7 top expert tips for taking your business electric
Whether you’re a small business owner or fleet manager, there’s a lot to consider when going electric. That’s why we spoke to a commercial vehicles expert from Volkswagen...
At What Car?, we know that small businesses, sole traders and fleet managers are doing everything they can right now to cut their daily running costs and reduce their fuel and energy bills.
The government recently announced its Energy Bill Relief Scheme to help businesses cope with rising energy prices through the winter. But – as every business owner knows – cutting running costs at the coal face is crucial to maintaining your competitiveness.
That's where going electric with your next van could be the right answer for you. Although there is an initial cost outlay of purchasing an electric van, expert advice shows that making the switch could save you and your business money in the long run, while also giving your business positives of reducing your carbon footprint.
Hard-working all-electric vans like the Volkswagen ID. Buzz Cargo offer low BiK rates, cheap daily running costs, lower maintenance costs and a wealth of advanced in-cab technology that can help your business work smarter and more cost-effectively, while a number of helpful government grants can slash thousands off the initial purchase price of a van, as well as your charger installation costs.
That’s why we’ve spoken to Craig Cavanagh– National Fleet Manager at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles – to explain why, and how, you should take your business electric.
Tip 1: Understand the benefits of going electric
So, you’re thinking about taking your business or fleet electric? Well, first you'll need to think about the benefits – both financially and environmentally – of electrification.
“The benefits of going electric with your fleet or business are wide-reaching,” says Craig. “Running costs, both in terms of fuel and maintenance, can be radically reduced, and extra costs associated with low-emission zones in major cities can be avoided as electric vehicles are exempt.
“Electric vans also offer businesses tax savings. In 2020, the Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) rate was reduced to zero to encourage uptake and there’s no BiK levied on electricity used for charging either. In addition, zero-emission vehicles are exempt from vehicle excise duty (VED) – more commonly known as road tax.”
While the initial cost of an all-electric van is often higher than that of diesel equivalents, calculations show that it’s far more cost-effective in the long run thanks to heavily reduced fuel, maintenance and tax costs.
For example, with low-cost home charging rates, an electric van like the Volkswagen ID. Buzz could save you around £2100 a year in fuel costs compared to a diesel van, while zero per cent BiK tax on electric vehicles means you could save around £6500 compared to a diesel equivalent. Reduced servicing costs could see you save hundreds, and exemption from urban low-emissions zones charges could save you thousands over the course of a few years..
But it’s not just about saving money, electric vans can help increase your company’s sustainability, massively reduce your carbon footprint and improve your business’s green image – something we know customers favour highly. As Craig explains: “Switching to electric can also dramatically improve the sustainability of your business by reducing the carbon footprint of your fleet. The use of sustainable materials in the production of the all-electric Volkswagen ID. Buzz increases this even further.”
Tip 2: Know the needs of your business
Now you understand all the benefits of going electric, it’s time to dissect the needs of your business to make an informed decision on what type of all-electric van and charging infrastructure you might need.
“As with the purchase of any new vehicle, the best place to start when considering going electric is to understand the needs of your business,” says Craig. “Take the time to answer the following before you begin your search for a van: how many people and how much cargo do you regularly need to carry? How much load space do you require and what’s the maximum payload? Do you need specific storage options? What technology do you need?
“By drawing up a list of key requirements you’ll be able to narrow down the type of van that best suits you, letting you focus on how you’ll pay for it and what aftersales support you need.”
The same methodical approach is required when it comes to charging infrastructure, a topic we’ll explore in more depth later on.
“Understanding the scale of your business is essential,” says Craig. “A small business may be able to operate with on-the-go charging or by plugging in at home, whereas a larger-scale fleet may require investment in company charging points. Larger businesses will also need to consider energy tariffs if they’re footing the bill for vehicle charging.”
Tip 3: Familiarise yourself with government grants
Now that the benefits of going electric are clear and you know the needs of your business inside out, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the wealth of government grants available to help reduce the cost of buying an electric van and installing chargers.
“Government grants are available for businesses looking to switch to electric, with the amount varying depending on the size and weight of the vehicle,” says Craig. “Small vans, those less than 2500kg gross vehicle weight with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero-emission range of at least 60 miles, are eligible for a grant that will pay 35% of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £2500.
“Larger vans, those between 2500kg and 4250kg gross vehicle weight with CO2 emissions of less than 50g/km and a zero-emission range of at least 60 miles, are eligible for a grant that will pay 35 per cent of the purchase price, up to a maximum of £5000. Businesses can claim a total of 1000 plug-in van and truck grants each year, with the limit resetting on 1 April.”
When it comes to chargers, the government’s EV chargepoint grant will contribute up to 75 per cent towards the cost of installing electric vehicle charge points at domestic properties.
Tip 4: Find the right charging solutions and electricity tariffs for your business
One of the biggest questions when it comes to all-electric vans is charging: how to charge, where to charge and the costs involved. Thankfully, Craig makes it simple.
“It’s important to know what charging capability your van has and subsequently its maximum charging speed, from slow to ultra-rapid, to ensure your fleet is operating as efficiently as possible. If you’re planning to install chargers at home or the office, make sure the connector type is compatible with your van’s charging port; CCS and Type 2 are the most common; but CHAdeMO is used by some older Japanese and Korean models.
“If you’re planning to rely on the public network then make sure you know where your nearest points are. Connected technology such as Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles’ WeConnect can direct you to nearby charging stations and help plan your journey to avoid vehicle downtime.”
