Chris Jackson is currently the head of fleet partnerships at Centrica Business Solutions. The company provides integrated energy solutions that help balance commercial success with environmental responsibility to become a sustainable business.
Chris’ role at Centrica is to help enable fleet operators to transition to electric vehicles (EVs) at scale. He does this through building partnerships, primarily with fleets directly, and through leasing companies, while actively developing the next generation of services to customers.
Centrica has the third-largest fleet in the UK and is the largest energy company. What they build for their fleet they now offer to others. The company has a firm commitment that its own fleet, including 10,000 vans and 1,500 cars, will all be electric by 2025.
Chris admits to being a former petrolhead but understands that electric cars can be far more fun to drive with the added bonus of zero-emissions. This is the perfect personal experience when it comes to helping others to make the transition to electric cars. And he’s always happy to debate the issue.
EDs: Can you tell us a little bit more about your personal interest in electric vehicles (EVs)?
I’ve always been interested in all things automotive. If I’m honest I’m really a petrol head turned electric evangelist. There are still millions of people out there who haven’t driven an electric car but when they do, like the rest of us, they’ll see that it’s like switching from tape to CD or black and white to technicolour.
It’s not just an environmental thing. It’s a car thing. Electric vehicles are just better. They are entertaining to drive, easier to service, safe, quiet and more convenient to use.
As well as being my passion, the intersection of energy and transportation is also my job. I’ve got nearly 15 years of experience in fleet management. For the last six years or so I have been focused on helping businesses to make the switch to electric.
EDs: What car do you drive?
We’ve two in the family; a Tesla Model 3 Performance and a slightly more sedate Renault Zoe 22kWh. We love them both.
EDs: Is your interest in electric vehicles born out of a deeper concern about climate change?
There are numerous tangible benefits for making the switch not least cleaner air, but clearly, climate change can’t be ignored. Transportation is still responsible for around a third of our emissions in the UK.
The energy sector, where emissions have been cut by 75 percent since 1990, is a tangible example of how a well-executed strategy can have a huge impact in terms of CO2 reduction and I want to play my part in that.
It’s a cliché but I’ve got a young family and honestly don’t want to turn to my kids and say that we saw the impending climate catastrophe coming but didn’t do anything to address it.
EDs: Where do you see electric vehicles fleets in the coming years?
We are quite rapidly getting to a place where the energy, charging infrastructure and the optimisation of charging integrate seamlessly. For me, this is the key to mass adoption.
Well managed charging is essential for firms to adopt electric fleets. As the operator of the UK’s largest commercial electric fleet, we’ve seen the benefit of this, not only from an environmental aspect but also from a lower total cost of ownership.
It makes sense for large organisations like ours to work together to develop a fleet charging network, so commercial drivers can book a regular, reliable timed appointment to charge.
With a large number of workplace chargers sitting empty over night these fleet operators could get a return on their investment if they opened up their car parks at different times.
Vehicle supply remains a continuing concern, particularly in commercial vehicles. The zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate has the potential to drive a gear-change in uptake and reinforce the UK’s place as a climate leader.
EDs: Do you think we’ll meet the challenge of decarbonisation and how important is a fleet transition to electric vehicles in doing that?
Frankly, we have to meet the challenge and fleets are essential to the mass adoption of electric vehicles.
Fleet operators replace vehicles more quickly than private buyers and buy vehicles in larger quantities. Those will ultimately filter down to the second-hand market and will help both businesses and private motorists make the switch to electric.
Moving the vehicles that a business operates to electric can be achieved fairly painlessly, and if fleet operators do the sums right, will lead to a reduction in both emissions and cost over time.
EDs: You’re quite outspoken on social media about hypocrisy in the shift to emobility. Do you see social media as an interesting or powerful tool for communicating sustainability and emoblity?
Thanks for highlighting that. Living in an echo chamber isn’t much fun, so I enjoy the debate and occasional argument when discussing all things related to electric vehicles on LinkedIn.
However, I firmly believe in the winning combination of renewable energy, storage and electric transportation as the key to putting an end to over a hundred years of fossil fuel addiction. I’m usually happy to chat with anyone who disagrees… usually.