Leeds City Council use ELV’s to cut fuel bill

Written on July 29, 2016

Leeds City Council has become one of the first around the UK to invest in electric vehicles, with forty-two ELV’s being added to its fleet.

The combination of cars and vans will add to and replace the current vehicles in its fleet and will be used mainly for delivering council services through the city centre, where it’s hoped the reduced emissions will have the biggest impact on improving air quality.

The vehicles are expected to offer fuel savings of around £24,600, whilst travelling a combined 450,000 miles a year around the city.

Lucinda Yeadon, executive member for environment and sustainability at Leeds City Council, said:

“Making the switch to electric vehicles means we can cut emissions from our business as usual operations and make not insignificant financial savings too.”

The council is also taking other steps to help promote ELV’s. They are now offering any ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) drivers a free parking permit within the city. More parking is also being created specifically for electric vehicles within council car parks.

The council is working hard to help ensure that any new developments are fitted with suitable charging points for the new vehicles.

Sustainable transport has continued to be a focus for the city council. In recent months, they’ve continued to encourage people to use appropriate vehicles wherever possible, and have also carried out work to remove barriers for the transport industry in the hope that ULEV uptake will continue to increase.

Finally, the council is in ongoing discussions with a number of city bus companies in order to help them maximise their positive contribution to the environment.

Land Rover demonstrate off-road autonomous vehicle

Written on July 25, 2016

Jaguar Land Rover has demonstrated new research technology that could potentially allow autonomous vehicles to drive themselves off-road.

The new multi-million pound research project was set up in order to try and make autonomous cars as practical as possible, by allowing them to operate effectively in a range of real-life driving environments.

Tony Harper, head of research at Jaguar Land Rover, said:

“Our all-terrain autonomy research isn’t just about the car driving itself on a motorway or in extreme off-road situations. It’s about helping both the driven and autonomous car make their way safely through any terrain or driving situation.

“We don’t want to limit future highly automated and fully autonomous technologies to tarmac. When the driver turns off the road, we want this support and assistance to continue. In the future, if you enjoy the benefits of autonomous lane keeping on a motorway at the start of your journey, we want to ensure you can use this all the way to your destination, even if this is via a rough track or gravel road.

“So whether it’s a road under construction with cones and a contraflow, a snow-covered road in the mountains or a muddy forest track, this advanced capability would be available to both the driver AND the autonomous car, with the driver able to let the car take control if they were unsure how best to tackle an obstacle or hazard ahead. We are already world-leaders in all-terrain technologies: these research projects will extend that lead still further.”

The scientists and researchers at Jaguar Land Rover are making use of next-generation sensing technology in order to give the cars the ability to sense potential danger faster than a human driver. The sensors used are always active and could give the vehicle level of artificial intelligence that would allow it think for itself and plan routes on any surface.

This technology combines camera, ultrasonic, radar and LIDAR sensors, and allows the car to have a 360° view of the world around. It’s believed that the sensors are advanced enough to even detect surface characteristics, allowing it to take into account factors like the width of a tyre when driving in rain or snow.

“The key enabler for autonomous driving on any terrain is to give the car the ability to sense and predict the 3D path it is going to drive through,” added Harper.

“This means being able to scan and analyse both the surface to be driven on, as well as any hazards above and to the sides of the path ahead. This might include car park barriers, tree roots and boulders or overhanging branches, as well as the materials and topography to be driven on.”

Ultrasonic sensors can scan up to five metres ahead of the car, giving it the opportunity to change its terrain response settings before it drives onto a new surface. This would be ideal in driving from grass to tarmac, or from snow onto concrete.

Fleets reluctant to adopt alternatively powered vehicles

Written on July 19, 2016

A new in-depth survey from Sewells Research & Insight has revealed that practical obstacles are currently preventing feats from taking on more alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs).

Though there is mounting pressure for fleets to adopt low or zero emission vehicles, fears over the higher cost, long recharging times and the uncertain residual values of the cars themselves continue to stop fleets from increasing their uptake.

Interestingly, the research also showed that petrol is making a comeback at the expense of diesel. The emissions test scandal, combined with fears over the impact of nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions on the environment, are believed to have had substantial impact on this.

The Fleet Market Report 2016 covered a number of areas, with Sewells noting that fleets were prepared to adopt alternatively fuelled vehicles, but only in small numbers. Companies estimated that the number of AFVs in their own fleets would rise to around 1.5 per cent within the next year, 2.5 per cent within three years and 4.7 per cent in five years.

Though this would actually represent a market share increase of 213 per cent, it would still leave 95 per cent of company cars reliant on fossil fuels.

