Warwickshire Rural Electric Vehicle Trial (WREV)
Rural Growth Network
Value to Coventry University
£1,000 + in-kind contribution
Greenwatt Sustainable Technologies
Duration of project
01/01/2014 - 31/12/2016
The 'Warwickshire Rural Electric Vehicle' (WREV) trial was designed to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in rural Warwickshire in examining their options for switching to electric vehicles (EVs). Through switching to EV technology it was hoped that these businesses would be able to counter increasing fossil fuel costs, improve their carbon footprint and stimulate business development.
WREV was funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and led by Warwickshire County Council on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP). The project was managed by Greenwatt Sustainable Solutions, a sustainable technology consultancy based in South Warwickshire, with support from Coventry University.
As a partner in the project the Centre for Business in Society (CBiS), on behalf of Coventry University, was responsible for evaluating the performance of the vehicles in the trial. The data on vehicle performance was provided by Quartix, a company specialising in tracking devices, and was analysed by CBiS and sent to project participants in the form of a monthly report. Additionally, CBiS also monitored feedback from the drivers and businesses at different points in the trial. This included a questionnaire at the start of the trial and an in-depth interview towards the end of the project period which evaluated the performance and benefits of using an EV in the business.
The vast majority of demonstrator trials relating to electric vehicles have centred on understanding how these solutions work in urban environments. However, the key objective of the WREV trial was to assess how these technologies could work in rural settings and help SMEs achieve business goals related to lowering transport costs, improving their carbon footprint, and expanding their activities.
The purpose of the evaluation activity was to understand how these vehicles had been utilised by participants in order to establish the potential cost and emissions savings obtained by these businesses adopting an EV.
The project identified that specific types of rural businesses, particularly those with strongly routinised vehicle use patterns were more suited to running an EV as part of their vehicle fleet than organisations that had less predictable travel patterns. Data was provided to each of the users in a form of a monthly report that tracked vehicle usage and cost savings.
Evidence from the project also illustrated how participants used their EV to cultivate an image of sustainability and social responsibility. Such perceptions were used to inform marketing strategies and the positioning of firms.
Although feedback from participants was positive, illustrating how EVs could be successfully utilised by rural SMEs, a series of challenges related to technology, infrastructure, and finances were highlighted. Particularly the absence of charging infrastructure and range limitation posed concerns in rural settings, whilst some participants felt that the cost of acquiring a vehicle was prohibitive without additional support.
Evidence from the trial is presented in a report that can be accessed from Greenwatt. The key findings of this report were presented at a dissemination event that took place on 9th November 2016 at Stoneleigh Park. This event was part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science week and attended by policymakers, academics, analysts, participants, and those with an interest in electric vehicles.
Key recommendations were:
- Increase the level of public charging infrastructure in rural locations
- Consider EV car share schemes as an ownership model
- Improve information availability on EVs and ensure technical support is offered to users
- Ensure that any future trial comes with charge point installation
- Target EVs at rural businesses/motorists with consistent usage patterns