.

The hub will also house a rest-stop – which will include coffee machines, toilets, a seating area and free Wi-Fi.

Amy continued: “No one within the UK who have a fleet size like ours has done this before and City Taxis are excited to pioneer Sheffield’s proposed charging infrastructure.”

Fleet Rental

If the prospect of committing to buying an e-vehicle seems daunting, alternative options are available. Companies such as Fleet Rental Solutions offer vehicle leasing for both businesses and private clients, and the advantages to businesses can be just as great.

Geoff Bell, Director of Fleet Rental Solutions said: “For a long time, those in the automotive industry have been aware of EVs but the demand has only been growing more recently – for us, we noticed it was around the time the 69 plate came out.

“The biggest advantage to renting is that, as technology advances so quickly, you risk quickly having an outdated model once you’ve bought an e-vehicle.

“By renting, you’re not tied to an older model that may not have the same battery power you’d be needing – you can just upgrade once the time comes.”

Depending on the customer’s requirements, Fleet Rental will source any e-vehicle on the market in order – no matter how specific.

As more and more cities introduce emissions charges, the rental firm are preparing for electric cars – and potentially vans – to become more commonplace in the workforce.

Geoff continued: “Cars are a bit like mobile phones – technology is ever changing, and we work hard to keep up with this incredible pace.”

“As an independent rental service, we will always give full advice to ensure that the e-vehicle is right for the customer. By making e-vehicles more accessible to each customer, we can help them to become more common.”