• Dan Eyre

Diode Spotlight: Spencer, MD, Metro Rod HLP

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Metrorod is a national commercial drainage service, specialising in all things drain care and repair. From clearing blockages, CCTV drain surveys to innovative pipe laying techniques, they pretty much cover it all. They pride themselves on providing an excellent service with their highly trained and qualified engineers. Firmly putting customer service at their heart, they ensure every project is expertly project managed and the customer has the piece of mind that they’re being looked after.

We had a chat with Metro Rod HLP Managing Director, Spencer Horsfield, while he was en route to a job (disclaimer: he was using hands-free). He came across like a really passionate business owner, keen to switch his entire fleet to electric. He talked me through his experiences with EV so far - the good and the bad - and his aspirations for further adoption.

Here’s a round-up of what we talked about...

Tell me about your fleet - how many vehicles do you have?

We have 27 vehicles in our fleet - a mixture of cars, small and large vans. Our remit is rural Lincolnshire and Peterborough and each vehicle does around 100-200 miles per day.

Great - so how many of these are electric?

As it stands, we have 2 EVs - a BMW i3 and a we’ve just leased a new Nissan Leaf for one of our sales guys. I have heard good things about the Leaf, but I can’t comment on it myself. The BMW, however, is absolutely fantastic to drive and surprisingly quick off the mark!

How did you find the electrification process?

Purchasing both cars was really straightforward - no different to before. We went through our usual brokers and secured a good deal on the lease. Winner.

Charging, well, this wasn’t quite as straightforward, if I am honest. Let’s start with the BMW i3. This was our first EV, so we had absolutely no prior experience. We were offered no advice or guidance on charging and had to arrange for the installation of home and work charge points ourselves.

In fact, when the car arrived, it just had a 3-pin-plug charger in the boot, so we just assumed that this would be ok to use at home. Not the case, as we later found out that this should be used in emergencies only, due to it taking 15 hours to charge from 0 to 80%. The cables got super hot actually., I trained as an electrician a long time ago, and although regulations have changed since, I would never recommend this as a long term solution.

This was the same for the Leaf, but we learnt from our previous experience.

The big thing missing from this process was a wrap-around service to ensure we knew what infrastructure we needed, such as types of chargers and management software. An EV is not the same as a regular diesel car - you can’t just fill it up in a few minutes at the garage when you need to. We needed someone to help us choose a fit-for-purpose charge point, that was the best value, and then let us know if it was something our home and site could accommodate.

Why did you decide to go electric?

I strongly believe that it is the responsibility of everyone to do their bit to move away from carbon-based fuels. The nature of our business means we consume so much diesel, so for us, doing our bit means shifting our fleet to electric as soon as possible - something we fully intend to do. We’re also a business and need to closely manage our costs - EVs are a practical solution to bringing our operational costs down.

So this leads me on to how your business is benefiting from the i3 and Leaf?

As with most businesses that switch to EV, we’re hoping to dramatically reduce our diesel bill and see an estimated 70% reduction in the cost to maintain and service each vehicle we bring into our fleet. I believe an EV has around 30 moving parts compared to diesel engines with around 3000, so that’s got to count for something on service day!

Do you charge at home, work or on the go? Tell me about your experience

90% of our charging is done at home or work. We’ve had a very limited experience using public charge points.

I am not going to lie, the little experience we have had with public chargers hasn’t been great at all. I won’t say which brand, but on more than one occasion, when we’ve wanted to top up while en route, we have had issues with the card readers and have been unable to charge.

Ok, it seems that you’ve experienced some challenges - any others you’d like to mention?

Yes, it would be great if there were more public chargers and if they were reliable. Like I said before, 90% of our charging happens at home or work. Having more public chargers would give skeptical team members more peace of mind, especially as we introduce more EVs to our fleet.

So you’re planning on introducing anymore EVs to your fleet? Tell me more.

Absolutely. Any car will go electric when its current lease ends - same for small vans. Anything that comes into our business now will be electric - we’ve made that decision.

We are, however, waiting for more affordable larger vans to come to the market, that will do a decent range. At the moment it’s not practical for us to bring larger vans into our fleet, but when the time is right, we will make the switch.

Are you planning on upgrading any of your infrastructure?

Yes, we have multiple sites across Lincolnshire and Peterborough, so we plan on adding extra chargers to the rest of our sites. I have no idea what we need, if I am honest, so I am looking forward to handing that challenge over to you guys!

Happy to help! Final question: What’s the biggest misconception about driving an EV?

When you think about it, they’re no different to diesel vehicles in practice. You’d always want to run on a comfort of, say, ¼ tank at least. EV drivers just need to get into the habit of topping up more. So when you stop for 30 minutes, you need to look for charging points. And to be honest, unless you’re doing long trips on a regular basis, you’ll be able to do most charging at home or work.

Range anxiety. Admittedly we thought this might be an issue beforehand, but I can honestly say that we have never once been in a situation where we’ve been anxious about running out of charge.

I guess EVs aren’t for everyone yet. Our rule of thumb is: As soon as vehicles hit the 200+ mile mark and are affordable, we’re happy to bring them onboard.

That’s great - thanks for your time, Spencer!


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