Northgate, one of the largest vehicle hire companies in the UK with a broad customer base, has been relentlessly pursuing the drive to reduce vehicle emissions by carbon reduction and vehicle electrification. Under its ‘Drive to Zero’ electrification initiative, which was launched at the end of 2021, Northgate provides a suite of solutions, aiding fleet customers in the sometimes-challenging transition to operating electric vehicles. With its proactive approach, the last 12 months have seen further developments including a series of roadshows, allowing hundreds of operators to explore the options open to them. Independent experts were on hand to offer impartial advice in an unpressurised environment. 

When engaging with a client, full qualification of its operation is vital to obtain an understanding of how the business uses its vehicles. Fleet data analysis is used to assess whether the transition is practical, either partially or fully. This includes analysis of the vehicles currently in use, distances travelled, routes and journey times. This will highlight which vehicles could potentially be switched to electric immediately, and others that could benefit from being retained while waiting for vans with a longer range between charges to become available. 

Northgate is in a position to supply a full solution to the electric van operator with the services offered by ChargedEV, part of the Redde Northgate group of companies. Providing a consultancy service for customers wishing to have a charger installed at either the workplace or at a driver’s home, ChargedEV can supply hardware, fitted by their own technicians nationwide. The vehicle and a 7kW charger can be funded together in a single contract, the package includes access to the public Monta platform together with service and maintenance for both van and charger all included in a single monthly charge.

The journey towards electrification isn’t restricted to Northgate’s customers. Internally, investment is being made and in the last 12 months, 13 of the busiest branches have been equipped to service electric vehicles. With a further 19 in the pipeline for the next year, this number meaning that almost 50% of outlets will be ready to service the ever-growing number of electric vans. Investment is being made in people too, with 100% of managers set to be trained to IMI EV Level 1 standard. The business has been awarded IMI Electric Vehicle Accreditation due to the quality of its internal EV technician training programme. 

Other aspects of support for Northgate’s customers include a full suite of free, online EV training modules that address challenges and assist drivers in optimising range, tuition on how to charge the van and other relevant topics designed to ease any concerns or prior prejudice from the drivers. 

The Nurture Group, a national service provider, initially attended one of the Drive to Zero open days. Following this, Northgate carried out a suitability test on the current fleet and advised which vehicles could be changed to an electric van without any negative effect on the operation. Vans were then supplied to Nurture on short-term agreements to assess in a real-world environment. As a result, just two years later, 87.5% of the business’s vehicles are electric or hybrid, with further electric vans on order. Asim Iqbal, Plant Machinery and Fleet Manager at Nurture said: “With a mission to reduce our carbon footprint and become net zero by 2030, Northgate has been a huge help in us working towards this. The friendly team provided in-depth advice and support along the way which has helped reduce our costs and attract more business.” 

Highly Commended: Arval

To give customers the confidence to achieve their own goals to electrify their fleets, Arval created the ‘Leading The Charge’ campaign. This multi-faceted offering includes providing research-validated real-world electric van driving capabilities. The effects of payload and towing on electric van ranges remain relatively undocumented, but Arval can guide its customers after extensive independent testing has been carried out. 

Flex-EV allows customers to trial electric vans on a short-term lease with no commitment to see how operating an EV would work in their real-world environment. A team of business managers and consultants work with customers keen to make the transition, and, for those without any telematics data, a bespoke survey has been designed which assesses a driver’s appetite for an electric van and shows the charging options that may be possible, either at home or as part of their working routine.