Rapid Charge Network now active

Written on March 31, 2016

The new 1,100km charging network installed by Rapid Charge Network across Britain is now active.

The route, which stretches across the country diagonally and reaches from Stranraer in Scotland right through to East Anglia and from Hull to Holyhead in Wales – as well as connecting to Belfast and Dublin – was turned on last month.

There are 74 rapid chargers within the network, all capable of charging a typical electric vehicle battery to at least 80 per cent in less than 30 minutes. This makes long-distances more plausible for electric car drivers, and has also ended an era in which plug-in vehicles were only really considered suitable for towns and cities.

Ben Fletcher, electric vehicle product manager at Groupe Renault UK, said: “Electric vehicle sales are rising strongly as vehicle technologies and the nationwide charging infrastructure take major strides forward, facilitating cost-effective local and long-distance motoring. Investments like the Rapid Charge Network are vital for maintaining the momentum and encouraging more motorists to go electric.”

New research from Newcastle University has revealed that almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of EV users will be motivated to use the rapid chargers in order to prolong their vehicle’s battery life. This will allow drivers to drive both faster and further.

The network represented a £7.4m investment, which was part-funded by the European Union’s Trans European Transport Network programme alongside four major EV manufacturers: Nissan, BMW, Renault and Volkswagen. ESB – Ireland’s foremost energy company – and the UK’s Ecotricity are the operators responsible for providing power to all of the Rapid Charge Network charging stations.

Sunderland-based firm, Zero Carbon Futures were responsible for implementing the network in order to help meet increasing demand for public charge points. It’s also hoped that the charge points will help encourage more motorists to switch to electric plug-in vehicles.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen UK said: “We, and our electric vehicle customers, will welcome the development of a network of multi-standard charge points. Each charge point on the network is compatible with all standard EVs on sale today, taking away the element of confusion for drivers and providing reassurance that they can rapid charge regardless of make or model.”

One in 14 drug-drive at least once a month

Written on March 25, 2016

Seven per cent of drivers admitted to driving once a month after taking drugs, according to a new survey from Brake, the road safety charity.

The survey – which was also contributed to by insurers, Direct Line – found that one in 12 people believed they’d been a passenger in a car driven by someone who’d taken drugs within the last year.

One in six respondents to the survey (16 per cent) said that they would get in a car with a drug-driver.

The release of the figures comes a year after new laws on drug-driving were introduced alongside tests to aid police officers in catching those driving illegally.

Since the law was brought in, there has been a six-fold increase in the number of convictions for drug driving in the UK, with some individual forces seeing their arrest rates rise by as much as 800 per cent.

Official road safety figures show that 47 road deaths and 197 serious injuries in 2014 were caused by a driver impaired by drugs: this was an increase on the 21 deaths and the 181 serious injuries that occurred in 2013.

Some estimates have suggested that as many as 200 people each year are killed by drug drivers on Britain’s roads.

Alice Bailey, the campaigns advisor for Brake, said: “The hundreds of extra convictions over the last 12 months prove just how overdue this law change was. Different drugs have different effects, some slowing reaction times, others making drivers over confident and more likely to take risks, but they all have the potential to make drivers a danger to themselves and all other road users.

“The Government must make sure the police have the necessary resources to carry out these tests and keep catching dangerous drug drivers who risk killing themselves or someone else.”

Rob Miles, director of car insurance for Direct Line, said: “The significant increase in drug-driving convictions since the change in the law last year should serve as a serious deterrent to those considering getting behind the wheel after taking drugs. This is testament to how, when road safety issues are given due prominence, positive change can be achieved.”

Fleet Alliance carbon levels fall to 119g/km

Written on March 18, 2016

The Fleet Alliance has seen their carbon levels decrease to 199g/km, with many corporate customers now specifying greener models for their own fleets.

The average for 2014 was 118g/km across the FN50, with hybrid-powered cars now the most popular alternative fuel.

