A desire to reduce carbon footprints in general combined with the acute logistical restrictions imposed by city centres creating low emission zones are causing many businesses to consider switching over to electric vehicles. There are, however, certain property and construction related issues to factor in before such a switch will be a practical option. Dealing with such issues as part of a wider energy strategy could, however, be a springboard to even greater net zero gains.

The latest Low Emission Zone in Glasgow

Enforcement of the Glasgow City Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will commence on 1 June 2023 and, from that date, vehicles failing to meet or exceeding certain emission standards will no longer be permitted to enter the city centre. Most diesel engine vehicles registered after September 2015 and petrol vehicles registered after 2006 will meet the required LEZ standards, as will fully electric vehicles.

The Glasgow LEZ follows in the footsteps of cities like Bath, Birmingham, Bristol and, of course, London with other cities due to start enforcing similar schemes soon. The primary objective of these schemes is to improve the air quality in city centres with a view to creating a healthier environment for those who visit, work and live in those areas.

The impact of Low Emission Zones for businesses

Health benefits aside, a key impact of the LEZs will be upon businesses with logistic operations within city centres. Delivery vehicles running on petrol and diesel may no longer be a viable option for such businesses and other types of vehicles may need to be considered. One such option would be to change over to electric vehicles.

Where, when and how can you plug in – the infrastructure challenges

Having a fleet of electric vehicles (assuming, of course, you can procure them in the first place) presents its own challenges, not the least of which being the creation of new charging points. The purchase and installation of charging points is the most obvious part of that process. There are, however, several hurdles to be cleared before a project can get to that stage including:

  • Property consents: obtaining permission from any relevant landlords, tenants or neighbouring proprietors to install the charging infrastructure.
  • Planning consent: whilst the installation of some charging infrastructure may fall within the remit of permitted development, larger-scale projects are likely to require formal consent to be in place.
  • Grid connections: the level of electricity demand will determine what arrangements need to be put in place with the electricity companies. The electricity network in the area may need to be reinforced with additional infrastructure and that can require further consents to be put in place.

The bigger picture: reviewing the energy use strategy of your businesses

Beyond those legal hurdles, however, a move to an electric vehicle fleet is possibly a springboard towards a much wider energy review for businesses. Electric vehicles can double as battery storage to allow businesses to draw electricity from the grid at times of cheaper rates. Such battery storage could also make on-site electricity generation (through wind, solar or other renewable technologies) a more viable option. Consequently, in these times of soaring energy prices, a move to electric vehicles could lead to wider financial benefits as well as helping with net zero targets and, of course, improving the air quality within our city centres.

Checklist for action

In summary, if you want to move over to electric vehicles:

  • Do you have the space and the necessary property permissions to create charging points?
  • Do you need planning permission?
  • Can you get a grid connection (and get that grid connection at an affordable price)?
  • Can electric vehicles fit into a wider overhaul of your business's energy strategy?