Research from a study conducted by Sewells has found that only23% of UK firms are aware of where clean air zones will be introduced and whenthey will come into action.

The British Business and Mobility Study surveyed over 1,000vehicle operating companies. 56% believed the zones would not be set up until2020. This is in fact 8 months after London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)will come into effect (April 2019).

Awareness of ULEZ was higher in London itself, but one-thirdof companies are still unclear of the upcoming regulations.

Sewells believe these findings will give leasing companiesand manufacturers opportunities to support clients with company vehicles.Leasing companies could help their clients to avoid fines for non-payment ofclean air zone (CAZ) charges by setting up outsourced payment solutions. Inaddition to this option, 16% of van fleets and 12% of car fleets have said theywill replace non-CAZ compliant vehicles.

The long-term solution to maintaining CAZs and remaining compliantappears to be zero emission vehicles. This goal has seen cities begin to make changesalready, with Oxford proposing a city-wide ban on petrol and diesel vehicles from2035 after beginning with a small number of streets in 2020.

Although the typical 150mile range of an Electric Vehicle(EV) would be enough for the daily requirements of more than a third of UKfleets, many companies are still concerned over range, recharging infrastructureand recharging time. They forecast that EVs won’t be viable for business usefor another three to four years.

Sewells say that the Government’s use of WLTP emissionsfigures to calculate VED and company car tax from 2020-21 mean the taxliability of petrol, diesel, and hybrid cars could make pure EVs an attractiveoption to drivers, and employers who pay National Insurance contributions onthe provision of company cars.

However, a key finding from the study was that manybusinesses are unwilling to pay a premium price for EVs (30% of car fleets and22% of van fleets). Only 3% said they would be willing to pay a premium of 20%to lease or purchase an EV.

Manufacturers need to convince customers that lowermaintenance and fuel costs can offset the higher EV prices, Sewells explained.In order to persuade fleets to adopt the technology, the Government may need toemploy grants, dealer discounts and lower company car tax.

Promisingly, 30% of operators would choose electric as theirfavoured power source if EVs can satisfy the range, recharging and cost demandsof business. 60% of businesses have already installed (or are considering theinstallation) of charge points at the workplace. Rapid (50kW+) and fast (7kW+)chargers are preferred options.

General Manager of Sewells Research & Insight, Ian Richardson,commented on the study: “With urban air quality a pressing environmental andpolitical issue, few doubt that the next motive power source will be electric.The only question is when, not if battery-powered cars become the norm.

“The company car tax system may be tightening the screws onpetrol and diesel models and low emission zones threaten to undermine wholelifecost calculations for non-compliant vehicles, but fleets still see the tippingpoint to electric power as being at least one replacement cycle away.’’