As much as 20 per cent of all cars ordered across the 18,400-strong Fleet Alliance fleet were sub-100g/km of CO2, itself an increase of 14 per cent year-on-year.  77 per cent of the fleet had CO2 figures of less than 130g/km, compared to just 71 per cent at the end of 2014.  Companies are increasingly turning to low carbon emitting vehicles.

In the league table of the cleanest cars, the top ten all had emissions of lower than 100g/km.  The greenest car in the fleet was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, with emissions of 48g/km.  The Outlander is now the most popular ULEV in the UK, with 11,681 vehicles sold last year: an increase in sales of 118 per cent compared to 2014.

The Lexus CT Hybrid was the second most carbon efficient vehicle, with emissions of 82g/km.  Lexus itself now has a company car policy to encourage employees to consider greener alternatives.  Third and fourth in the emissions list were both Peugeot models: the 208 (93g/km) and the 308 (94g/km).

During the previous 18 months, the Fleet Alliance has continually advised clients on the importance of laying out fleet policies focused on encouraging take-up of low carbon-emitting cars.  As well as the obvious environmental benefits, fleets can also make substantial savings on tax, National Insurance and fuel costs.

A number of green initiatives have also been introduced by the Alliance, including an EV awareness programme as well as two new examples of the Nissan Leaf for testing and review purposes.

The Audi A3 remained the best overall seller in the Fleet Alliance charts, followed by the Volkswagen Passat and the Ford Mondeo.

Martin Brown, managing director of the Fleet Alliance, said:

“Carbon emissions are falling across our entire fleet and last year as a whole they fell to an average of 119g/km, the lowest we have seen so far.

“We expect this to fall further in 2016 as more clients switch to greener cars, not only cutting their carbon footprints but reducing their tax and fuel bills, too.

“At the same time, we are seeing many newer green models coming through from the vehicle manufacturers with ever-lower carbon emissions across all popular model ranges.

“The fact that the cleanest two models on our fleet are both hybrids is in line with the national trend which has seen uptake of hybrid vehicles grow at a staggering rate in the last 12 months.”

Drug-drive arrests continue to soar

Written on March 14, 2016

The number of arrests for drug-driving has soared by 800 per cent in the last year, following the introduction of new government laws.

A roadside swab test, designed to catch drug drivers, was introduced alongside the laws on March 2nd last year and it is now illegal to drive with any one of 17 types of drugs in the blood (above specified limits).

Motorists who take the wheel after using any of the substances now face a criminal record, the loss of their licence for at least a year, as well as a potentially unlimited fine.  It remains an offence to drive whilst impaired by any substance.

The Government is planning to launch a new marketing campaign to promote the first anniversary of the laws, in order to emphasise the risks drivers take when drug-driving.  It is now far more likely that drug-drivers will be caught at the roadside and charged.

Provisional figures taken from Cheshire Police showed that officers arrested eight times as many drug drivers since the introduction of the laws.  Over 530 arrests have taken place since March 2015, a huge increase over just 70 the previous year.

An additional £1 million in funding has been given to police forces to help them train officers and pay for sample analysis and new drug screening equipment.

Roads Minister, Andrew Jones said:

“Thanks to our tougher law, police are catching and convicting more dangerous drivers.

“The Government will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with police as they work tirelessly to protect the public while recognising enforcement alone is not the answer. We need to educate and influence behaviour change which is why we are pushing on with our Think! campaign, which has helped change attitudes towards drink-driving and ultimately save lives.”

Cheshire Police, Chief Constable, Simon Byrne said:

“Cheshire Police’s figures speak for themselves. We have taken a no nonsense approach to using this new legislation as part of our wider work to target criminals who use our road networks.

“Under the new drug-driving laws once suspects are charged, 98% have been convicted – compared to 80% for the old offence.”

During this year’s Christmas drink and drug-drive campaign, 1,888 random drug screenings were carried out across England and Wales.  Alarmingly, nearly 50 per cent of them tested positive.

Dart Charge company drivers accrue £11.1m in penalties

Written on March 10, 2016

Company vehicle drivers racked up £11.1m in fines and penalties during 2015, a substantial increase over previous years, according to data from leasing company Lex Autolease.  Three years ago, the figure had been just £7m.

