Knowledge is power - Cenex plays a key role in assessing the Environment Agency's new light commercial fleet

Recently we were approached by the Environment Agency (EA) to review its light commercial vehicle fleet. The EA was looking for advice on a range of low carbon vehicles and fuels that are available for use in its operations.With the new and emerging generation of low-carbon vehicles, fleet decision makers have an alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles that can suit a wide range of applications. However, they need to determine whether a certain technology application will meet the financial and operational performance requirements.

The EA has a responsibility to protect and improve the environment,which includes playing a role in helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is therefore of utmost importance for the EA to run a fleet that is not only economically sound, but also delivers environmental benefits. Taking this into account, we conducted our analysis in two phases to help EA better understand how the deployment of different low carbon technologies would impact on its operations. The first phase was an in-depth technology review where the performances of a range of low carbon vehicle technologies were presented in a traffic light matrix.This highlighted, through the use of colour and annotation, how vehicle and fuel operational practicability, total cost of ownership (TCO) and fleet environmental performance may differ from the current EA diesel fleet when new low carbon technologies are considered.

The results of this technology review indicated that there were very limited options available for carbon reduction within the 4x4 and car derived van vehicle groups.The EA respond to environmental incidents in remote locations at all hours, this requires vehicles that are suitable to deliver equipment and staff over. However, the light commercial vehicle groups showed good potential for carbon and cost savings and so were taken forward for more detailed economic modelling and simulation work.

The second phase of our analysis provided an accurate comparison of selected low carbon technologies, utilising our Fleet Carbon Reduction Tool (FCRT). The FCRT is a simulation tool that can calculate fuel usage, carbon dioxide emissions generated and cost of ownership incurred by the operation of a fleet of vehicles over representative driving cycles. The tool therefore yields quantitative information to feed into the decision making process for choosing low carbon technology options, which can reduce and/or eliminate the need for trialling some technology options in the field. Vehicle performance was modelled over two bespoke drive cycles, created using EA telematics data, which resulted in an accurate assessment of the fuel use, CO2emissions and TCO associated with each technology type.

As part of the analysis, we highlighted those areas where alternative fuels and drive train technologies had a positive impact on both fleet TCO and well-to-wheel (WTW) carbon emissions. The two technologies identified as having a cash and carbon benefit were the purchase of small panel van EVs under a battery leasing model agreement and large panel van diesel hybrid vehicles. For the other fuel and drive trains analysed a judgement is required as to whether the additional cost is justified through emissions savings.In addition, the analysis carried out highlighted the positive impact that continuing to operate on biodiesel had on the fleet TCO and WTW emissions.

Clearly the task of reducing fleet emissions through alternative fuels and technologies is particularly challenging for the EA fleet given the high number of 4x4 vehicles they require, which are not supported by current low carbon options. However, gaining independent support and results verification gave the EA the validation it was seeking to continue using hybrid vehicles and biodiesel within its fleet. The analysis provided insight into which EV vehicles would best fit its operational needs and the EA was able to confirm its fleet strategy going forward.


While carbon reduction may not be the only driver for change within fleets, it is worth keeping in mind that the continuing evolution of low carbon technologies will require fleet decision makers to assess their operational and economic suitability. Knowledge is power when ascertaining whether any new technology is worth adopting.

About Cenex

Cenex was originally established in 2005 with support from the Automotive Unit of the Department of Trade and Industry (now the Department of Business Innovation and Skills). Cenex was set up by industry members as a first Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell technologies.


Cenex operates as a not-for-profit and is managed by a small team of full and part-time staff, supported by associates. The Cenex management team reports into a Board of Directors consisting of representatives from a core group of member organisations. These members cover the broad cross-section of UK industry interested in low carbon and fuel cell technologies and have played an active role in defining the structure, aims, objectives and priorities for the centre.

Cenex has an established track record of delivering programme and project activities for a range of public and private sector clients associated with low carbon vehicles and infrastructure.

Government clients have included the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles and the Technology Strategy Board.

Cenex is known for its research into the market dynamics for low carbon vehicles of all types as well as its analysis work on real-world operation and user behaviour for electric vehicles and vehicles running on natural gas, bio-methane and hydrogen.

Cenex clients include a number of fleet operators who are planning for and implementing carbon reduction measures using low carbon vehicle technologies.

Cenex is also the manager of the Plugged in Midlands project, which is one of the eight UK Plugged-in-Places in the UK. The Plugged in Midlands project team aim to deploy more that 300 charge points across the East and West Midlands.

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