Returning to electric power, Harding says he has installed 45 charging points for Hackney’s fleet of electric light commercials across 13 sites within the borough.
He adds that he chose ‘intelligent’ charging points in order to gather back-office data to support the fleet management operation.
Unfortunately, Harding admits there has been a hitch: “The data has been disappointing as there is no facility to enter mileage. Without the mileage the data cannot be usefully employed,” he says.
“I have raised this issue at many forums that I’m involved with. Many back-office providers offer phone apps for drivers to enter mileage, but this encourages phone use in the vehicles, which I don’t want to do. Others have offered aftermarket telematics that could communicate with the back-office system, but this adds another layer of cost.”
On a more positive note, he reports that the fleet’s drivers are keen to use electric vehicles and will have the means to record mileages.
“We have had great buy-in from our drivers, to the point I have just installed charging points at five of our drivers’ homes that operate vehicles on a 24/7 basis,” Harding says. “The difference with this trial is the intelligent part of the network is built into the charging cable rather than the charging point.
“The provider is developing software to enable the driver to enter mileage at the point of charging. The cable can ID [identify] each charging point, which enables me to separate and calculate the energy used at their home and reimburse their costs accordingly.”
Harding claims that if this trial proves to be a success he will consider converting the borough’s entire electric vehicle charging infrastructure to the same system.
The enthusiasm of the staff for EVs is perhaps more notable because driving is not their primary function; they work in a number of manual and vocational trades.
Some are street cleaners, some are plumbers, electricians or couriers and others work in offices as librarians or IT technicians.
All though, can appreciate the benefits of driving electric vans and as the terchnology improves, this trend is set to continue.
Backed by the Department for Transport and led by the Global Action Plan charity, the Clean Van Commitment plans to replace 18,000 diesel vans with electric models by 2028.
The coalition of fleets, which includes large organisations such as Tesco, Network Rail, Engie, Anglian Water and the Environment Agency as well as Hackney, Leeds, Gateshead, Waltham Forest and Oxford councils, has pledged to invest £40m in rolling out zero-emission vehicles in the next two years, during which period it has committed to deploying 2,400 electric vans.
The legal weight for driving an electric van with a standard Category B licence has recently increased from 3.5t to 4.25t, but Hackney Borough’s corporate fleet manager Norman Harding says this has had little impact on his operations because, as yet, there are not many vans
at this weight threshold to choose from.
“Whatever vehicles I operate must be fit for purpose and affordable,” he stresses.
“The few EVs available at this weight are too limited to allow me to operate effectively. I have no doubt they will come, and to this end I have even changed our funding method to outright purchase so that when EVs are affordably available and operationally effective at the heavier weights I have the flexibility to sell vehicles and transition to EV.”
When it comes to keeping the fleet legal and roadworthy, the service, maintenance and repair requirements for all Hackney’s LCVs are covered by a combination of an in-house workshop within the borough’s boundaries and an external contractor based at a satellite workshop.
“This delivery model gives me close control of the maintenance function, flexibility in terms of resource and helps keep my overheads low,” explains Harding.