£5.6m in fines for parking and £1.1m for bus lane infringements were issued during the year, increases of 39 per cent and 58 per cent respectively over the figures from 2012.

The £11.1m total for company drivers was an increase of 17 per cent over 2015, with almost half of the charges being relatively minor traffic offences such as stopping in a box junction, with 25,000 drivers taking up £4.2m worth of fines.

The new findings were taken from 317,000 company vehicles, and have already sparked some debate as to whether the rise in less serious traffic offences is simply due to greater enforcement from local authorities.

Company car drivers committed 53,231 offences in 2015 than in 2014, with the overall figure a total of 198,186.  This was a rise of more than a third when compared to 2014: a substantially higher increase than had been seen in previous years (three per cent between 2012-13 and 17 per cent in 2013-14).

The charges accounted for 17 per cent of offences during 2015, with nearly 35,000 drivers falling foul of the new payment systems.

It’s believed that a lack of driver awareness has cost businesses around £474,497 in fines in the first year of the new systems, with the cost to businesses having increased by 58 per cent in the last three years.

Guy Mason, the head of fleet operations at Lex Autolease, said:

“The enormous jump in year on year increases for both the number of offences committed and the value of fines incurred should be of real concern.

“Our data suggests a clampdown on motoring offences that might have been considered minor in the past, with increased investment in bus lane cameras and traffic wardens by local authorities meaning company car drivers should no longer feel they can simply ‘get away with’ so-called minor misdemeanours.

“Though more than three quarters of the offences committed are classed as ‘minor’ traffic infringements, the financial impact of such offences is far from minimal and it is clear that businesses need to do much more to change the driving habits of employees.

“The economic impact of investing in driver training should be incentive enough for businesses to meet this challenge head on.”

The frequency of more serious driving offences, such as speeding or driving whilst using a mobile phone, were also revealed as part of the survey.  Offences like these amounted to just 22 per cent in 2015, but this was a nine per cent increase over the 43,636 offenses in the previous year.

Mr Mason added:

“While businesses do undertake driver education programmes, such as Drivetech, the fact remains that more than 43,000 company car drivers committed motoring offences which are typically more serious in nature.

“This calls into question the safety of employees and other road users, as well as raising concerns about the possibility of drivers receiving penalty points on their license or even a driving ban – hindering their ability to do their job.”

Customers can be ‘deterred’ by unsafe company drivers

Written on March 7, 2016

According to new research from TomTom Telematics, two-thirds of motorists said they would be less inclined to do business with companies whose drivers were ‘unsafe’ or ‘discourteous’.

Over 1,000 British consumers were interviewed as part of the survey, in which just three per cent of respondents considered van drivers likely to be either safe or careful on the roads.

The other four participants in the ‘bottom four’ of drivers were high performance and sports car drivers, taxi drivers and truck drivers, who received four per cent, eight per cent and eight per cent of the vote respectively.

Following the survey, TomTom Telematics suggested that the figures obviously represented a great opportunity to help British businesses raise their standards in order to improve the public perception of them.

Taco van der Leij, the VP for marketing at TomTom, said:

“I think business owners may be surprised by the results of this survey and the extent to which poor driving standards can impact on their companies.

“But help is at hand.

“Telematics technology can play a key role in helping companies tackle issues around driving standards by providing employees with access to the appropriate training, guidance and technological aids.

“While telematics has traditionally been the focus of fleet managers and operations directors, this survey clearly shows that it should also be on the radar of the marketing department. By improving how they are perceived on the road, businesses can establish themselves as responsible brands worthy of consumer trust.”

Van Drivers were also bottom of the list when it came to courtesy and politeness, alongside high-performance and sports car drivers.  Both categories scored 3 per cent of the vote, with SUV Drivers and truck drivers both only just beating them with 4 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Drivers of small and company cars were considered the safest on the road, with 27 per cent of the vote.  Saloon car drivers were next with 23 per cent, and bus and coach drivers third with 17 per cent.   The most polite and courteous drivers were believed to be small and compact car drivers, who took 26 per cent of the vote.