81 per cent of fleet decision makers, meanwhile, said that range issues were a primary obstacle to them increasing their uptake of AFVs. 77 per cent called for the charging times to be decreased and 73 wanted to see more recharging points available before they increased their investment.

40 per cent of fleets did note that their drivers would be open to accepting AFV’s. However, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing a policy of doubling the speed at which it increases company car tax; and this is leaving a number of drivers with the choice between a higher tax bill, or a vehicle that simply isn’t sufficient to get the job done.

It’s likely that the issue will become more pressing, as local authorities are expected to introduce more and more ‘clean air zones’, with hefty charges in place for drivers using vehicles contravening the regulations.

Car fleet sales rise as retail registrations fall

Written on July 15, 2016

Though retail registrations have declined again, the number of new fleet vehicles being registered has continued to grow.

There was a very minor fall in overall demand during June – of less than one per cent – but fleet registrations followed the recent trend, with an increase of 4.5 per cent. This drove the market heavily, helping to combat a 4.5 per cent drop in the number of private registrations.

Business sales overall were down 25 per cent, but the combined number of registrations for fleet and business were up 1.9 per cent.

2016 has seen the best ever performance in terms of car registration, with 1,420,636 cars being registered in the first half of the year.

Every vehicle fuel type has seen growth, with diesel and petrol registrations increasing by 2.3 per cent and 3 per cent respectively. Alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) have also seen growth in the last few months. Indeed, take up was 21.3 per cent higher year-on-year compared to 2015. This year, AFVs have accounted for 3.2 per cent of the overall new-car market.

Mike Hawes, chief executive for the SMMT, said:

“It is far too soon to determine whether the referendum result has had an impact on the new car market. The first six months saw strong demand at record levels but the market undoubtedly cooled over the second quarter. It’s important government takes every measure to restore business and economic confidence to avoid the market contracting in the coming months.”

Rupert Pontin, the director of valuations at Glass’s, said:

“The June new car registration figures are not a great surprise bearing in mind the political instability during the course of the month.

“To be 0.8 per cent behind June 2015 may be seen as quite a positive for many and to be running at 3.2 per cent above the same period year to date in 2015 is indicative of where Glass’s forecasted the market for 2016 to be 6 months ago.

“Unfortunately our data shows that pre-registration activity has increased by 9.5 per cent over the same period last year and this is further supported by anecdotal evidence from a number of key industry contacts concerned at the tactical activity demanded by certain manufacturers.

“However, despite the scare tactics employed by both sides of the political spectrum the industry is still in a reasonably good position as it stands today.”

Experts call for government assistance in EV uptake

Written on July 11, 2016

New research from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has claimed that for uptake of alternatively-powered vehicles to increase, the government must offer more assistance.

Despite the efforts of those in the EV industry, petrol and diesel cars continued to dominate the market across the last year, with a combined 97.2 per cent share in the industry.

Volumes rose in both industries, with petrol increasing by 8.3 per cent and diesel rising by 3 per cent. There was a definite rise in alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs), with a 40.7 per cent increase. This meant a record market-share of 2.8 per cent, with 70,000 units being registered.

The International Automotive Summit, which was held in London last week, saw a claim made that the UK’s car market will look very different in 20 years’ time and that fleet managers would play a big role in its transformation.

A number of speakers at the event noted that electric cars would likely become very popular for shorter journeys, whilst hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles were more likely to be used for longer trips. Erik Jonnaert, secretary general for the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), said there would likely be challenges ahead for the industry, but that there was also huge potential.

“It’s going to be important to come up with the right approach and we must look at what we can do in technology with power trains,” said Jonnaert.

“There are still opportunities to improve the internal combustion engine but with alternative powertrains we o must have reality. Uptake is very low at 3 per cent of sales so there must be incentives for better uptake.”

Mr Jonnaert also acknowledged that better battery power must be a priority for the AFV sector as a whole.

Richard Jory, the vice-president for global key accounts and global business at Shell, meanwhile, argued that there was no ‘silver bullet’ in terms of the automobile industry, and that it was likely a combination of different vehicles would be used in the long term.

“Demand for moving goods and people will double by 2050 and emissions could potentially rise by 80 per cent. There is seemingly an insatiable demand for more mobility,” said Jory.

Electric vehicle take-up requires co-ordinated plan

Written on July 4, 2016

A new study has claimed that if take-up of electric vehicles is to be improved, strategic policy interventions will be necessary.

