Across the UK and Europe, the number of small businesses embracing the use of electric vehicles (EVs) and green transport innovation is rapidly increasing. The incentives are clear: in the UK for example, the Climate Change Act of 2008 means that the country is legally obliged to significantly cut emissions.
Indeed, this is a pattern we’re seeing all across Europe. Diesel cars will be banned from the centres of many cities in the next ten years, including Madrid, Paris and Athens, while countries like Holland are seeking to exploit vehicle-to-grid technology, using EVs to produce power for businesses and homes.
With this in mind, businesses are beginning to see the huge benefits of going electric. And that’s before we even consider two other major advantages; firstly, that governments across Europe provide tax breaks and grants for using EVs; and secondly, that study after study proves consumers are more likely to be attracted to businesses that promote environmental sustainability. Here’s a look at five small businesses across Europe reaping the rewards from making the change to EVs.
Hailing a taxi in Britain
Michelle Williams and Mark Richards run C&C Taxis in St Austell, Cornwall. For the past four years they have been phasing out the use of diesel vehicles and replacing them with Nissan LEAF Electric Vehicles. They’ve now reached a point where their entire fleet of 14 vehicles are LEAF EVs, making them perhaps the most environmentally friendly taxi service on the planet, and certainly the first in the UK to achieve such a milestone.
“We live in a beautiful part of the country and we love the outdoors,” says Mark. “Cars, truck and buses – these are the biggest polluters here, and we wanted to run a company that didn’t contribute to that. So there’s a benefit to the environment, but there’s a benefit to us financially too. It also gives us something of a unique selling point. A percentage of private customers use us specifically because we use emissions-free vehicles, and a number of hotels like to use us because it fits in with their own green initiatives.”
C&C have three rapid chargers, which they use during working hours, as and when necessary, while overnight they use slower charging stations. C&C are also keen to encourage other taxi firms to go electric. So far they’ve offered advice to EV taxi services in Blackpool and Dundee, and with EV’s becoming cheaper and able to travel much longer distances between charges, companies like C&C could be the norm soon. Mark and Michelle estimate that they’ve racked up about 1.5million miles in total with their Nissan fleet, and they certainly won’t be going back to using diesel or petrol.
“We’ve just pensioned off one of our first Nissan LEAF EVs, the only reason being it was looking a bit worn after so much use. It had done 174,000 miles – that’s without replacing the battery, the motor or anything else whatsoever. It’s never broken down in all that time. We’ve never driven more reliable cars.”
Breaking bread in Germany
In 2010, Roland M Schüren converted his family bakery, Ihr Bäcker Schüren, to run on solar energy by installing photovoltaic panels on the bakery’s roof. Over the next few years he gradually made upgrades until his business was operating with 100 per cent renewable energy. But with 10,000 loaves, baguettes and rolls to deliver each day, he also needed delivery vans that would integrate with his ecological approach. This is where the Nissan e-NV200 vans come in. Given the building now produces more energy than it uses, this additional power goes into charging the batteries of his small fleet of electric vans.
Delivering mail in Italy
Nissan leads the Italian EV market, and in the fiscal year of 2016 it recorded a record share of 42%, selling 845 vehicles out of a total of 2,007. But on the whole, Italy has been slower than European countries like Germany, the UK and France to accommodate EVs on its roads. That will see a significant shift after Nissan signed agreements with logistics firms like Poste Italiane, DHL and GLS, companies that will now include the Nissan e-NV200 vans in their delivery fleets. Poste Italiane has taken 70 vans, which combined with its other EVs makes it the most important fleet of commercial vehicles with zero emissions in Italy.
Meanwhile, GLS has taken 100 of the EV vans and DHL Italy has acquired 50. The main impact will be on short-haul deliveries in city centres like Turin, Milan, Rome Florence and Bologna, where reduction of pollution is essential, not only for the health of residents and tourists, but for the preservation of some of the most beautiful architecture and sculpture you’ll find anywhere in the world.
Sending a package in France
Maxime Asselin and Christophe Descombes established Le Kangourou Vert in October 2009, a logistics company that specialises in the short distance delivery of smaller packages in three cities: Orléans, Tours and Auxerre. Realising that the use of big trucks to make such deliveries in the city centre was not only inefficient but also far worse for the environment, they came up with the idea of using vehicles that were not only more appropriate for this kind of job but also more environmentally friendly. When the Nissan e-NV200 arrived on the scene in 2014, it was a no-brainer for Le Kangourou Vert. The vehicle’s rapid charging battery, ability to travel greater distances on one charge, not to mention ample load space, made it the perfect fit for a company looking to build an environmentally-friendly but cost-effective company. They now have 18 of Nissan’s e-NV200’s on their fleet, and with green issues becoming increasingly important to people and businesses across France, Le Kangourou Vert certainly has a spring in its step.
Drinking in the scenery in Spain
We all know Rioja is a famous region for Spanish wine, but how many people have heard of the Carretera del Vi? Based in the province of Catalonia, the Carretera del Vi – literally the ‘road of wine’ – is a wine route that’s actually been used since Roman times. Beginning at Sant Martí Sarroca and taking in destinations like Vilafranca Del Penedes, Sant Miquel d’Olerdola and Sant Pere de Ribes, it finishes 40 kilometres later in the Mediterranean coastal town of Sitges. Bringing together over a dozen distinctive wineries, the route also features Medieval castles, Modernist architecture and beautiful Catalan countryside.
And now, thanks to Nissan’s involvement, it’s also a sustainable tourist destination too. The manufacturer is providing two Nissan LEAF and two e-NV200 Electric Vehicles for public use and car sharing in order to help promote Catalonia’s model of sustainable mobility. They’ve also installed new charging points along the route, making the whole experience completely hassle free. Which leaves just one dilemma – who’s going to be the designated driver and who’s going to be the designated wine-taster?
These are just five examples of businesses embracing EVs as part of everyday working life, and this will only grow in the future. So if you own or are part of a small business in Europe, there is only one question: what are you waiting for?
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