Average CO2 emissions fall by 3.2%

Written on March 2, 2016

According to annual CO2 analysis by Jato Dynamics, the amount of CO2 emissions for new cars across Europe fell by 3.2 per cent during 2015.

The analysis included 23 European markets and it was found that the average emissions were 4g/km lower than the total from 2014 – and an even more substantial 7.5g/km lower than the figure registered in 2013.

It’s believed that a lot of the improvement is due to performance in smaller markets such as Norway and Switzerland, as well as the better results being posted by big volume car manufacturers. Increases in electric vehicle registrations are also believed to have had a positive impact, with a 9.3 per cent increase taking place in the analysed period.

Peugeot led the way in terms of emission falls for 2015, with Citroen and Renault second and third.  Peugeot slashed their levels by an impressive 5.8g/km on the previous year, with their total average CO2 emissions falling from 109.3g/km in 2014 to 103.5g/km in 2015. It’s believed that the 1.0 and 3 cylinder engines that power the Peugeot 108 contributed significantly to the improvement.

Citroen, the other major volume brand within the PSA Group, were down by 5.1g/km when compared to the previous year.  The substantial increase in sales for the Citroen 4 Cactus – 173 per cent – heavily drove the company’s improvement throughout the year.

Toyota and Nissan took fourth and fifth place respectively in the list of manufacturers with most improved vehicle emissions. Skoda showed the most improvement within the top 20 companies, with the new generation Fabia helping to cut their average emissions by 6.2g/km as a result of the improved engines used in the model.

Though they remained outside the top 20, Land Rover reduced its emissions by a substantial 11.4g/km, and Smart’s average continued to be a low 94.3g/km, despite introducing the Forfour model car: a larger vehicle.

Felipe Munoz, the global automotive analyst at Jato, said:

“There are a number of reasons for the improvements in CO2 emissions in 2015. The introduction of lighter models, more efficient engines, and increased sales of hybrid and electric vehicles, all contributed to a positive outlook for further emissions reductions in the future.”

Norway overtook the Netherlands as the country with the lowest average emissions across Europe: its total decreases from 110.5g/km to 100.5g/km year-on-year.  The reduction was the largest of any country in the study.

Firms offered business mileage advice to avoid HMRC fine

Written on February 29, 2016

Businesses are being given tips on how to avoid fines of up to £3,000 per employee from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for inaccurate tax returns due to erroneous mileage records.

Firms that utilise company-owned vehicles for business travel are required to report the usage of these vehicles to the tax authority, keeping accurate mileage records to demonstrate business vs private mileage usage.

The minimum reporting requirement demands that business owners include data regarding the date of travel, the reason for the journey, the number of miles travelled and the locations travelled between.

Additionally, any claim must identify the vehicle used and the type of fuel to tie in with the amount claimed. In the event a company does not provide free fuel for private usage of company vehicles then the records must reflect this.

Last year, a survey on business mileage claims discovered that more than half (56 per cent) of company car drivers were in the dark regarding HMRC rules on reclaiming business mileage. More than a third (36 per cent) of employees update their mileage log less than once a fortnight, leaving many businesses potentially exposed to inaccurate data which could cost them dearly.

With HMRC becoming ever stricter regarding this area of business expenses, FuelGenie has supplied business owners with the following tips to help them understand the laws and reinforce the importance of accurate record keeping:

  • The use of fuel cards can more accurately and cost-effectively monitor mileage and fuel use per driver. Some fuel cards also provide itemised VAT invoicing with a breakdown of all fuel card transactions to enable customers to reclaim business fuel VAT in full.
  • GPS Technology, telematics and smartphone apps can be used to help track the time used for business vs private mileage.
  • Distribute clear, concise guidelines to those claiming mileage to set expectations regarding what is acceptable and what is not acceptable, including the severe consequences of committing mileage fraud.
  • Implement an approval process so that line managers can check claims before they are paid out. Approvers should also be given clear guidelines as to what they should be checking for i.e. weekend travel and rounded-up mileage.

