UK digital network Openreach takes 15 electric vans for a spin

Just another 22,000 to go...

BT's Openreach is trialling 15 electric vans – out of a fleet of 22,000 carbon-emitting vehicles.

The company said the vehicles, which will be specially marked, will help deliver and maintain Openreach's fibre broadband network "and hopefully pave the way for more widespread electric vehicle deployments in the future."

Last week, Royal Mail announced efforts to triple its electric van fleet with the addition of 190 new models by the end of the year. The company's fleet is made up of roughly 49,000 vehicles. However, in 2018, MPs were warned that shifting the small vans in London to electric vehicles could lead to a power meltdown.

Clive Selley, chief exec of Openreach, said: "Through this pilot we will learn practical lessons about the best way to use and charge the vehicles and develop systems which would help us make far greater use of electric vehicles in the future."

Seven vans are being used in Birmingham, with the rest in other UK cities. Charging points have been installed at various exchange buildings, as well as home locations, so vans can juice up overnight.

A high percentage of Openreach engineers keep their vans at home, and the pilot will measure whether it will be possible to run the vehicles from residential addresses.

"The pilot will help to form an understanding of how to manage the installation of charging points at scale, help to test vehicles in different scenarios and open up informed conversations with manufacturers about long-term needs," said Openreach.

Openreach engineer Dave Griffin, who lives in Birmingham, said: "I've never driven one before – and it's noticeably quieter than our usual vans.

"I was particularly interested in the battery life and how that would last. So far there have been no issues, with a full charge easily enabling me to easily do a full day of work."

A Parliamentary report into the electric vehicle market, published in October, concluded that poor provision of charging infrastructure is among its "greatest barriers to growth".

"The existing charging network is lacking in size and geographic coverage, with substantial disparities in the provision of public charge points across the country," it said.

Other identified issues hindering uptake included the cost (Tesla's entry-level Model 3 vehicle is £28,500), not enough range of vehicles (only 80 are predicted to be on the market by 2025) and the current lack of a second-hand market.

The global stock of electric cars rose to over 3 million last year, up from 14,260 in 2010. The International Energy Agency has estimated the number of electric passenger cars and light commercial vehicles could reach 125 million by 2030. ®

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