Despite ever larger commercial challenges to its various businesses, Centrica's CEO Sarwjit Sambhi is driving the company to evolve and be ready for the changing markets of tomorrow. Placing the largest ever order for commercial electric vehicles in the UK is a strong step toward British Gas's ambition of being a 100% EV company before the end of 2030. WhichEV examines this inspiring story, where ironies abound.
Centrica, owner of British Gas, has committed to electrifying its 12,000 strong fleet by 2030 and will be making further orders with Vauxhall for electric vehicles as soon as they are available. This may include the all-electric Combo-e – available from Summer 2021.
For now, the focus is on 1,000 all-electric Vivaro-e vans from Vauxhall. The BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) will arrive over the next 12 months and be rolled out nationwide across the British Gas engineer workforce.
The initial roll-out will be part of a large-scale fact-finding mission. Engineers who receive the new vans will be chosen from volunteers, with priority being given to areas where emissions need to be lowered and where existing vehicles already need replacing. One of the largest and most important parts of the transition centres on British Gas engineers turning up at the homes of other gas engineers, specifically to install an EV charge point. Gas engineers are being upskilled for the task – and British Gas wants to help accelerate adoption of EVs for homes and businesses across the country.
Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport, loves the project, saying: “This is a huge step for such an iconic British company, who are showing leadership in making the switch to zero emission vehicles as we to strive to meet net zero emissions by 2050. We’re determined to build back greener – to deliver better air quality and lower our carbon footprint.”
It's also good news for Vauxhall. Getting a large order for a new generation of vehicle means that a lot of teething issues can be ironed out and economies of scale can start to come into play sooner for future orders.
“As the oldest British vehicle Brand since 1903, I want to thank British Gas, a fellow British business, for their loyalty and trust in Vauxhall,” says Stephen Norman, Managing Director, Vauxhall Motors. “As with all businesses up and down the country, tradespeople rely on their van as an essential tool of their work… The Vauxhall Vivaro-e [represents] the first step in the electrification of our entire van range, can contribute towards the transition towards low emissions vehicles whilst improving air quality.”
Also good news for Vauxhall is their claim that they are able to ramp up commercial EV production quickly. “Transport is a key area where we can improve carbon emissions and is an important part of our strategy to meet our net zero targets,” said Matthew Bateman, Managing Director, British Gas. “We chose to work with Vauxhall as they were able to give us a large number of high-quality and low emission vans.”
This move will help British Gas achieve its goals as a carbon-neutral company, it gives Vauxhall a boost on EV sales and – possibly more importantly in the long run – will help put pressure on the the government and private sector companies alike to invest heavily in our nation's charger network.