• June 15, 2021

  • Sue Wharmby

  • Electric and Hybrid News


Universities Lead the Charge in Sustainable Fleets

A recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request* made by car dealership group, Group1 Automotive to universities, asking questions about the make up of their fleets revealed some interesting findings. Most universities were clear about their ambition to develop a more sustainable fleet, with some specifying a date by which they were aiming to be 100 per cent electric. In total, 99 of 132 universities responded to the FOI request. 

London Business School and Birkbeck College were the only two already boasting a fully electric fleet. That said – unsurprising, considering their central London locations – they only had two and one cars (respectively) in total. So perhaps not that great a challenge.

Other universities with much larger fleets tended to show a wider range of vehicle engines. It’s harder to update an historic fleet to make it sustainable than to create a new one from scratch. Plus, larger fleets probably count minibuses and estate maintenance vans amongst their numbers – vehicles that weren’t in the first wave of electric models and, in many cases, have only relatively recently come to market.

Cambridge bagged third place in the FOI electric charts. Good work considering it operates a much larger fleet (54 vehicles in total) than its first and second place contenders. An impressive 69 per cent of Cambridge University’s vehicles are electric. 

Warwick University reported the largest fleet, with 130 vehicles on the books. Just over half are electric and the university apparently reports a clear ambition to keep moving towards a more sustainable fleet. 

Inevitably, some universities face greater challenges in transitioning their fleets. So, for example, agricultural colleges with on site farms require vehicles with different capabilities (including off road) to those of a city-based campus university. 

Encouragingly, there was clear evidence across the board of the determination to keep moving towards sustainable transport policies. Great news for a sector already ahead of the game in terms of making the transition away from diesel and petrol vehicles.


Wessex Fleet is helping universities and colleges to make the leap to electric without any risk, offering short term electric rentals from just £14.99 a day. That means organisations can test and trial electric vehicles (cars, vans and minibuses) to assess what works best within their fleet without making a financial commitment. Find out more below.

Charging Towards Clean Air Campuses

It’s long been proven that internal combustion engines (ICEs) – those powered by diesel or petrol – are a major source of pollution and it seems that universities are taking seriously their responsibilities to reduce emissions on their campuses. The introduction of electric vehicles means cleaner air on site and less noise too. 

Some universities, like Bath, Nottingham and Warwick, offer free electric vehicle charging on their campuses, with facilities shared by fleet vehicle users, students and staff. Others, like Dundee, require an annual membership payment from users and operate separate charge points for their own fleet vehicles. Some have also adopted other approaches. Oxford University, for example, has used measures to try to limit the number of student cars in the city, and others encourage alternative means of transport like park and ride schemes. 

Forces at Work

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that universities are leading the field in terms of their commitment to developing more sustainable fleets. Innovation abounds in universities. They have an active, motivated and environmentally aware student population and they have long been identified as early innovators. But that said, diesel cars still dominate the fleet lists of the UK’s top educational establishments. So, although the shift has started and uptake of electric vehicles (we’re talking cars, vans and minibuses here) is increasing, there’s still a long way to go. 

With a cut off date of 2030 for the sale of new ICE vehicles, universities are wise to start transitioning to electric fleets now, while there’s time to test and trial what works best in their fleets. Figuring out what brings the greatest benefit for their university’s unique set of circumstances is time well spent in the long run. 

Challenges of Transitioning the Fleet

It’s sometimes challenging to judge the right time to transition from a diesel or petrol vehicle to a more sustainable choice, especially when technology is moving fast, new models are beginning to flood the market, and battery capability is increasing year-on-year. After all, a vehicle is a significant commitment, and budgets in the education sector are tight. Universities are wise to start making the leap now, ahead of the 2030 cut off date. Making a gradual transition buys the time to test and trial different models, assessing their suitability and establishing the right balance of vehicles. The aim is to build a fleet that is both practical and fully sustainable, supported by a charging infrastructure able to meet demand.

Opportunities to Test and Trial

Wessex Fleet is unusual amongst fleet management companies in offering the opportunity to rent an electric vehicle - be it a car, van or minibus - on a short-term trial rental basis. If it doesn’t make the grade in the fleet, it can be swapped for another model. It if fits the bill, there’s the option to bring it on board through a competitive lease plan (or an extension of the rental agreement).

Electric vehicles can be rented for periods as short as 30 days and prices start at just £14.99 per day. Rentals are supported by a full fleet management package (just as a lease is), including breakdown and accident assistance. Vehicles can often be delivered in just a few hours.

To find out more, click here, or call 01722 322 888 and speak to our team of fleet rental experts.  


*FOI request was submitted and results were analysed (March-May 2021) by car dealership group, Group1 Automotive. In total 132 were asked for information, with 99 responding and 33 refusing to provide an answer or not responding in time.