Arguments in favour of exempting some key commercial vehicles from internal combustion engine (ICE) production deadlines are growing, FleetCheck believes.

Peter Golding, managing director at the leading fleet management software specialist said that difficulties remained around the electrification of a relatively low number of vehicles that were used in specialised roles.

He explained: “Fleets can see a pretty clear pathway to electrifying the vast majority of their car and van fleets. While there are some quite complicated teething difficulties, especially surrounding the latter, there is every reason to believe most of these will be resolved ahead of the stated ICE production deadlines of 2030 for light vans and 2035 for heavy vans.

“However, in both these categories, there are a number of vehicle roles that are not easily electrified in terms of fulfilling basic requirements. Examples include certain blue light vehicles such as ambulances and off-roaders used by power companies in the event of outages.

“If you have an ambulance with a real world range of 100 miles and a recharge time running into several hours, then its utility in a crisis is potentially severely compromised. Not having that vehicle available could have a serious human cost.

“These difficulties are compounded in more remote areas where charging infrastructure development is likely to be slower. Fixing power outages in the Highlands requires an operational flexibility that electric pick-ups and 4x4s would not be able to easily supply in terms of current technology.”

Peter said that electrifying vehicles in these kinds of applications was possible – but was difficult, expensive and consumed amounts of resources that were difficult to justify.

“If you need to recharge an electric emergency vehicle during a power outage, then some kind of major generator or large scale battery facility is required. These can, of course, be installed by operators but at a very high price. Also, these solutions in themselves have a high environmental impact and simply require a considerable investment in terms of time.”

Peter said that increasingly among FleetCheck’s user base, there were conversations suggesting some essential use vehicles should be exempt from planned production deadlines.

“We’re certainly seeing arguments for exceptions in these areas increasing. The thinking is that electrifying 99% of fleet cars and vans is something that can be feasibly done and operators should be able to concentrate on that task ahead of 2030 and 2035 without having to try to resolve issues around vehicles for which solutions remain very difficult.

“Even if the deadlines on these essential use vehicles was set back just five years, it would allow easier electrification across the vast majority of fleets. We could then move on to these trickier cases that would be easier to tackle because industry knowledge about EVs would be so much higher and the infrastructure in a much more advanced state of development.

“It’s interesting to note that the new EU policy on ceasing ICE production exempts manufacturers below 1,000 units completely so, while that no longer directly affects the UK, there will potentially continue to be some petrol, diesel and hybrid production.

“The fleet vehicles that we are highlighting represent a tiny fraction of the overall parc and the miles it covers. Not electrifying them for a few additional years after 2030 and 2035 would have a very, very limited environmental impact.”