The research was carried out by the Institute for Transport Studies (ITS) at the University of Leeds, and was commissioned by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

It claimed that better coordination and connectivity between vehicles and infrastructure would help to improve energy efficiency and could also help to make road transport faster and safer.

However, it also noted that whilst the potential is substantial in terms of helping to make car travel greener and cheaper, more work is still required on the process. Research found that shared car ownership still needs more encouragement and that government policy could help.

If the current administration were able to deliver open data protocols, support technology incubation and incentives to local mobility service companies – in addition to providing more resource to local authorities – then take-up could be improved.

The report did acknowledge that energy demand and traffic could increase as a result. Driverless cars would leave the occupant free to use their travel time for other activities and it’s possible that car travel in general could subsequently become more popular.

It might therefore be necessary to manage demand in order to prevent unsustainable increases in the use of cars. Road user charging, low emission zoning and the regulation of empty running were all cited as possible solutions.

The report also noted that regulations or innovative policies could be necessary in encouraging manufacturers to work on efficiency optimising features such as eco-routing, platoon or automated eco-driving.

It will also be necessary to plan out low carbon, alternative fuel pumps and charging stations.

LowCVP managing director Andy Eastlake commented on the research, saying:

“It’s clear that there are significant potential benefits from the coming mobility revolution through connectivity and automation.

“However, in order to grasp the full environmental benefits of these technologies we need a strategic, coordinated policy response that will have to involve a wide range of stakeholders working in partnership.”

London Mayor begins to form air quality plans

Written on June 30, 2016

The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is planning to canvass fleet operators in a bid to help tackle the quality of air in the capital. There are a number of issues that the mayor is looking to manage, with the expansion and earlier introduction of the ultralow emission zone (ULEZ) one of his main priorities.

The world’s first clean air charging zone was originally planned to be introduced in September 2020, but it’s possible that the start date will now be a year earlier. There are also plans in place to double the originally planned size of the zone.

Mr Khan has proposed that the zone stretch from the north to the south circular roads: under the previous design, the zone was to only apply to the current congestion charge area. Plan charges were £12.50 per day for drivers of non-compliant cars, but the mayor has expressed a wish to add an additional premium for the most polluting vehicles from 2017. There are also plans in place to research a new diesel scrappage scheme for the city.

Mr Khan said: “I have been elected with a clear mandate to clean-up London’s air. The previous mayor was too slow on this issue and the Government has been hopelessly inactive. We need to speed up our efforts.”

It’s believed that almost 10,000 Londoners die each year as a result of pollution and London does not currently meet legal requirements for pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Around 60 per cent of the NO2 emissions in the city arise from transport, with cars contributing 28 per cent, vans nine per cent, HGVs 18 per cent and buses/coaches 16 per cent.

Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) also shows that London currently breaches safe levels of pollutant particles known as PM10.

Fleets operating outside London are already being urged to take a closer look at the mayor’s clean air proposals and it’s believed that they could soon form the overall blueprint for how vehicles are managed in other areas of the UK.

Ashley Sowerby, managing director at Chevin, said: “A key point to note is that the new suggestions are envisaged as happening much more quickly than previously. The additional congestion charge could happen in 2017 and the extended emissions zone by 2019.”

Logistics operator confidence at four-year low

Written on June 24, 2016

According to a new report from Barclays and Moore Stephens, optimism among logistics operators has fallen significantly in the first half of 2016, with levels measured at just 51.8 compared to 61.9 in the second half of 2015.

This represents the fourth successive drop in the biannual UK Logistics Confidence Index survey, which was first introduced in 2012. As well as this, the calculation made in the first of this year is the lowest figure since the index began.

On the positive side, almost 70 per cent of respondents said they expect their turnover to increase in the next year and the same number said they were confident enough to be planning investment in capital expenditure over the next six months.

Another point to be taken from the index is the increasing pressure logistics operators are facing from customers eager to enjoy lower prices: pressure that is actually coming during a period of both rising competition and increases in costs.

In order to try and combat this, logistics businesses are focusing more on value-added services and technology to try and both retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Such is the importance of value-added services that it has been cited a number of times as a key driver of contract wins: almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents believed the trend important enough to highlight, a three-fold rise in figures in the first half of 2015.

Value-added services include last mile delivery, returns management, pre-assembly, labelling, co-packing and even basic manufacturing: all services that potential clients could really benefit from.

Technology is another major opportunity for the sector, and was cited by 16 per cent of respondents: again, this was double the number citing the opportunity last year. A number of potential service and efficiency benefits come with increased use of technology, including both the ability to track drivers digitally and to gain increased insight through data analytics.