So what about the cost of charging? Well, that all depends on your current tariff, the size of your business and how you’re planning to charge, says Craig.
“If you will be charging your electric van predominantly at home or an office premise, it’s worth considering the energy tariff that you’re on. Two-rate tariffs, often known as Economy 7, offer lower rates of electricity at night, making charging overnight cheaper, although this may mean higher day rates. Even on single rate tariffs, some energy suppliers will offer a discount for EV owners, added as a credit on your bills.”
For more information on energy rates for businesses, take a look at the government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme.
Tip 5: Adapt your working routine and educate your team
While it’s clear that taking your business or fleet electric brings with it many advantages, it’s not quite as simple as just replacing your old van. But, with up to 256 miles of range (WLTP) and rapid charging that will get it from 5% to 80% in as little as 30 minutes via a 170kWh ultra-rapid charger, the ID. Buzz makes adapting to electric a breeze.
“Charging an electric van is obviously different to traditional refuelling and may require tailoring your work routine to get the most out of the switch to electric,” says Craig. “The reality is that most journeys can be completed on a single charge, so you probably won’t need to stop to charge while you’re on the road.
“However, stats show us that vans are static for large parts of the day while owners are at work. If you can factor charging into these existing stops, you’ll see no impact on your day-to-day routine but still reap the benefits.”
If you employ a small workforce or manage a fleet, you’ll need to educate your staff too, to make sure your vans keep working as hard as possible for your business.
“Consider offering guidance on driving an electric vehicle; regenerative braking, the absence of a gearbox, and instant acceleration are three of the main differences. Ensuring staff understand how to optimise charging is also crucial to ensure your business operates as efficiently as possible.”
Tip 6: Find the right all-electric van(s) for your business
It’s natural to assume that an all-electric vehicle might be compromised when it comes to load volume, payload and range – but the all-electric Volkswagen ID. Buzz is as versatile as it is stylish and hard-working.
Available as a five-seat passenger carrier or versatile Cargo panel van, the all-new all-electric Volkswagen ID. Buzz re-imagines the timeless style and practicality of the iconic Volkswagen Bulli for an all-electric future.
Offering a long range, rapid charging and a 77kWh battery with 201PS and 310Nm of instant all-electric torque, the ID. Buzz is the perfect stylish hard-working asset for fast-paced business.
Inside, the ID. Buzz Cargo panel van offers 3.9m3 of storage space and 2200mm of load length, 1250mm of load height and 1700mm of load width, meaning there’s enough space for two Euro pallets. Fastening rails and six lashing eyes help keep your cargo tied down, while wide-opening barn doors or optional tailgate, and the two sliding side doors, will make loading and unloading a breeze.
The ID. Buzz Cargo has an interior payload of up to 650kg, while a further 100kg can be transported on the roof. And the ID. Buzz Cargo has another card up its sleeve: a nifty ‘underload function’ provides an additional 45cm of loading length through a channel underneath the passenger seat – great for those awkward longer items. And if you need to tow, the ID. Buzz can haul up to 1000kg.
Inside, the minimalist dashboard features a 5.3-inch Digital Cockpit display and 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that help make the interior of the ID. Buzz futuristic and functional, while Volkswagen’s suite of advanced driver assistance features help keep you, your passengers and cargo safe.
The Volkswagen ID. Buzz also offers a no-faff Plug & Charge feature, making on-the-go top up quick, simple and totally hassle-free  .
“The all-electric Volkswagen ID. Buzz combines generous loading space, comfort, convenience, and advanced connectivity to make your working life even easier,” says Craig.
“There are many ways to purchase or lease your van, so it’s important to consider all options and decide on the best solution for your business. Speaking to your local Van Centre and their finance expert to find out more about the available range of finance options is the perfect place to start.”
Tip 7: Explore ongoing support once you’ve made the electric switch
You’ve taken your business electric and have bought an all-electric van (or fleet). What’s left to do? Well, many companies like Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offer ongoing support to EV customers to help keep their van(s) in tip-top condition and working as hard as possible – all part of its Working With You ethos.
“Don’t separate buying your van from running it. While all ID. Buzz models come with three services included in the price, it’s definitely worth taking out a service and maintenance contract when you purchase your van. This can be highly cost-effective, especially when rolled into a monthly payment, and means you don’t have to worry about regular servicing costs,” says Craig. “What’s more, you’ll get regular reminders from your dealer, ensuring your van’s properly looked after.
“In addition, by planning maintenance in advance, you can minimise disruption to your day-to-day work in two ways. First, by scheduling routine work so your van’s operational when you and your customers need it; and secondly, by being proactive and conducting regular checks, you can reduce the likelihood of it breaking down.
“Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles offers flexible servicing hours and mobile options, so make sure you check before you buy what aftersales support comes with your van.”
So, there you have it, our comprehensive end-to-end guide on taking your business electric – all from an expert who knows exactly how it’s done.
 17,500 miles per year / 256 (all-electric range of the Volkswagen ID. Buzz) = 68.3 full charges in a year
0.32p/kWh x 77kW (price of electricity &battery capacity of ID. Buzz) = £24.64 for a full charge
£24.64 x 68.3 = £1683
 Price based on Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles National Service Pricing for vehicles over 3 years old
 Plug & Charge requires WeConnect Activation and We Charge Go or We Charge Plus subscription. To use We Connect services, you need a Volkswagen ID user account and must log in to We Connect with your user name and password. A separate We Connect contract or We Connect Plus contract will also need to be made online with Volkswagen AG. For We Connect Plus you have 90 days after the handover of the vehicle to register the vehicle.
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