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The green light for cleaner motoring

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With increasing financial penalties for high fuel consumption vehicles, the days of choosing fleet cars on appearance and performance alone are long gone. Higher road tax, increased running costs and the rising price of fuel are driving many businesses to consider ‘greener’ options to effectively manage the spiralling costs of running a fleet.  

One option for businesses is to choose hybrid-electric vehicles as company or fleet cars. Hybrid vehicles have both a combustion engine and an electric motor to achieve better fuel economy than a conventional petrol or diesel car. Unlike electric cars, which are very often limited by range and speed, a hybrid car is not restricted by range from a charging unit making it a practical vehicle which delivers on green credentials, performance and economy.

Most petrol hybrids reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by around 25 per cent compared to an equivalent petrol car. The Honda Insight even boasts CO2 emissions of 80g/km – around half of the emissions for the average conventional petrol car. Hybrid vehicles qualify for 100 per cent discount on London’s Congestion Charge, so are particularly suitable for fleet owners based, or requiring frequent travel, in the Capital.If changing the fleet cars is not an option, changing fuel types might be. Currently, the price of biodiesel is much lower than that of mineral diesel as it carries a reduced fuel duty. Although this lower duty will be abolished in 2010/11, the intention is that the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation will support the use of biofuels.  

However, while the price of biodiesel may be attractive, it does pose some restrictions. In the current tough economic climate, small businesses in particular will be less inclined to look at niche fuelled vehicles as they tend to be higher risk due to the uncertainty of their residual value, poor refuelling infrastructure, reliability and maintenance.  

Manufacturers are also making significant advancements in new technologies that deliver increased fuel efficiency and lower emissions for their vehicles. So businesses looking to improve their fleet’s green credentials and reduce running costs, no longer have to opt for vehicles with smaller engines. Instead companies are able to offer their employees the luxury of larger saloons with lower emissions than previous models, an example being BMW’s Virtual Dynamics range of petrol-based low emitting vehicles. This is good news for businesses that view their vehicles as an extension of their company image and also use them to motivate, attract and retain a high calibre of staff.

There are many alternatives available to help businesses run both leaner and greener fleets. With careful consideration for the solution that is right for the company, significant savings can be made to benefit both the business and the environment.

*Chris Chandler is senior consultant from Lex

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