Conduct regular reviews of your business mileage processes. Continue to ensure you and your employees are applying the correct legislation and mileage rates and maintain systems in line with technology and legislation developments.

Used fleet and lease vehicle values fall slightly month-on-month

Written on February 22, 2016

The latest Pulse report from the BCA suggests average values of used fleet and lease vehicles declined in January by £148 compared to the previous month.

Values of fleet and lease cars averaged £9,440 last month, falling 1.5 per cent on December’s figure of £9,588. Performance compared with CAP improved from 95.64 per cent to 98.03 per cent, while retained value against the original manufacturers’ retail price (MRP) improved to 40.48 per cent, with the age and mileage of vehicles largely stagnant.

Year-on-year comparisons with January 2015 show that average fleet and lease values are down slightly by just 0.4 per cent, with performance against CAP Clean improving although retained value was almost a full percentage down on 2015.

The headline average value of a used car sold at BCA last month also declined by 2.1 per cent (£7,877) compared to December, although performance against CAP Clean improved to 98.5 per cent.

Simon Henstock, chief operating officer, BCA UK Remarketing, said: “January saw a well-balanced marketplace in terms of supply and demand, with plenty of appetite for used cars across the board.

“However, average prices dropped slightly compared to the back end of 2015 and while there is a lot of demand for good retail quality stock, there are challenges at the extremities of the market.

“The relatively mild weather has also meant that the seasonally strong performance for the 4×4 sector hasn’t really reached expectations.

“With Easter arriving early, we may see values reduce more quickly than usual once we move into the second quarter and the holiday season hits.”

BVRLA: Stop punishing company car drivers

Written on February 18, 2016

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has urged Chancellor, George Osborne to reconsider the way the Government treats company car drivers ahead of the Budget 2016.

As part of a submission to Mr Osborne, the association has pleaded with the Government to stop punishing company car owners and carry out a wholesale review of the taxation system, recognising the benefits these vehicles bring in terms of reduce emissions on the road and tax revenues.

Gerry Keaney, chief executive, BVRLA, said: “Since George Osborne became Chancellor in 2013, company car drivers have been hit by a series of tax increases that are both unfair and unsignposted.

“It is no coincidence that we have seen 30,000 fewer employees taking a car as part of their work package during this period.”

There is a belief within the association that company drivers are increasingly choosing to drive their own vehicles, which tend to be older on average, more dangerous and emit more pollution than newer models.

“By encouraging employees to give up their company cars, the Government risks hundreds of thousands of motorists opting for older, privately-owned vehicles that are not built to the same safety and emissions standards,” added Keaney.

“In 2015, BVRLA members purchased nearly 50% of all new vehicles sold in the UK, and the average BVRLA member’s leased car emitted just 117.8g/km CO2.”

The BVRLA anticipates the two per cent increase in company car tax from 2017-18 and the delay in removing the three per cent diesel supplement cost will hit the average company car driver in the pocket to the tune of £626.94 in 2017-18, followed by £882.26 in 2018-19, compared with outgoings in 2013-14.

“The Chancellor must use the Budget to reverse some of the damaging decisions he has made recently, including the delayed abolition of the 3% diesel supplement,” said Keaney.

“These measures are at odds with the government’s stated aims to increase the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles and improve air quality in the UK.”

The other key recommendations to come out of the pre-Budget submission are:

  • Abolish the 3% diesel supplement on benefit in kind (BIK) tax bands for Euro 6 cars from 2016
  • Reform BIK bandings, offering a greater incentive for users of ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Make leased vehicles eligible for First Year Capital Allowances
  • Introduce a new tax category for electric vehicles that takes their range into account
  • Provide more in-life incentives for ultra-low emission vehicle drivers
  • Protect the benefits of company salary sacrifice schemes
  • Provide incentives for the fitment of Autonomous Emergency Braking technology