Lancaster City Council

Co-Wheels Car Scheme

Briefly describe the initiative/ project/service; please include your aims and objectives

In January 2019, Lancaster City Council declared a Climate Emergency with an aim for carbon neutrality by 2030. With fleet emissions being a large contributing factor to the Council’s overall emissions we delved into other carbon contributions made by staff, and we decided to research alternatives to operating a grey fleet. We considered options available in reducing grey fleet mileage and chose to adopt a Car Club approach utilising existing pool cars.

The key problem we needed to understand was why mileage claims occur and what potential barriers are preventing teams from making use of pool cars. We decided to team up with a car share scheme named Co-Wheels. Co-Wheels is a nationwide scheme that enables people to hire well-priced hybrid and electric cars around their city, and LCC has been working with Co-Wheels to increase its own bank of electric pool cars. We wanted to address the problems of mileage and reticence to use pool cars. We found that personal vehicles were primarily used for ‘convenience’, because of an ‘insufficient number of pool cars’ and/or the ‘inflexibility of the current booking system’ – issues that the new booking system and an increased number of cars could easily address.

Analysis of mileage claim data also confirmed the ideal location and distribution of cars among the teams. With that knowledge, In November 2020 we installed dedicated charge points at the town halls, depots and city centre car parks. The cars can be used by anyone at the council during on-peak times for work purposes. They tend to be used by planning and enforcement officers and those going to meetings between different office locations. We have also made the vehicles available to the public at off-peak times, via the Co-Wheels app. This allows the public access to electric cars during off-peak times on a pay-as-you-go system – using the car club scheme to gain further venue from the assets when not in use. Not only would this contribute to the cost of the scheme but it’d also provide an inexpensive way for residents to access new, greener forms of transport.

What are the key achievements?

Lancaster City Council found a solution to reducing the 105,000 miles driven by staff during a working day. They did this by partnering with Co-Wheels and became the first Local Authority to do so. Since then, they have reduced their Co2 emissions by 60% in Year 1 and plan to reach a reduction of 95% in Year 2. Not only have LCC given their staff an electric alternative to drive during their working day, but they have also taken 154 personal vehicles off the road and replaced it with just 11 vehicles.

How innovative is your initiative?

We developed a business case for increasing our electric car capacity, and introducing easier and more flexible means of booking the EVs. The proposal was to finance the scheme using capital borrowing, which would be paid back by reducing the amount of casual mileage claims from council officers. In 2018/19, 154 City Council employees claimed around 105,000 of business miles, producing an estimated 31 tonnes of CO2. The cost to the Council for the mileage claims came to £47,144 -rising to £50,000 in 2019/20. This scheme has seen the Council invest £114,000 in buying six EVs, with £70,000 spent on improving infrastructure to support the electric fleet network.

After the arrival of the six additional pool cars, we anticipated that emissions will reduce by 50% from business travel in year one (2021/22) instead we surpassed our initial aims with a reduction of 60%. This year we are aiming for a reduction of 95%(2022/23). The scheme is being promoted to wider audiences, with ongoing reports being produced on the number of bookings (both from internal officers and the public), miles driven and estimated CO2 saved. Lancaster City Council is currently being recognised for good practice by the Department for Transport for their alternative solution to grey fleet mileage. The DFT recognise the Council’s contribution to reducing the number of personal vehicles on the road during a working day. This can be viewed here.

What are the key learning points?

Covid-19 has obviously created something of a barrier in getting more people to use the pool cars as increased home-working has meant less demand. We’ve also had to contend with preconceived ideas about access difficulties formed around the older booking systems. We’ve learnt that efforts must be focused on getting buy-in from staff, department managers and heads of service and that engagement in the early stages is really important for uptake. It’s also clear that there’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to these sorts of schemes. Promotion of the scheme needs to be rigorous and on-going and any issues that arise have to be addressed quickly and efficiently at the start to ensure that staff remain engaged, and the reputation of the scheme is maintained.