Andrew Leech reveals why the recent diesel emission scandal is the wake-up call the industry needs to push the virtues of going electric

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Anyone interested in cars can’t have missed the damaging press around the VW emissions scandal – where environmentally-damaging particulates were found to have been systematically underreported on popular diesel models.

Ever since then there’s been a shadow of suspicion around whether mileage statistics (and therefore its emissions), are truly representative. And, to rub salt into the wounds, most recently, the chancellor’s autumn statement set about demonising diesel cars even more – with the extra levy for running them (which was due to be phased out in 2016), now extended for another five years. In short, diesel cars have a bad reputation, are being discouraged from being used, and will continue to be more expensive to run.

All of this could be seen as bad news for schemes such as salary sacrifice cars and employee cars – not least because it is a sector historically focused on diesel vehicles. But – in part due to these recent developments – I now feel we’ve reached an important watershed moment. Perhaps now is time to finally turn our gaze away from diesel. Perhaps now is the time to accept that we really ought to be looking elsewhere – to finally accept that hybrid and electric vehicles really are the future.

So what’s stopping us? Obviously, it would be wrong of me to say EVs (electric vehicles) and hybrids aren’t without their stigma. But I feel it’s misplaced, and right now, with diesel where it is, suppliers should be at pains to correct it.

Let’s tackle some of these associations:

For those that think EVs are milk-floats, with zero performance, I say think again! Today, a top of the range Tesla (which we supply), will do 0-60mph second-only to a Bugatti Veyron. Another worry employees have is cost – especially if they’re buying a car through salary sacrifice. Yes, ‘green’ cars do cost more, but what people really need to look at is their whole costs. For instance, the government will still give electric cats a £5.000 subsidy, and while a Nissan Leaf will cost around £250 per month on salary sacrifice – that really is it. Most normal cars will also cost that much, but will still require fuel. Our Tesla models now come out at around the same price as having a BMW 530 on a personal lease.

But, I hear you say, there’s still the biggest issue of the lot: limited range. Well, yes, there is, but also no there isn’t – not anymore! Our best-selling car of 2015 was the part electric part petrol Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, 20 miles on electric then switches to petrol and less than £400 a month on our scheme for a £40,000 4x4.

We feel it’s up to suppliers to really push new ideas and, to forgive a pun, drive new behaviours. Thanks to innovative new solutions, range needn’t be a concern that puts the brakes on EVs altogether for we now offer a service that allows people to switch to a petrol/diesel car ‘just’ for when they need it – and it comes as part of their EV salary sacrifice package.

We call it Electric Flex. It recognises that for, say 340 days a year, an 80-mile range electric car (for journeys around town, short trips, commuting etc), is perfect. Because it’s only for family holidays, or long trips to see extended families that they fall down, we feel this is the wrong reason to not have an EV.

So, for the two weeks per year, or however many day employees decide, their package can include the use of a petrol/diesel car – which they can arrange through our hiring partners.

This way, the few odd days/activities a year that they need something more than an EV doesn’t have to completely destroy the reason for going green for the rest of the year.

We’re convinced this is a model that could really push EV cars from the ‘might think about it’ camp to the ‘definitely viable’ one in people’s minds. We’ve recently worked with a client, supplying 30 Nissan Leafs. Half of its employees said they wouldn’t have considered EV before because of the few days per year when they need to drive for longer. Based on this sort of feedback we feel our solution could really solve a massive problem currently impacting EV sales. Of course for those who need a more ‘day to day’ solution to longer drives modern hybrids are perfect.

Remember, offering vehicles will always seen as a great perk and with us practically risk free. But offering clean, green, kinder-to-the-environment cars is a real USP employers can offer. Not only does going EV satisfy the increasingly green agenda, but you’re also giving staff a solution that deal with the occasional blips in people’s lives where petrol/diesel vehicles still have a place. With Electric Flex staff won’t have bought a car based on the needs a few days a year, but according to the needs of the vast majority of the year – what a great story that is to tell staff.