Openreach Starts Electric Van Trial

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BT has announced that engineers at its Openreach division have begun trialling energy efficient electric vans, as part of BT’s commitment to reduce its global carbon intensity by 80% by 2020.

Openreach has begun testing four electric vans in Milton Keynes and East London, and, if successful, plans to roll them out more widely across its fleet of 23,400 vehicles.

BT’s fleet management division has worked with green vehicle manufacturers to convert four zero emission vehicles that will be tested for a number of things, including suitability for engineers’ work patterns, battery life and energy usage. In addition to being trialled in Milton Keynes, one of the first cities and towns across the UK piloting charging points for electric vehicles, the vans will also be tested at Openreach’s Stratford telephone exchange and nearby Olympic Park as part of Openreach’s role as the official telecommunications infrastructure partner and a sustainability partner for the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

The vans have a restricted top speed of 70 miles per hour and can cover up to 100 miles between battery charges, considerably more than the average 60 to 65 miles per day covered by an Openreach van, on a normal day. The vans offer the same payload capabilities as an equivalent diesel vehicle, but with none of the environmentally harmful tailpipe emissions.

Ian Hill, Chief Sustainability Officer at Openreach, said: “If successful, electric vans provide a great opportunity for Openreach to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of its vehicle fleet. Not only are they environmentally friendly, but the vans could deliver longer term cost benefits and their quietness make them perfect for working in residential areas.”

“Last year BT reduced the amount of CO2 emitted as a result of travel and transport by more than 20 per cent, by reducing the number of journeys made and increasing fuel efficiency. We hope that electric vans can add to our carbon reduction commitment.”

Openreach also believes that electric vans could reduce vehicle fleet maintenance costs, as electric motors only contain a few components, rather than thousands found in a combustion engine – which means the likelihood of them breaking down is far less.

The electric van trial is just one of a number of ways BT plans to reduce its carbon intensity by 80% by 2020, from 1997 levels. For example, in California an array of solar panels is powering BT offices and data centres, whilst in the UK planning permission for the first of BT’s wind farms has been granted, part of the company’s plans for the UK’s biggest corporate wind power project outside the energy sector.

Openreach has also launched a number of other initiatives to cut energy usage and carbon levels in its vehicle fleet, including issuing tyre pressure gauges, speed limiting technology, telematics, route planning and the use of lighter and better designed racking and equipment. Upgrades to the Openreach telephone and broadband network, as well customer service improvement programmes have also led to energy reductions.

For every 150 engineering visits that Openreach avoids through network improvements and fewer failed visits, it estimates that it avoids one tonne of CO2. In 2008/09 the company avoided more than 2,000 tonnes as a result of these initiatives and between 2007 and 2009, BT reduced the distance travelled by its commercial fleets by 9.5%, and its fuel consumption by 10.8%.