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Wholesale/retail sectorNews digestFleet profileRemarketingManufacturer RecruitmentnewsCar reviewsContinuesuse its 145-vehicle Volkswagen van fleet, so plan-ning is vital to ensure they spend as much of the day as possible working at customers' premises.The firm uses telematics to track vehicles and assign jobs to the driver who is closest, minimising the mileage covered. Furthermore, the company tries to keep drivers in an area around their homes to minimise commuting time and distance. Finally, it has introduced delivery and collection programmes to service its plumbers in the field and avoid them making several journeys back to base during the working day. Parts are delivered as required, often by motorcycle courier, and rubbish is collected by a single van visiting several sites.The efficiencies have been enough to offset rises in fuel costs. Drivers are clocking up an estimated fuel bill of £100 a week, equivalent to £14,000 a week for the whole fleet.However, the efficiencies have unlocked an extra hour of working time per day, which at a plumber's rate of £80 an hour is a potential £56,000 in billable hours that would otherwise be lost in traffic.Managing director Charlie Mullins, said: "We are open to any ideas that will offer improvements and savings. We used to hear comments that drivers went from one side of London to another and then back again, but with the cost of fuel, we just can't afford that and we had to focus on a different approach."An electric vehicle service is proving that emis-sion-free vehicles can be used in challenging business environments over high mileages.Transport firm Gutsi has created a nine-seater luxury electric vehicle for commuters that has been used in London since 2009.It has covered more than 30,000 emission-free miles in tough traffic conditions as part of a service designed to offer a better alternative to traditional commuting. The coach, based on an electric platform produced by Smith Electric Vehicles, includes wi-fi, air condi-tioning and television. Among companies that have used its services is John Lewis in Oxford Street, which offered it as a customer shuttle bus.But in the main, fleet operators in the whole-sale/retail sector remain to be convinced that electric vehicles are for them.Kate Richardson, car fleet manager for John Lewis, said: "We have looked at electric vehicles, but currently they are not suitable for our car fleet requirements."Charlie Mullins, of Pimlico Plumbers, agreed, saying: "Nothing we can take on board gives us the speed or range we need."However, in some commercial environments, electric vehicles are playing a key role as a significant part of the fleet operation.In December 2009, Sainsbury's announced it was purchasing an additional 50 electric vans from Smith Electric Vehicles, for its online grocery delivery service, adding to its existing electric fleet of 20. Neil Sachdev, Sainsbury's commercial director, said at the time: "The electricity used to power them generates around 50% less CO2 than diesel vans."'No electric vehicle gives us the speed or range we need'Charlie Mullins, Pimico PlumbersElectric vehicles prove durability for challenging mileages

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