Will the green cars revolution include commercial vehicles?

In the world of automotive development, it seems like much of the news surrounding green cars focuses on exciting developments for consumers or petrolheads, often leaving fleet managers in the dark. 

While no one will argue that the hybrid engine which propels the McLaren P1 to ludicrous top speeds is exciting, fleet managers that rely on commercial vehicles also need to be kept in the loop about the trends defining this sector.

A number of recent reports have illustrated positive developments for commercial vehicles heading into 2016, and fleet managers will be relieved to know they won't be missing out on any of the latest tech. 

Problem solved

One of the biggest challenges for green cars to overcome in Australia is the lack of supporting infrastructure. While the electric vehicles can be charged at home or anywhere else with a power point, and the public infrastructure is slowly developing, other options aren't looking quite as promising. 

Hydrogen vehicles could rival the electric alternatives in the battle for green car supremacy.

Hydrogen-powered (also known as fuel cell) vehicles are likely to be the main rivals for electric cars. Although they operate on similar principles and achieve the same results as electric cars, they demand their own unique supporting infrastructure. 

Like petrol and diesel vehicles, hydrogen-powered cars need to be filled up regularly. However, the solution is not as simple as topping up existing service stations with hydrogen instead of regular fuel. Instead, hydrogen demands specific equipment and installations, of which there is only one currently in the country. 

However, Toyota, which recently debuted its hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai in overseas markets, believes it has the solution. The Japanese marque stated that fuel-cell technology will be perfect for commercial vehicles. 

According to Toyota, this is because most commercial vehicles return to a central depot at the conclusion of their driver's shift. If organisations can instal hydrogen pumps at their base of operations, they stand a better chance of being prepared for the future of green cars, Toyota Australia President Dave Buttner says. 

"With a well-developed implementation plan towards the future, we believe this vision would be an ideal way to introduce Australia to this exciting new technology and pave the way for the eventual roll out to the private sector," he explained. 

How do green cars affect fleet maintenance?

Hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles are an unknown quantity for many of the country's fleet managers. The internal combustion engine (ICE) has been around for a century and the necessary fleet maintenance procedures are all fairly commonplace. 

In many cases, fleet managers and their staff can perform some of the minor maintenance checks ICEs require. However, hybrid engines are much more complex and the maintenance costs and procedures differ accordingly. 

CarMD investigated the trends influencing fleet maintenance in green cars, finding that the costs are decreasing as the technology becomes more commonplace. According to the organisation's survey, in 2013, three of the 10 of the most expensive cars to service were hybrids. Now, that number has dropped to one. 

On top of this, the cost of replacing important machinery in hybrid vehicles has also dropped noticeably over the past few years, making these investments much more cost-effective in the long run. 

Fleet maintenance isn't as simple as it used to be. Fleet maintenance isn't as simple as it used to be.

Commercial vehicle popularity boosts car sales

According to the latest sales report from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), the number of light commercial vehicles sold across the country increased in November compared to the same time last year. 

FCAI CEO Tony Weber detailed the vehicles businesses were most drawn to in the past month. 

"Both SUV and light commercial vehicle sales surged in November, with both segments seeing 16 per cent increases on November 2014 sales, and the segments together representing almost 55 per cent of the total vehicle market," he explained.

With vehicles become safer and more fuel efficient, it's important that fleet managers choose commercial options that reflect these changing trends.