We often overlook the key characteristic of the rainforest: rainfall

Earth’s rainforests receive high levels of rainfall each year, often up to 400 inches compared with less than 40 in the UK. A great deal of this rainfall comes from the fact that rainforest is often self-watering. Through transpiration, plants release water into the local atmosphere. This creates a dense cloud cover that you see hanging over rainforest canopy. Even when it’s not raining, these clouds keep the rainforest ecosystem humid and warm. It’s this immense heat and humidity that has meant a vast range of animals and plants have adapted to this specific climate over the years.

At the global level, rainforests drive the flow of water as rain. They are the centre of the water cycle, circulating water vapour and feeding rivers that eventually take water back to the oceans. Evaporation from the oceans is seeded by organic dust and particles created by the trees themselves. It is a remarkable system, working simultaneously at microscopic and planetary levels, full of intricacies and interdependencies.

But this means that as rainforests shrink, droughts increase, both locally and around the world. Evidence is already showing that forest loss in the tropics is already affecting crop growth worldwide. At the local level, despite the huge volume of water found in and produced by rainforest, access to the right amount of water is becoming more problematic for local people.

There are increasing reports of rivers turned gold from mining waste in the Amazon, palm plantations polluting coastal waters in Papua New Guinea and sea-level rise flooding crops and causing havoc on sanitation systems. It’s why your support is so vital, both locally and globally. You’re keeping rainforest standing at the heart of the water cycle, by supporting local communities with access to good quality water and to cope with the effects of deforestation and climate breakdown.

In recent years, your investment provided fresh-water storage tanks and flood-resistant toilets to reduce local pollution in Papua New Guinea, tippy-taps to provide safe handwashing and fish ponds to avoid fishing in rivers with mining pollution. All alongside helping develop sustainable incomes that work with the forest, help people earn a living and reduce pressure on their forest. Healthy families mean healthy forest, and that often starts with something easy to take for granted; water.

It’s why keeping rainforest standing is not only vital for those who call rainforest home but for us all, to ensure Earth’s systems that we all rely on are kept in balance. The support Cool Earth receives is not only protecting forest, it’s also helping address the increasing challenges of getting good, clean water in the right places for local people.

Fuel card services are working with Cool Earth to mitigate global carbon emissions by preserving the most threatened rainforests. Get in touch now to find out more about what we’re doing to help.

How can I keep electric cars charged?

Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming. Sales of these models have been showing impressive growth recently, helped by improving technology and wider consumer acceptance. Indeed, more than one in ten cars sold in the UK 2020 were electric – a 66 per cent increase from 2019.

For now, petrol and diesel will continue to make up the majority of business fleets. These fuels are familiar, convenient and – with a good fuel card – cost-effective. But sooner or later, fleet managers will have to start looking at EVs. And this will mean new challenges as well as benefits.

Why the future is electric

A key reason why more people are going electric is because they’ll eventually have no choice. A government deadline is looming. After 2030, the sale of new petrol or diesel-only cars will be banned in the UK, though some hybrid models will still be allowed.

Carmakers have been responding to this. In just the last few weeks alone, the likes of Ford and Volvo have announced they intend to become all-electric by 2030. Jaguar is even more ambitious, aiming to remove new petrol and diesel models from its range by 2025.

Most firms, however, shouldn’t wait until they have no choice before looking at electric cars.

Thinking ahead means you’ll be much better-prepared for the time when it’s electric or nothing.

The benefits of going electric

The two major selling points of EVs are their environmental benefits and the potential for cost-savings. Some figures suggest busy users could save more than £1,000 in running costs, while fully-electric cars are also exempt from vehicle excise duty.

It can also boost your reputation among customers, who are keen to support companies that are making efforts to go green. What’s more, employees are in favour of this too.

According to research by Go Ultra Low, 70 per cent of employees want their company to offer EVs. What’s more, 63 per cent would prefer an electric car if they had the option. As well as the reduced running costs, more than half of company drivers (53 per cent) cite the environmental benefits as an appealing factor.

