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Electric police cars: issues in transitioning UK police force fleet

10 Jan 2023

Julie Mortimer

Julie Mortimer


The 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles is fast approaching, and there is still much to be considered when it comes to the transition to electric vehicles, especially for organisations with large fleets, like police forces. Drawing on experience advising police forces on their EV transition strategies, director Julie Mortimer examines the problems surrounding infrastructure and energy management that must be tackled.

Blue light

Even distribution of electric vehicle charging points

When we examine the current state of play across UK police forces, we can see just how much further there is to go. Last year, Auto Express carried out research into the number of electric vehicles and charging points UK police forces already have. This revealed that there were more than 430 electric vehicles in fleets, along with more than 800 chargers.

These numbers were not evenly spread among forces, with some constabularies having more than others, and some having none at all. Significantly, it marks only a tiny percentage of overall police vehicles, which total more than 30,000.

The transition to an electric fleet cannot happen overnight, and with a high proportion of vehicles still being petrol or diesel, police forces must get their strategies right to meet the myriad of challenges.

The cost of a robust electric vehicle infrastructure

The challenges are not just the vehicles per se. There is no ‘plug and play’ solution without investment and improvement in the wider infrastructure to enable efficient management of electric fleets.

For example, it was revealed last year that one force had spent £20 million on a fleet of electric cars but failed to install the necessary infrastructure to charge them. This led to the cars having to be left to charge overnight in public car parks, which in turn took up charge points intended for public use.

Forces must include the installation of the right infrastructure to keep their fleets ready to go at all times, but this means that the related costs and practical rollout must be considered within any transition strategy. A recent Department for Transport report detailed that connecting charge points for larger fleet depots is a process that currently could take around two years, and with the average cost of a single commercial EV charge point being between £1,000 and £2,500 plus VAT, the total costs can run up very quickly.

A new vehicle management strategy

Charging an EV fleet is likely to require a new approach to vehicle management, especially for emergency response vehicles where reliability is of paramount importance. A vehicle strategy needs to allow for vehicle types, location of charging infrastructure, types, and number of vehicle charge units (such as standard, fast, or lightening), shift coordination, remote charging capability and new standard personnel practices that protect operational delivery.

Electrical supply capacity issues

As well as physical infrastructure challenges, we have the challenge of electrical supply capacity. If energy management is left un-managed, it can result in power demand in one area of the site negatively impacting the supply to another area.

Companies need to understand their energy capacity ahead of any commitment to purchasing electric vehicles including:

  • What do they have?
  • What can they save?
  • Can they generate anything themselves?
  • What are the storage options?
  • If they can’t do any more than they are doing, how much energy can they buy and where can they buy it?

Only from there can they examine vehicle numbers effectively.

Energy demand to support electric vehicle charging is significant, with some new sites needing to almost double their supply from the grid to future proof future capacity. Availability of supply from UK Power Networks (UKPN) cannot be assumed, so early assessments and engagement are recommended.

Electric vehicle considerations in rural areas

This topic of power supply also needs to consider the location of any force’s physical presence on an individual basis. It is widely known that connectivity is not made equal throughout the country, especially for more rural areas, so this plays a key part in energy resourcing and overall cost of energy supply and management.

More rural police centres are those that should be implementing effective power storage within their estate management plans to ensure that, even should the worst happen, they can still serve the public. And, with the media increasingly talking about the risk of rolling blackouts for UK-wide energy management in the cost-of-living crisis this point is ever more pertinent.

Supplying sufficient electric vehicles

Another challenge is procuring the vehicles. Supply is falling behind the high demand for new electric vehicles, and currently the delay from point of order to taking delivery of vehicles is anything from 6 months to 12 months.

Blue Light services adopt a rolling programme of fleet replacement and delays in delivery of EVs may have a direct impact upon the ongoing cost of maintaining existing vehicles beyond their reasonable lifespan.

How can blue light services successfully transition to sustainable solutions?

It is really encouraging that many of our blue light clients at Pick Everard are engaging proactively to enable successful green transition strategies, which may include:

  • Electric vehicle strategies
  • Estate rationalisation
  • Carbon reduction building management plans.

Adapting to a reduced carbon emission society requires investment and planning and we at Pick Everard are prepared and ready to support all our clients with estates and fleet challenges and help us all move towards a greener future.

For more information on current news check out our insights section, or contact us today to speak with one of our expert consultants.