Enfield Council’s Head of Fleet & Transport Operations Julian Minta discusses the lessons learnt from the London borough’s fleet decarbonisation programme.

The sound of refuse vehicles winding their way around streets, lifting, emptying, and lowering bins is a familiar one. But it’s just that little bit quieter in the London Borough of Enfield.

Enfield Council has four electric refuse trucks, developed and tested by the local authority in a landmark partnership with Renault Trucks. These new, ultra-quiet, fully electric, 26 tonne, E-Tech, low entry cab trucks are the jewel in the council’s fleet.

The trucks form part of the council’s electric vehicles solution, which includes small vans, repair vans, large vans, and caged tipper vehicles. Eighteen per cent of the council’s owned asset fleet is now electric.

In 2020, Enfield Council launched its Climate Action Strategy, which included a bold target to convert the council fleet to 60% electric by 2025/26 and 100% electric by March 2030 as contracts come up for renewal.

Enfield Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr Ergin Erbil explained: ‘Enfield Council is committed to becoming a carbon net neutral organisation by 2030. As part of our climate action strategy, we reviewed our vehicle fleet and developed a plan to support the transition to zero carbon alternatives as suitable products become available. We have also begun to procure electric vehicles as part of our fleet replacement programme. We continue to track our progress and target our resources as effectively as possible so we can best understand our own carbon emissions and effectively meet our ambitious aims.’

Although Enfield Council has had immense success thus far with the electrification of its fleet, it has not been a simple process. There were two main hurdles – infrastructure and vehicle types.

To start with the latter. We have a wide range of vehicles that are needed for many objectives and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore, the first piece of advice for local authorities looking to expand their electric fleets is to develop an understanding of the tasks you would expect each vehicle to undertake, the distance and routes needed to deliver the service, environmental factors and driver training.

Enfield is a relatively large borough; 32 square miles, 334,000 residents with a green, rural landscape in the north and west of the borough and busy urban roads in the east and south.

Enfield’s fleet team identified where they could best use electric vehicle solutions for the needs of the borough. In addition, the council was savvy enough to time their acquisitions, so they coincided with the latest generation of electric vehicle technology.

But note, the pace of change is so fast it takes dedication to keep up with advancements in the industry.

Which brings us to the next piece of advice. Understand how you will service your charging infrastructure needs. Each of Enfield Council’s charging sites – Trent Park, Pymmes Park, Enfield Civic Centre and Morson Road Depot - came with their own unique issues.

Enfield Council was confronted with various demands integral to the infrastructure required for their electric fleet strategy. These included limited power from the nearest sub-station, obsolete technology at these sub-stations, a backlog of enquiries to UK Power Networks and asbestos contractors, road closure permits, surveys, risk and safety assessments. And naturally, the costs.

Another key issue was, and still is, the lack of space. Enfield Council’s fleet now consists of 440 vehicles. Having the space for these vehicles, along with expanding infrastructure to charge and maintain them is a massive challenge, particularly at Morson Road which effectively is on an estate with limited potential for expansion.

Nevertheless, Enfield Council has prevailed and electric vehicles proudly glide along the streets of Enfield, contributing to our strategy of a cleaner, greener borough. As Cllr Erbil added: ‘Emissions from transport in Enfield account for an estimated 39% of the borough’s total emissions. The electrification of our fleet alongside support for walking and cycling will help to achieve our local climate action goals.’

While we will continue to add to our fleet, we are also looking at working with local businesses to see whether there are opportunities to consolidate our aspirations as electric vehicles users. The council meets with the local community and businesses to discuss their environmental needs and there is an active Climate Action Forum (EnCaf) which meets regularly and has discussed the possibility of a Green Business Hub.

What’s next? In 15, 20 years’ time will we be looking at a hydrogen-based solutions, for example? Well, that is a conversation for another time.

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