Small business still opting for diesel amid confusion and lack of alternatives

Small business still opting for diesel amid confusion and lack of alternatives

Despite a run of bad press around emissions and the prospect of increased charging schemes for older vehicles, diesel remains the first choice vehicle type for small businesses in the UK.

According to new research by RAC Business, almost half (43%) of firms with under ten staff, say negative headlines around ‘dirty diesels’ has not changed their attitude to using them in their fleets.

In fact, given a choice of diesel, petrol, electric, Hybrid or LPG-fuelled vehicles, more small businesses said they would choose diesel (35%) than any other type.

Manufacturers have been working hard on introducing electric and hybrid commercial vehicles over the past couple of years with some successes, but many businesses still remain sceptical about the capability of electric vans.

While the benefits of switching to EVs and hybrids are clear in terms of reduction in fuel costs and avoiding fees such as the congestion charge in London, 45% of small businesses say the biggest barrier for them in making the switch is being able to afford the new EVs. The most advanced commercial EVs have not yet entered the used van network, putting them out of reach for many small firms that buy their vans second hand.

Secondly, small firms say they are not confident in the range capability of most EVs currently available, or that they are able to carry the loads they need on their vehicles.

Finally, businesses of all sizes agreed that a significant barrier to switching from diesel to EVs or hybrids, is the lack of infrastructure to keep electric vehicles charged across the country.

Simon Peevers, RAC spokesperson for small businesses, said it is understandable that EVs have yet to dominate the market for commercial vehicles, given the daily demands on the typical van.

“The archetypal diesel van has been the workhorse of UK industry for decades and nothing beats it in terms of MPG and load capacity, enabling thousands of small businesses to ‘get the job done’ every day. So it’s probably no surprise to see the findings of our research which suggests it is still the top choice among SMEs and no doubt, white van man.

“Our research also tells us almost three quarters of small businesses own their vehicles outright, and only refresh their fleet every two to three years, so it’s going to be some time before the latest EVs are available through used dealer networks.

“One of the best ways for the Government to encourage the take-up of ultra-low emission vehicles  is by offering more support for plug-in hybrids, as these vehicles would then start to feed into the second-hand market and we would see a lot more of these vehicles on the roads.

“Every year technology and capability improves in electric vehicles and they will form a much larger part of the commercial vehicle fleet in years to come. But we would certainly echo concerns around the charging infrastructure and it should be a top priority for the Government if they are serious about increasing the number of EVs on the roads and being used by businesses.”