Europcar is hoping to build up the number of vans it rents on a medium- and long-term basis with the help of a network of specialist centres.

The firm’s director of commercial vehicles Stuart Russell spoke to What Van? at the official opening of its new Van Supersite in Birmingham’s Newtown. It’s the 13th such facility the company has opened, out of an overall UK network of 72 sites offering CVs, and currently has 250 vans for rent, with ambitions to double or even triple this going forward.

Currently, the average van rental from Europcar lasts 17 days, but Russell said the firm’s strategy is to develop mid- to long-term rentals lasting more than three months.
He said: “We want to compete in that contract hire and leasing arena, but without the early termination or excess mileage penalties that you typically get with that.

“It’s a more flexible solution – having a van kitted out as you want it but the ability to adjust your fleet up or down according to the demands of your business.”

This flexibility is something Russell also hopes will appeal to firms dealing with the imminent introduction of clean-air zones (CAZs) in cities, including Birmingham.

“We did a survey that found a number of people knew about CAZs but there was a sense of ignorance – ‘We’ve not adjusted our fleet and we don’t know what the solution is because we might not have the funding to do it.’

“There’s no commitment behind our product. It’s about having a quick solution to get you back on the road, and actually not committing to that vehicle. It’s instant access to a fleet in these changing times for big cities.”  

Rental flexibility might also appeal to fleets considering electric vans. Russell said Europcar is buying these to customer order currently, although it does plan to develop its offering once it has more infrastructure in place, like the charging facilities available at the Birmingham Supersite, which is supplying electric vans.

Russell explained that part of the appeal of the Supersites was the ability to offer a wider range of vans at short notice.

He said: “The difference with Supersites is not only the size of the location, but the ability to do everything from a normal van to a tipper or a modified van or a Chapter 8-compliant van.

“It’s a one-stop shop, that’s our aim.”

Russell said the firm is investing heavily in a ready-to-rent fleet, so for instance it can provide a Chapter 8 vehicle within four hours, rather than requiring the customer to wait for up to three days.

Russell says the next Supersite will be at Purfleet in Essex, but he does not expect too many more because with the emphasis on long-term hire, where the van’s going to be out for three years, proximity to the delivery and collection point is not a priority.