14 Jul 22

Local authorities in England unprepared for EV transition

Local government in England is woefully unprepared for the transition to EVs, a new survey finds. This even though the UK has mandated the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and other urgent nudges towards electrification.
Commissioned by Geotab, the survey (‘Destination EV – Accelerating Local Authority EV Transition) examines how local authorities in England are switching their fleets to electric. Some key findings:

  • Almost three quarters (74%) of all local authorities surveyed have transitioned less than 10% of their fleets to EVs.
  • Almost half (46%) have not yet set a date by which they expect their vehicles to have gone electric. 
  • Most (54%) local authorities have fewer than 50 public, home, or depot EV chargers in place across their region. 

“Alarming lack”

That adds up to an “alarming lack of local investment and awareness regarding the EV transition”, Geotab says. 

Local authority fleets typically include vehicles to for parking or environmental wardens, to perform maintenance, collect refuse, or offer social services. With such limited and predictable roles, these vehicles are ideal candidates for electrification, at least on paper.

Moreover, public fleets have a role in providing an example for others by setting best practices for zero-emission strategies. And yet, the average electrification rate amongst all 98 local authorities included in the survey was no more than 4.2%.

Saving money

So, why aren’t local authorities setting the example they should? Three main reasons, they say:

  • Specific EV types are expensive and hard to come by (especially in the case of buses or heavy-goods vehicles).
  • Concerns about the availability of charging points, with most local authorities reporting fewer than 50 such points in place, even including nearby public ones and home chargers. 
  • Budgets to finance such a transition are limited. 

However, as demonstrated by Geotab’s Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment, about 40% of today’s UK fleet vehicles could be replaced by EVs, with the switch saving rather than costing money. 

Strategic shift

“There’s a worrying lack of investment by local authorities across England ahead of the switch to electric at the end of this decade,” says David Savage, Geotab’s VP for the UK and Ireland. “27% of the UK’s emissions are from transport, and fleets account for over 50% of new vehicles on the road. Public sector fleet operators can lead this strategic shift by example—but they need the necessary investment, funding, and tools to support the transition to 100% electric.”

However, there is some good news. Electrification, though slow, has clearly begun, with 80% of authorities having at least one EV in their fleets. While the overall average is low, local authorities in Leeds, Kingston, West Sussex and Winchester report at least 20% of EVs among their fleets – the leader is Nottingham (pictured), with just under 35%.  

Telematics, which is used by 90% of the fleets surveyed, could be a lever to speed up the introduction of EVs, as it is able to offer real-world insights into vehicle use, and thus can help identify opportunities for electrification. 

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Frank Jacobs