The challenges facing electric fleet managers

However, EVs are not without their issues for fleet managers. And one of the biggest questions will be how you ensure they’re kept fully charged and available at all times.

While battery technology – and therefore range – has improved hugely in recent years, getting caught low on energy away from a charging point is still a concern for many. According to research by Venson, 69 per cent of motorists are worried by a lack of charging infrastructure. Therefore, this is always something you have to plan for.

You also need to factor in maintenance costs. As many electric cars are still relatively new, long-term costs are still unclear, but there are a few things to consider. On the plus side, because there are no moving parts or oil to change, day-to-day costs will often be cheaper. However, replacing a battery pack could cost thousands if it becomes damaged in a bump.

Where can I charge electric vehicles?

For most fleet managers, the number one issue will be charging. While there’s still work to do, the UK’s infrastructure has come a long way. There are now more than 35,000 public electric vehicle charging points around the UK at 13,000 locations, and the numbers are growing all the time.

In 2020, around 7,000 new connections were added to the network. Importantly, the biggest increases were in 150-350kW charging points, which promise much faster charging.

Many fleets will need to recharge their EVs overnight at on-site electric vehicle charging stations to ensure they have enough range for the following day’s activity. However, for those times where this isn’t possible, such as long-distance drives, you’ll need to take into account access to charging points when planning routes.

Drivers will also need to be equipped with electric vehicle charging cards to avoid any complex later expenses claims.

How long will charging take?

It’s still true that charging takes significantly longer than filling up a fuel tank with petrol or diesel. But the difference is not as big as it once was.

While it can still take up to eight hours to fully charge an EV, rapid chargers can offer 100-200-mile range in less than 30 minutes. This means if a driver is caught with low battery, they should at least be able to recharge enough to make it home, wherever they are.

There are a few factors to take into account when it comes to electric vehicle charging. These include:

  • The size of the battery
  • How many miles you do between charges
  • How you charge, such as topping up often or charging from low to full
  • The power rating of the charger

Should I install dedicated charging points?

If firms are going down the electric route, installing dedicated fast-charging points on site may be a necessity. You can’t rely on public electric vehicle charging stations to provide the fast, reliable service you need to stay on the road.

Charging points could be located at a compound for commercial vehicles or in an office’s car park. This will require an upfront investment, but some of these costs can be claimed back using the government’s Workplace Charging Scheme. This allows for a grant of up to 75 per cent of the cost of a socket, up to a maximum of £350 each and no more than 40 sockets across all a firm’s sites.

What about home charging?

If employees use company EVs kept at their home, they’ll likely charge them there more often than not.

This can bring its own range of issues. For example, how does the firm compensate employees for their use of domestic electricity? And what about the charger itself?

Using a standard mains outlet and three-point pin should only ever be a last resort, as it’s the slowest possible way of charging an EV. This means many employers will therefore need to assist with the cost of installing a home charging point. This can be made more complex if a landlord’s permission is needed or there is no off-street or garage parking available at the employee’s home.

However you charge EVs – at work, at home or at public charging sites – you’ll need the right tools to make it simple and cost-effective. We can expect to see more electric vehicle fuel cards become available in the coming years. However, if you want to know more today about how to add electric vehicles to your fleet and manage them alongside existing petrol and diesel cars, contact Fuel Card Services.

Close-up of several fuel pumps at a filling station

Is premium fuel worth it?

It’s a question you may often find yourself asking while you’re filling up your car and staring at the pumps. Is that more expensive premium petrol on the nozzle next to the standard fuel worth the extra cost? And if so, what’s the best premium fuel in the UK?

Read on to understand the differences between the two, and find out whether opting for the more expensive petrol and diesel will help your fleet.

The different types of fuel

Most filling stations will offer two types of petrol for your vehicle – standard unleaded and super unleaded. The ‘unleaded’ description still remains, even though no leaded fuel has been sold in the UK for years.

