Our vision is to be "an inspirational example of sustainable development in action", and carbon reduction was identified as a priority by the Lake District National Park Authority in around 2006. Since then we have been on a journey to reduce our emissions from all of our operations, in particular buildings and transport. Recently we have adopted a net-zero ambition, which places even more emphasis on reducing our carbon emissions.
We were given considerable assistance in the early years by the Carbon Trust who helped to identify how we could make carbon savings not just from changing the vehicles we drive, but also how journeys in both fleet and 'grey' vehicles are managed. Our early work involved adopting a 'travel hierarchy' which encouraged options such as video-conferencing, active travel, public transport and lift-sharing before the use of pool cars, with staff's own cars representing the last-straw option. We also replaced mid-range diesel vehicles with smaller AAA-class cars.
The move to electric vehicles represents the next step in our efforts to decarbonise our transport, which coupled with swapping to a fully renewable electricity tariff means that emissions from those vehicles are just about zero. So far we have swapped 13 of our overall fleet of 42 vehicles, with five more in the pipeline. The remaining 24 will take longer to find suitable alternatives for as many of them are 4x4s with more challenging range and trailer-towing requirements.
So far, the reaction from users has been almost exclusively positive, with only one or two instances where a car has been found not to have been sufficiently charged up for use. Our pool car usage is nearly all within the normal working day, enabling overnight charging and requiring almost no en-route topping up. Staff were encouraged to have a go in various test vehicles that we were loaned during the research period and feedback was solicited to help with the decision over which model to commit to. Guidance has been provided on how driving an EV differs from that of a petrol or diesel, but people have taken this within their stride and become accustomed very quickly.
The result is a project that not only encourages people to consider whether their journey is necessary in the first place, but provides greener travel options when staff need to travel.
We have been progressively reducing our transport emissions by both greening our fleet and reducing our mileage for 14 years, but the coming of age of electric vehicles (EVs) has enabled us to take a major leap forward by swapping 13 of our diesel pool cars for EVs. This also involved installing charge-points at three of our sites to keep them charged up.
Finance was a major consideration, and although the reduced running costs of EVs means that they pay themselves off within a short number of years, installing the charge-points was a larger consideration. We were able to do this thanks to significant assistance from the European Structural and Investment Fund, plus subsidy from the UK government's Workplace Charging Scheme.
Another important early consideration was whether EVs would actually be suitable for our transport needs. The usual concern here is the mileage range available from the battery, and this is exacerbated in the Lake District by the mountainous landscape and the cool wet climate, both of which tend to reduce EV range. We looked carefully at the typical daily outing data for our existing diesel pool vehicles, then moved to extensive testing with a number of EV models to confirm that range would not be a problem for the great majority of our journeys.
Last but by no means least was whether the local power network was sufficient to support the required charge-points. This required extensive dialogue with our district network operator (DNO), resulting in additional substations needing to be installed at two of our sites. The lead-in times required for application and connection, expense and potential complexity around these should not be underestimated!
If you are considering a project like this, do: consider carefully how many vehicles you actually need: could you take this opportunity to reduce the number of trips and/or mileage? Consider the typical distances and times of day of your journeys, in order to ensure you'll be able to charge vehicles sufficiently (using either your own or the public charge-point network); explore all available grant schemes to assist with funding; consider whether purchasing or leasing vehicles and/or charge-points works best for you; engage with your staff or other users at an early point, as driving EVs requires a slightly different mindset if people are used to petrol or diesel vehicles; contact your DNO early in the process.