Simon: Welcome to Let’s Talk Fleet Risk, a podcast for those who manage drivers and their vehicles and want to reduce road risk in their organisation. This quarter 2, Driving for Better Business is focusing on sustainability, so it seems a great idea to invite Paul Kirby onto a special edition of the Let’s Talk Fleet Risk podcast.
Paul is one of the best-known experts on electric LCVs with over 30 years in the automotive sector. He’s one of the founders of the EV Café and can be seen advocating for electric vans at many of the commercial vehicle shows and conferences. Paul is also the founder of consultancy and training firm EV Essentials.
Welcome to the podcast Paul.
Paul: Thank you very much Simon
Simon: Paul you’ve got something in common with our other podcast guest this month, National Grid Fleet Manager Lorna McAtear – you were both crowned Green Fleet Champions at last year’s Green Fleet Awards. What’s fired up your passion for electric vehicles, and especially electric vans.
Paul: I first drove a Mercedes Benz sprinter electric vehicle in 2004 and when you think about how long its taken for that vehicle to get here it’s incredible, but really, having driven electric vehicles over the last 20 years, what I’ve noticed is that they are such a better environment to be in and when I was working at LeasePlan the company became a member of the EV100 which is a group of businesses all committed to Net Zero by 2023 and the that sort of passion grew to help people. When I saw the environmental benefits, I also saw the driver benefit because I am a great believer in positive mental health and helping people to have a good experience in their vehicles. When you think about the driver behind the wheel of a van they often have a bad reputation but the main reason I believe for that is the stress and pressure they are under in terms of deliveries etc. Electric vehicles take a lot of that away – it’s a much better experience for the driver and ultimately, I believe electric vehicles are safer to drive than their diesel or petrol counterparts. So, there’s a number of reasons, but’s it is focused on getting the job done in a safer more efficient fashion that’s good for the driver.
Simon: You talked about the fact that electric vehicles are safer – why do you think that?
Paul: Having driven vans of all shapes and sizes over the years, if you’re sitting behind the wheel of a diesel vehicle with a gear stick and you’re trying to pull out into a busy roundabout, let’s be honest, vehicles are operating in busy city centres or towns, pulling out from junctions with various loads on, and what the electric vehicle gives you is a point and shoot. You don’t have to worry about changing gears or being in the right gear – you can put both hands on the steering wheel and go, whereas in the diesel vehicle you’re having to do a number of things. You could be in the wrong gear for the weight in the back etc. That was the first thing and also, we drive more carefully in an electric vehicle because we’re conscious of preserving range, I think we’re more relaxed. A study was done on London taxi drivers that said they were happier, which is interesting, they were calmer and more focused on the wheel of an electric LEDC range extended electric vehicles. They were delivering a much better experience and so those are the main reasons I believe it’s safer to driver an electric vehicle.
Simon: The driver wellbeing is interesting – we’ve done a lot of work with CALM – van drivers are predominantly male, and CALM is aimed at preventing male suicide. It can be a very lonely existence – so making that environment nicer – and the electric vehicles are certainly pleasant places to be – so it’s probably an underestimated benefit.
Paul: I agree with you completely, CALM – the campaign against living miserably – I love that acronym. It’s such a ‘does what it says on the tin’ kind of description. I love that and the charity’s focus. When you think about the suicide rate of men it’s the biggest killer of men under 40 I think and men are our predominant driver population so the fact there are wellbeing benefits – it points to getting the drivers engaged early on in any approach we take to electric vehicles because they will understand the benefits.