Advertorial: Businesses and families can’t afford not to make the EV switch

Air Quality News reporter Martin Guttridge-Hewitt sits down with leasing company Rivervale to discuss the benefits of switching to electric vehicles.

Although the leasing company was officially established in 2001, Brighton-based Rivervale has a much longer history behind it. One that stretches way back to Sir Thomas Sopwith, designer of one of the most legendary planes in British aviation, iconic World War I biplane fighter the Sopwith Camel, and his son, renowned racing driver and company founder, Tommy Sopwith.

Simply put, Rivervale was established by one of Britain’s most passionate petrol heads. A chap who, at the age of 86, was still behind the wheel of a Mercedes Benz CLS 63 AMG, one of the German manufacturer’s fastest creations. So, the fact 77% of Rivervale’s leasing fleet is now made up of electric vehicles (EVs) speaks volumes about how far the zero-carbon car and van market has come and gives an insight into how misunderstood this nascent area of auto sales still is.  

‘It’s not the strongest environment at the moment for buyer confidence,’ admits Vince Pemberton, Chief Executive Officer at Rivervale Leasing, nodding to the spiralling cost-of-living crisis, sky high inflation and a looming UK recession as factors impacting both his personal and business customer base. Then there are more traditional concerns over EV performance – not least so-called ‘range anxiety’, which refers to worries about how far non-petrol and non-diesel models can travel between charges. All fears that are products of short-sightedness.

‘There might be a higher upfront cost [in going electric], but the longer-term saving is substantial. I don’t think this is made clear enough,’ Pemberton continues, citing rocketing fuel costs among other factors. ‘If you’re lucky enough to have a driveway or off-road parking with access to charge points, even better. There are apps that control when you’re charging – you can do it overnight, when tariffs are lowest. My car probably costs between £10 and £12 to fully charge. That gets me around 220miles. A diesel tank on an average family car gets you 400miles, but sets you back about £85… And it won’t be long before we’re seeing EVs with equivalent range to petrol and diesel. It’s coming.’

That 50% saving is only part of the story. As Pemberton’s colleague, Bud Johnston, Rivervale’s Group Marketing Director, jumps in to explain, there are also significant advantages in terms of maintenance requirements, which in turn correlate to spending less money on servicing and, by default, having your vehicle off the road less frequently. Again, it’s a very different picture from that of reliability problems many EV critics often paint.

‘Basically, EVs don’t have as many moving parts compared with traditional vehicles. This means your maintenance costs are going to be significantly lower. You’re not going to have to get a service as frequently and foot that bill for the work,’ says Johnston. ‘And this is before we come to the major advantages when you’re talking about company cars, and employee benefit-in-kind. Basically, if we’re going to make a point around EVs being liable for less company car tax, then we need to make the point this is considerably less company car tax.

‘And for a lot of employees, it will feel like a pay rise. Someone driving a Mercedes C Class as a company car, switching to electric will see massive savings and much better benefit-in-kind paymemts. I’m talking hundreds of pounds,’ Johnston continues. We ask for some numbers and are given the lowdown on a BMW 420 Gran Coupe. On a monthly basis, employees would have £457.11 more cash in their pocket if the car is electric compared with petrol due to more generous benefit-in-kind rates. A significant boost to earnings at a time when domestic heating bills are at record highs with successive price hikes due in autumn and winter.

Practicalities are also difficult to deny. London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is expanding next year to cover 96% of the city’s sprawl, so more drivers will be liable to pay to travel into, through and out of the region. EVs offer a way to avoid fees due to their compliance with the strictest emissions regulations. Outside the capital, more and more cities are following suit with restrictions on polluting vehicles now active in Birmingham, Brighton, Norwich, and Portsmouth, among other places. Meanwhile, Oxford is operating an emission-free zone. Across Europe, there are 320 of these schemes in place, with that number expected to exceed 500 within the next three years.

‘The pressure is also being put on businesses for ESG – Environmental, Social and Governance: standards which measure a company’s impact on the environment and society. As a company, you start ticking some ESG boxes by switching to electric. Then there’s the growing number of tenders looking for suppliers that take environmental impact into account. So, you’ve got firms bidding and winning tenders in part because their vehicle fleet is electric, as that helps customers improve their own ESG rating,’ Pemberton explains.

Taking all this into account, it’s unsurprising to hear EV inquiries at Rivervale have increased exponentially in the past 12 months, growing by no less than 70% since 2021. For Pemberton, it’s just one sign of a rapidly rising tide set to fundamentally change the makeup of British traffic over the course of this decade. At which point sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned as the country continues on the road to decarbonisation.

‘There are the running costs for EVs, which are advantageous. For businesses, the amount that can be claimed back in taxable benefits is much higher, because the vehicle produces no CO2. On top of that, you’ve given your employee a pay rise through benefit-in-kind payments. And, of course, you’re doing something positive for the planet, and for the kids that will still be here when we’re long gone. What’s not to like,’ Pemberton asks, rhetorically. ‘There’s still some nervousness around all this, but the best thing people can do is speak to experts, who can guide them through the options and help them understand the long-term advantages of switching over.’

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