Choosing eco-friendly vehicles as a fleet option

Eco-friendly vehicles are here to stay and there are plenty of fleet options for switched-on chief execs. Kathleen Hall reports.

David Pealing is the sales director of family owned colour printing company Severnprint, which recently came 14th in The Times’ top 50 list of greenest companies. The company owns two Toyota Prius cars, an electric Vectrix motorcycle and a Mini Cooper D.

For Pealing, being green is not about ticking boxes. He explains: ‘Because we don’t have to answer to shareholders it’s possible to spend our money in a way we feel is important. We have also employed a full-time environmental manager who oversees our standards. So although our energy efficient cars save on fuel costs, it’s far outweighed by our overall green expenses.’

In the past four years licenses for hybrid electric cars have shot up from 1,000 to 32,000. Juliet Davenport, CEO of green power company Good Energy, drives a Toyota Prius because she feels a personal responsibility for representing the principles of her company. ‘The whole point of what we are doing as a company is to help people reduce their environmental impact, so for me not to reflect that in the company car seemed ridiculous.’

However, there are more than just environmental reasons behind business leaders driving green. With tax benefits making it more cost-effective to drive a car with lower CO2 emissions, and the escalating price of fuel, it makes business sense to switch.

According to Malcolm Noyle, CEO of environmental fleet company Noyle Fleet Solutions, the cost benefits to business are manifold when the head decides to drive green. ‘By adapting green policies themselves they are helping to change the whole psychology of the company,’ he comments. ‘It results in greater awareness from staff about saving energy. That saves the company money in the process.’

The bigger picture

Energy efficient vehicles alone won’t make a company green. Instead, broader measures and actions are required. Alison Southcombe, head of marketing at fleet software company CFC Solutions, says the company has managed to cut its carbon footprint by 27 per cent in the past 12 months, despite increasing its fleet by three vehicles.

The reason, she explains, is a simple ‘common sense’ approach to journey planning and the use of telephone conferencing: ‘There’s a tendency in some companies for CEOs to be seen to be doing the right thing by driving green, but this is not going to be cost effective if they don’t implement other measures.’

Personal lifestyle factors are often another drawback to making the switch. Southcombe adds: ‘We do have some green cars in our fleet, but we don’t pressurise anyone to use them because they are not always convenient for all staff.’

James Hall, marketing director and co-owner of IT network company Teneo, comments that the type of car company leaders drive should be a matter of personal choice: ‘Although I do think everyone needs to be aware of the impact they have on the environment, I don’t think you should feel you have to penalise yourself or your lifestyle in the process. There were greener cars I could have gone for, but they wouldn’t have suited my family needs.’

However, the fact Hall didn’t deliberately go green – the Toyota Prius just fitted his criteria for a new car – does reflect the success of some car manufacturers in making green a mainstream choice.

Roddy Graham, commercial director of vehicle management group Leasedrive Velo, praises manufacturers for making aspirational cars with low CO2 emissions. He says: ‘Companies who want to go green are sometimes worried they will end up driving bubble cars, but it’s now possible to make the switch with cars such as BMWs and Audis.’

In terms of sophistication, Graham says green cars are very much in the early stages of development: ‘Hydrogen is the future. I wouldn’t be surprised to see cars which have zero CO2 emissions in 15 years time fuelled entirely by hydrogen.’

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