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Silence is golden - and cuts costs

David Brighton, business development director of Lincolnshire-based Blue Castle Energy explains why trialling an electric pool car is helping to drive the company’s agenda as well as cutting costs

Our energy business is all about reducing costs and carbon footprint for businesses, as is our environmental waste management business, so anything that reduces our own carbon footprint fits our corporate identity perfectly.

We are passionate about green issues and we advise clients on energy solutions continually, so we felt we should put our money where our mouth is, put the company’s eco-philosophy to the fore and drop the idea of individual company cars. Instead, we are trialling an all-electric pool car, and we believe we are the first in our field to do this in the UK.

Since May, our staff have been sampling the silence of an electric Vauxhall Ampera, the UK equivalent of the Chevrolet Volt. And if this continues to work well for us we plan to roll out more electric pool cars, because we’re much better-off with three or four pool cars than 14 company cars.

We could have opted for a conventional pool car, but we made the business decision to spend more money initially and aim for a fleet of near zero-harm vehicles with very low running costs – because if companies in our sector don’t lead the way, who will?

Vauxhall give the Ampera an equivalent mileage figure of 235mpg. The car has a range of only around 30 miles per charge, but for longer journeys a petrol-driven generator tops up the batteries and drives the electric motor, extending the range to 300 miles.

Capital costs are undeniably higher – the Ampera cost £28,000, but there is a cost saving per mile, and we recharge it overnight at off-peak rates. There is also a tax incentive for environmentally-friendly products: we can drive in zero emission lanes, and if Nottingham, our nearest big city, goes ahead with congestion charges, we would be exempt.

Having a pool car means we don’t have a stock of fast-depreciating assets, and we felt the Ampera was more stylish than its electric or hybrid rivals. Staff found the silent running a little disconcerting at first, but they soon got used to it and they love the car.

We have eight or nine users altogether, and now we are much more able to get our account managers, as well as sales staff, in front of clients.

The silence can be a plus too as environment sustainability is also about reducing noise pollution. We do a lot work in the care industry – nursing homes are big consumers of energy – and we don’t disturb the peace when we visit.

Is there a down side? Well the 30 mile range is limited but we normally work within it anyway, and the petrol generator is still more economical than a conventional car.

The only other disadvantage is that we get stopped an awful lot to talk about the car, which isn’t really a disadvantage with the branding on the side. I rolled up to a very big client recently and the Ampera was all they talked about for the first 10 minutes. The Ampera may be helping us do our bit for global warming – but it’s a great ice-breaker.

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