The lingering shadow of recession may have led to cuts in jobs, budgets and spending but it has done little to slow down the march of corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to research by analysts PricewaterhouseCoopers, a massive 81% of European companies now produce CSR reports, up 15% since 2009. With green issues high on the agenda across the board, eco-consciousness is also electrifying the contract hire and leasing market.
While fleet managers increasingly talk about the importance of conserving fuel, lower carbon footprints and smaller emissions, some manufacturers are already going a step further. BMW have announced that when it’s all new electric car the i3 hits forecourts later this year there will be a range of dedicated options and features created specifically for business buyers. It expects the car to be hugely popular within the contract hire and leasing market due in part to the PR power a green car wields.
BMW describe the i3 as a sustainable car designed for city living. It is powered purely by electricity with zero emissions. The i3 is the result of an intensive five year, e-mobility electronic research project by the marquee – it clocked up more the 12 million test miles by more than 1000 test drivers in ten countries as part of a study of electronic charging station needs and patterns. Using this data, the i3 has been designed to give executives a petrol-free vehicle which has a range of around 100 miles before it will need recharging.
Developed specifically for contract hire and leasing clients, an innovative range extender can be tagged on to the car as an option, giving the driver an extra 80 miles worth of motoring per charge. This can be coupled with the unique ConnectedDrive, an on-board navigation system which plots the most efficient and eco-friendly route to a destination, as well as displaying all available charging stations en-route.
As well as the range extender, BMW are also said to be developing a series of portfolios specifically for business customers. Its abundance of eco-friendly features – the zero emissions, use of natural resources in the interior, reduced CO2 emissions and a third less global warming potential in comparison with a standard car of the same class and intelligent route planning – make it an interesting solution for business clients. Experts predict the range extender class of i3 will be the most attractive for leasing clients due to its less frequent charging requirements – a bonus for employees who spend long hours on the road commuting for meetings, conferences and sales appointments. However, it has also announced a corporate ‘flexible mobility’ solution which will give the lease holder the option of adding in a traditional petrol or diesel vehicle for temporary use when business dictates a long journey is required.
Research and development into electric cars and hybrid vehicles is also well underway at other manufacturing plants. There are a total of 36 non traditional fuel cars available in the UK currently, with Nissan’s all electric, UK-built Leaf making its showroom debut a few weeks ago. Peugeot have gone one step further with the creation of hybrid car that runs on air. It won’t go into production until 2016 and the other half of the air equation is petrol but it promises to be cheaper to buy than current electric models with real fuel savings which should make it attractive to fleet managers.