Christmas drink-drive campaign

The Government today (1st December) launched its Think! Christmas drink-drive campaign, specifically targeting young male drivers, as figures show they account for almost two-thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.

The campaign will target young men through social media. Facebook has 5.4 million British males aged 25 to 34 alone, Twitter and Spotify will also be used by the campaign.

Road Safety Minister Andrew Jones said: “Drink-driving destroys families and ruins lives, yet some reckless drivers continue to take the risk and get behind the wheel after drinking – particularly young men who account for almost two thirds of drink drivers killed on our roads.

“We have some of the safest roads in the world and deaths from drink driving have fallen significantly over the last 30 years, but it is still responsible for the deaths of five people every week.

“This Christmas we are specifically targeting the biggest perpetrators of this devastating crime – young men, but our message to everyone remains the same: don’t drink and drive.”

Research carried out for the Department for Transport found 20% of young men have had two or more drinks before driving and an extra 11% say they have considered it – with a third of adults telling researchers they felt it wouldn’t impact on their driving.

Fleet attitudes remain static on uptake of electric vehicles

Public attitudes towards plug-in cars and vans have remained virtually unchanged over the past two years, new research suggests.

Department for Transport (DfT) statistics, published recently, show that 1% of motorists are thinking about buying an electric car or van “quite soon”.

A further 5% were also considering investing in a plug-in vehicle, but gave no timescale as to when they might make their purchase.

The results of a similar study in February 2014 showed the same results, on both counts.

The DfT research comes in the wake of a survey by the AA which predicts there will be more than 500,000 electric (EV) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) in use by 2020.

There are currently some 75,000 plug-in cars registered in the UK.

Based on a survey of more than 26,463 AA members, it suggests that 4% intend to buy an EV or PHEV.

However, significant fears over the higher price, limited range, long recharging times and uncertain residual values of hybrid and electric cars stand in the way of their uptake by fleets, according to a survey by Sewells Research and Insight.

In its The UK Fleet Market 2016 report, Sewells found that fleets are ready to adopt alternatively-fuelled cars, but only in tiny volumes.

Companies expect the proportion of alternatively fuelled vehicles (AFVs) on their fleets to rise to 1.5% next year, 2.5% in three years’ time and 4.7% in five years.

While this represents an increase in market share of 213% in five years, it still leaves more than 95% of company cars  powered by fossil fuels.

Overall, 81% of fleet decision-makers say manufacturers must overcome range issues, 77% say recharging times of EVs need to be shortened, and 73% want to see more recharging points.

It is clear that fleet demand for hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles will continue to increase, but experts say that if full-electric cars are to succeed range must be improved and the Government must play its part in encouraging uptake.

The AA has teamed up with Chargemaster to help drive uptake by offering home charging units, access to “thousands” of charging points and preferential charging rates.

With a network of more than 4,000 Polar charging points already and 500 new locations planned for 2016, Chargemaster has undertaken a multi-million-pound investment to expand the UK’s charging infrastructure.

It is currently rolling out 40 50kW Ultrachargers in London that will charge an EV in less than 30 minutes, more than quadrupling the availability of rapid chargers inside the M25.

The AA’s research suggested that the availability of charging points was a concern for 81% of respondents.

“We want to change that perception,” said David Martell, CEO of Chargemaster.

“This new relationship with the AA will see hundreds more AA-branded charging points installed. They’ll go in at AA-rated hotels and other accessible public places such as supermarkets, public car parks and town centres, while we will be embarking on a public awareness campaign to show that charging a vehicle at home is neither difficult or costly.”

Charging a plug-in vehicle using Ecotricity’s motorway network just got a lot more expensive, however.

The electricity company has introduced a £6 fee for a 30-minute charge using its motorway network.

The charge, which was introduced from July 11, is applied to all users that are not Ecotricity home electricity customers.

Access to the network and payment will now require the Ecotricity app.

Initially, it had proposed a fee of £5 for a 20-minute fast charge, but that was met with anger from the network’s users.

Fleet News reader Carl Nicholson said: “Considering the electric is roughly 13.5 pence per kilowatt hour why not charge a fair rate? This will harm the adoption of EVs.”

The charge was revised to £6 for a 30-minute charge following customer feedback on the £5 fee, said Ecotricit

How payload affects electric van range

The range of an electric van can almost halve when it is carrying a full payload in real world conditions, according to a new trial by Arval.

The study showed that, over the same 33.58-mile course, an EV with a full payload lost over 85% of its range compared to a 45% loss for one that was carrying nothing.

Eddie Parker, commercial vehicle consultant at Arval UK, said: “This is a great example of the operational factors that fleets looking at operating electric vans may have to consider.

“The loss of range is significant at almost 50% and shows that, if you were expecting a fully laden EV commercial vehicle to reach anywhere near the stated range, then you would be disappointed.”

However, Parker said that the results should not be seen as an indictment of electric commercial vehicles but, instead, were simply a contribution to a growing pool of knowledge.

He said: “We undertook this test in response to requests from customers who were looking to gain an operational understanding of this kind of vehicle.

“The fact is that, in general use, few vans of this type would ever be fully laden.

“A typical load for most uses would be much nearer the 50% mark, where the loss of range is much less pronounced.

“For this reason, we believe the study shows that there is a wider application for EVs than may at first have been thought.

“Of course, all vehicles lose range when fully laden. A diesel van with a full payload would typically see its range reduced by around 35%, for example.”

The test route was designed to represent typical van use, and consisted of 16.8% urban road, 32.5% suburban/rural, 21.5% carriageway and 29.2% motorway, with the van travelling at between 30 and 70mph.

The EV was used by the same driver, at the same time of day, with air conditioning and non-essential electrics turned off.

Parker added: “It could be that if, as EVs develop, this kind of range loss is found to be typical then factors that help to extend range, such as driver training, could become a more important element of fleet operation.”


Changes to the driving test will better reflect real-life driving

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has put forward the following proposals.

1. Increase the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes

2. Ask candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs

3. Replace current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios for example, driving into and reversing out of a parking bay

4. Ask one of the two vehicle safety questions while the candidate is driving, for example, asking candidates to use the rear heated screen

Gareth Llewellyn, chief executive of the DVSA, said: ““Great Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world. But there is scope to do more to keep road users safe – particularly newly-qualified drivers.

“Making sure the test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help every driver through a lifetime of safe driving”

These changes are designed to help reduce the number of collisions on higher risk roads – most fatal collisions are on this type of road, and using sat-navs will open up routes to include these.

More than half of car drivers are now using sat-navs, and the Government wants new drivers to be trained to use these safely.

Lesley Young, chief driving examiner at the DVSA, said: “Research has shown that new drivers find ‘independent driving’ training valuable, as they can relate it to driving once they’ve passed their test.

“Candidates will be given more responsibility for decision making during the test. We want them to show they can cope with distractions and assess risk, without the intervention of their instructor or examiner.”

The changes, subject to the outcome of research and consultation feedback, will be introduced in early 2017.

They have been trialled with more than 4,500 learner drivers and 850 driving instructors in 32 locations across Great Britain.

DVSA is working with the Transport Research Laboratory to find out how the proposed changes better reflect real-life driving.

DVSA has also consulted with representatives from the driver training industry (including the approved driving instructor associations, RAC, IAM, RoSPA and the AA) who have been positive and supportive of the proposals.