Rob Riddleston, head of transport and logistics at Barclays, said: “Confidence in the UK logistics industry has taken a knock from price pressure and increasing competition.
“Under such pressure, the high level of planned capital expenditure is welcome news and reflects the sector’s pressing need for investment in technology.

“It is also encouraging that the role of technology is recognised as a route to both control costs and improve service levels and investment in this area is a key trend for the sector.”

Hands-free phones is distracting as handheld devices

Written on June 20, 2016

Research from the University of Sussex has found that driving whilst talking on a hands-free phone has the potential to be just as distracting as using a hand-held mobile.

Road safety charity, Brake has used the research as a springboard to call for the Government to once again analyse the laws around mobile phone use whilst driving.

The study was published in the Transportation Research Journal and showed that drivers engaged in conversations sparking their visual imagination suffer in their ability to spot and react to potential hazards.

Their focus when asked about a subject that require them to visualise narrowed and they became less able to see hazards: even hazards they were looking directly at.

Having any conversation that requires visual imagination creates competition for the brain’s processing capacity, meaning that drivers can miss potential dangers they might otherwise have seen. Researchers claim the evidence shows more of the brain’s resources are used for conversations than was previously understood.

The study is the latest to look at the increased risk that occurs when mobile phones are used by those driving. Previous research estimated that up to 22 per cent of crashes could be caused by some form of distraction and that drivers who use their phones (or perform any other kind of secondary task) at the wheel can be three times more likely to crash.

Studies also shown that using a mobile phone at the wheel can be more dangerous than drinking certain kinds of alcohol. For instance, driver reaction times were found to be 30 per cent slower when using a hands-free phone than they were when driving with a blood alcohol level of 80 mg alcohol per hundred millilitres of blood: the legal limit in England and Wales.

What’s more, the reactions of mobile phone using drivers were found to be 50 per cent slower than those driving under normal conditions.

Lucy Amos, research advisor for Brake, said: “Distracted driving is a major cause behind road crashes; pulling the drivers’ attention away from the road and its potential hazards, potentially leading to fatal outcomes.

“This new study is only the latest of many which adds weight to extending the existing legislation to cover all mobile phone use within a vehicle, not just the use of hand-held mobile devices.

“We call on the Government to take action and remove the clear and present danger of mobile phones on our roads.”

Fleets require greater awareness of sleep disorders

Written on June 14, 2016

New research has found that eight-in-ten fleet owners believe they would benefit from an increased awareness of sleep disorders, with one particularly devastating disorder being named.

Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) currently affects around 10 per cent of the driving population, but occurs more frequently amongst those who drive for a living. Unfortunately, awareness of the condition is still very low amongst businesses that rely on their fleets and, in turn, their drivers.

The research was carried out by RAC Business and the OSA Partnership Group in April and found that more than half of businesses (57 per cent) believed they had very little awareness of the condition or the importance of detecting and treating it in their staff.

More than 500 UK businesses were surveyed and 80 per cent of them felt that their company could benefit from increased awareness of the symptoms, as well as potential treatments and a general view on how the condition affected sufferers.

Middle-age men are the most likely demographic to suffer from the condition, especially those that are overweight and studies on the condition have shown that drivers with untreated OSAS could be up to nine times more likely to have an accident when behind the wheel.

A number of highly effective treatments are available on the NHS, however campaigners are concerned about the number of undiagnosed cases. It is also possible that those managing the condition would be unwilling to come forward and admit to it, for fear of losing their licence and as a result their livelihood. Indeed, the RAC business survey found that 80 per cent believed drivers would be unlikely to raise any concerns with their GP or the DVLA.

In response to the concerns, the OSA Partnership Group – supported by RAC Business – launched a new initiative in January 2016 to help ensure that professional drivers diagnosed with the condition were fast-tracked for treatment. The initiative also tries to ensure drivers are back on the road within four weeks, but cannot guarantee this: it only provides recommendations for GPs and the fast track is not a legal requirement.

The partnership group has now called on the Government and the Department of Health to prioritise both the diagnosis and treatment of OSAS: it’s believed that fatigue and falling asleep at the wheel could account for as much as 20% of road accidents in the UK.

Jenny Powley, corporate sales director for RAC Business, said: “What our research shows is that there is clearly a demand for more information and greater awareness among businesses about this condition, which can have devastating consequences if left undiagnosed, both for the driver and other road users.

“When you consider the significant number of commercial drivers affected, and the wider consequences if a driver has an accident due to falling asleep at the wheel, it must surely be a public health priority for the Government, and they have a role to play in ensuring employers are aware.”