A recent Association of Fleet Professional (AFP) webinar has highlighted the challenges that face EV fleet owners when their fleets are in rural areas. The issue is not just a lack of EV charging points, but the power outages that result from weather events.

The issues emerged in an AFP webinar in which concerns were raised by members. These included, from the AFP’s Kerbside Charging Group, James Rooney, fleet engineer at Centrica; David Fisher, fleet manager at Virgin Media O2, Dale Eynon, director of DEFRA Group Fleet Services and Simon Gray, head of fleet and travel at SSE.

Operating a fleet in the countryside was proving particularly difficult, according to Dale Eynon: “Large parts of the areas that we need to reach have literally nothing in the way of charging facilities. The public infrastructure is currently very much based around motorways and A roads.

“There are potential solutions, however. One promising avenue is charger sharing, which means that we may be able to access private charging points on a pay-per-use basis using an app. We are also looking at increasing our return-to-base charging capacity, although this has limits.”

Simon Gray said that weather events such as Storm Arwen brought another major challenge. SSE had over 700 engineers on the ground during the storm in November to try to restore power to people’s homes. But with more travelling in EV rescue vehicles they were also affected by power outages themselves, with cars unable to use charging points.

“The situation did raise a fundamental question – how do you keep EVs running during a power outage?” said Gray. “We’re looking into answers to this conundrum and alternative resources may include options such as mobile chargers. Our view is that there will be solutions to this issue but that we just need to identify them.”

The webinar was also told about the AFP’s plans to publish a national heat map showing where kerbside charging points were most needed.

Paul Hollick, chair at the AFP, said: “Every day we are hearing from fleets, especially van fleets, that want to speed up the electrification of their operations but are being hampered by the problem of charging for drivers who do not have a drive or access to a charger.

“This is generally thought to be about 40% of drivers across all fleets but, when it comes to light commercial vehicles, we believe the figure to be nearer 70%. That means good availability of kerbside charging is essential if van electrification is going to be a success.

The heat map is based on a huge data collection exercise, based on postcode information from160,000 drivers, both potential and existing. The heat map is due to come online very soon this year.