Greenwashed: UK Plug-in Fleets Enjoy the Taxpayer Perks, Never Plug In

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
greenwashed uk plug in fleets enjoy the taxpayer perks never plug in

In Europe, diesel now holds a reputation as favorable as that of the dark lord of the underworld, while electric propulsion may as well have descended from Heaven. It wasn’t this way just a few years ago.

That said, in the UK, government incentives towards green vehicle purchases have, like the U.S., been ongoing since 2011. A recent study of corporate plug-in hybrid fleet vehicles purchased with the assistance of government grants reveals many buyers were just looking to dodge diesel taxes while bilking the taxpayer for a cheaper ride. Plugging in these plug-ins was not a priority.

As reported by BBC News (hat tip to Jalopnik), a study of several thousand fleet vehicles by The Miles Consultancy shows real-world fuel economy of corporate plug-in models isn’t all that hot, especially when compared to diesel fleet averages. It’s estimated that more than 70 percent of PHEVs sold in the UK this year went to corporate fleets.

Depending on the PHEV’s range, the grants amounted to 2,500 pounds ($3,295) to 4,500 pounds ($5,740) per vehicle.

TCM’s study of 1,500 PHEVs in its database showed a real-world average of 39.27 miles per gallon on the generous European driving cycle — a figure that basically matched that of the diesel cars in its database. Combining regular hybrids with PHEVs returned a figure of 49.06 mpg.

“There are some examples where employees aren’t even charging these vehicles up,” said Paul Hollick, managing director of The Miles Consultancy. “The charge cables are still in the boot, in a cellophane wrapper, while the company and the employee are going in and out of petrol stations, paying for all of this additional fuel.”

Toby Poston, communications manager director for the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), blamed the behavior on a poorly thought out tax regime that incentivised plug-in purchases while disincentivising diesels. For many companies, it just makes sense to buy a PHEV, grab the government cash, and forget about the car’s purpose.

“We have got some situations where company drivers are choosing the vehicle based on their tax liability, rather than having the right vehicle for the right job,” he said.

Not only were employees not plugging the vehicles in, companies would allocate PHEVs for use on long highway trips, where a plug-in hybrid is at its most inefficient — hence the comparatively dismal MPG average. Britain didn’t turn green, it just burned green in the pursuit of it.

You’re seeing the past tense here because PHEV purchases are no longer eligible for government grants in that country. The UK did away with them this month, preferring to offer a smaller sum (3,500 pounds, or $4,617) to buyers of purely electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell cars, and the vanishingly small number of PHEVs capable of travelling 70 miles on a charge.

[Image: BMW]

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4 of 31 comments
  • Cimarron typeR Cimarron typeR on Nov 16, 2018

    I'd imagine the only way to alter purchasing habits in U.S. would be to raise taxes but no one can pass a gas tax, as most are at the state level. Missouri voted there's down yet again last week(despite already having one of the lowest in U.S. already and in this booming economy. I live in Kansas so I unfortunately have to use their crummy roads daily .

    • See 1 previous
    • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on Nov 18, 2018

      @stuki And we have a winner. Fuel taxes are to maintain the nation's transportation infrastructure, not force people into a vehicle they do not want.

  • Stingray65 Stingray65 on Nov 16, 2018

    This is exactly what you can expect when plug-in vehicles get adopted by "regular" consumers instead of "tree-huggers" or "hyper-milers" or "enthusiasts". Regular consumers are mostly some combination of lazy, unknowledgeable, and distracted, which means plugging in a car every time they stop will not happen. With a plug-in hybrid, it will simply mean they stop to buy gas every time the warning light tells them they are running low on range, and in an EV it means they will come out in the morning without enough range to drive to work (because they forgot to plug-in overnight) and will be pissed off at the car (because consumers never blame themselves for being stupid). They will tell their friends about the stupid EV that is always running out of gas, and their "regular" friends won't buy one. Cordless charging might solve this problem (if they can remember to park in the right spot in their garage), but at the cost of lost efficiency and more greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. the reason for electrification).

  • Lou_BC You'd think cops would have an understanding of the laws they are supposed to enforce.
  • Merlyn I’m on my second Spark and love it! I can pass any car I’ve never had a problem going up a hill it does just fine. As for cargo I can fit three suitcases, two book bags and still have the front seat for a passenger. Not sure what point this guy is trying to make. I have hand free phone service and Sirius radio plug in my phone and have navigation. I would buy another spark in a heartbeat.
  • Buickman I won't own one and I'll be happy!
  • Jeanbaptiste Ever since y’all started sending your damn geese down here we’re just been waiting for one of you to show up.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