Confusingly, standard unleaded is sometimes referred to as ‘premium unleaded’, even though it’s the most basic fuel type, with the more expensive options labelled as ‘super unleaded’.

This is what you can expect to see at most filling stations such as those run by supermarkets. But many branded stations, such as those run by BP or Shell, also have their own-formula premium fuel.

For example, at Shell stations, this is called V-Power, while at BP, it’s BP Ultimate. Typically, you can expect premium fuels to cost around ten per cent more than standard, though this can vary.

How does premium fuel differ from standard petrol?

Closeup of petrol nozzle showing 95 octane label

The main difference between standard fuel and souped-up premium petrol is the octane rating. Without getting too technical, this refers to how much the fuel can be compressed before it ignites inside the engine.

Generally speaking, the more you can compress the fuel, the more energy will be released, resulting in better performance.

The octane rating is expressed as a research octane number (RON). Regular fuel sold in the UK has an octane rating of 95, whereas premium fuel typically has an octane rating of 97 or 98.

However, some brands’ premium fuel offers even more octane performance. Shell V-Power, for example, offers 99 RON petrol, which is the highest widely-available fuel in the UK.

What about premium diesel?

For premium diesel, the chemistry is slightly different, but the principle remains the same. As diesel isn’t ignited, it has its own rating system called cetane, with most diesel in the UK having a cetane rating between 45 and 55.

As with petrol, the higher the rating, the faster and more efficiently it will burn in your engine, delivering better performance.

Many fuel stations will only have a single option available, so you may not always have a choice if you’re driving a diesel car. However, some brands do offer their own premium diesel, such as Shell’s V-Power Diesel.

Does premium fuel have performance benefits?

Close up of performance BMW M-badged engine

The main benefit of premium fuels, according to their supporters, is an improvement in performance. Because high-octane fuels release more energy, this means you can make the most efficient use of your engine.

However, this is only likely to have an effect on certain vehicles – those that are already classed as high-performance. Exactly which cars this covers can be vague, but it typically includes hot hatches, sports cars and tuned vehicles with powerful engines.

You can’t turn a run-of-the-mill car into a performance vehicle just by adding premium fuel, though, and it won’t affect the actual amount of horsepower the engine generates.

While premium fuels often promise to improve your fuel economy, the evidence for this is limited on most cars. For example, independent tests by What Car? stated that premium fuel is often an “unnecessary expense” as it offers “no major fuel economy benefit”.

For fleet vehicles, however, even a minor improvement in economy could mean saving for especially high-mileage vehicles, so it could be worth taking this into consideration to see if you can spot a measurable difference.

The other factor to consider is that many brands’ premium offerings will come with a unique blend of additives that promise to improve lubrication and reduce wear and tear on the engine.

Again, this is something that’s only likely to be an issue for performance cars with top-of-the-range engines. As standard fuel still has to meet minimum legal requirements, there’s no chance of damaging your engine by using cheaper petrol or diesel.

Choosing the right fuel for your needs

When it comes to fuelling your fleet, you need to know what’s best for your vehicles. This may be straightforward for company-owned vehicles, but less so if employees are fueling their own cars on a business account.

The best advice is to refer to the vehicle’s handbook. This will usually tell you if the engine would benefit from fuel with a higher octane rating. If it doesn’t, you shouldn’t be allowing drivers to spend extra money on these premium fuels, as any improved fuel economy probably won’t cover the difference.

If the manufacturer recommends premium fuel, however, it’s important you have the right fuel card to ensure drivers can take advantage of this.

For example, fuel cards such as the Shell One, Esso Commercial, or BP Plus provide you with access to all of these brands’ respective filling stations. This means you can fill up with these providers’ premium offerings easily wherever you are.

To find out more about the various fuel cards we have available and which ones would work best for your unique needs, get in touch today. Our expert team will be happy to help.