Alternative drive systems and fuels still play a rather minor role when it comes to company car fleets. Only 10 per cent use these kinds of low-emission vehicles. This is revealed in a survey of 100 fleet operators with fleets of more than 50 vehicles consisting mainly of cars by the Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) – the German Energy Agency.
The most prevalent among alternative drive systems are natural gas vehicles, but even these only turn up in 7 per cent of fleets. A mere 3 per cent use electric vehicles, and 1 per cent so-called plug-in hybrids, whose battery can also be charged through the electricity grid. The diesel engine dominates the fleet market. 56 per cent of vehicle fleets consist primarily of diesel vehicles, while only 19 per cent manage without them. Among those with intensively used vehicles, like taxi firms, the share of diesel is particularly high.
‘Vehicle fleet managers have a great deal of impact on the car market,’ emphasises dena’s Chief Executive, Andreas Kuhlmann, reflecting on the results of the survey. Commercial fleets account for almost two thirds of newly registered cars. The vehicles are subsequently driven for almost another ten years by private users. ‘So if we want to promote alternative forms of propulsion, we should make a particular point of talking to vehicle fleet managers. At the same time we should consider increasing the incentives to buy; for example, through tax benefits for electric, natural gas and hydrogen vehicles.’
Acquiring vehicles: economic factors to the fore
According to the survey, fuel consumption and purchasing costs are by far the most important factors for fleet operators when buying or leasing new cars. Around 90 per cent of those questioned considered these criteria to be important or very important. Further factors were the type of propulsion (76 per cent), vehicle tax (61 per cent) and workshop service under leasing contracts (58 per cent).
The fleet operators most likely to consider environmental and climate protection criteria were those in the health sector, the public sector and skilled trades. Among these, the proportion of those surveyed who rated CO2 emissions as important or very important was between 57 and 67 per cent. Among taxi fleet operators the share was 37 per cent, while in industry it was 48 per cent. As an overall average, 49 per cent of vehicle fleet managers surveyed considered CO2 emissions to be an important or very important purchasing criterion.
‘Anyone considering costs should look at alternative forms of propulsion,’ says Andreas Kuhlmann. ‘Fuel costs are often lower with natural gas or electricity than with diesel or petrol. This can pay off, especially among those who drive a lot. Moreover, in the future stricter limits on particulate and nitric oxide emissions in cities will be easier to comply with using alternative forms of propulsion.’
Car ecolabels provide information on fuel consumption and running costs
Car ecolabels offer professional buyers help with decision-making. There is information about fuel consumption, energy costs and the level of vehicle tax. According to dena’s survey, one in four vehicle fleet managers is familiar with car ecolabels at present. Barely half of those who are familiar with them use them as an aid and a factor in making a decision. New cars offered for sale have been subject to mandatory labelling since 1 December 2011.
Further information on car ecolabels is available on the website www.pkw-label.de. The Information Platform for Car Ecolabels is a dena initiative funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.
About the dena survey on car fleets
The survey was commissioned by dena as part of the Information Platform for Car Ecolabels, and was conducted during November and December 2016 by TNS Emnid, who surveyed 100 fleet operators by telephone. The aim was to identify significant criteria for fleet operators’ selection of vehicles, and acquire information about the proportion of cars with alternative fuels.