Championing the shift to electric smart travel through education, engagement and community support
The transition to smart, independent transportation is a vital component of the UK's plan to meet its climate commitments. Halfords has a key role to play by:
- investing in education and community engagement programmes to help consumers make climate-smart choices;
- evolving our product and services offer to make the switch to electric vehicles easier for consumers; and
- supporting new forms of electric mobility such as E-scooters and E-bikes.
Concerns about electric mobility such as price, range and charging infrastructure are starting to subside but, even so, the transition to electric has only just begun. Everyone in the Electric Vehicle ("EV") value chain has a role to play in helping consumers to make the switch and to supporting them once they have done so.
Chair, ESG Committee
Looking Back at FY20
The electric car market is growing rapidly, with almost 300,000 models on UK roads at the end of April 2020. Registrations of EVs during the first three months of 2020 were up 120% compared with the same period in 2019 while pure-EVs were up 205%.
More than 72,700 electric cars were sold in 2019, beating 2018's total of 59,700. Average market share also rose to 3.2% of total registrations, and in March 2020, 7.3% of new vehicle registrations were EVs.
It is against this backdrop that Halfords is evolving its offer to ensure that we are well positioned to help consumers as they make the switch to electric.
During FY20 we:
- Trained 308 technicians in electric vehicles or E-bike servicing, bringing the total to 759.
- Saw a 45% increase in sales of electric cycling products and a 372% increase in E-bike servicing.
- Saw an 82.5% increase in sales of our E-mobility category which includes electric bikes, scooters and hoverboards.
- Saw a significant expansion of E-bikes in the Cycle-to-Work scheme
Our contribution to the transition to an all-electric vehicle fleet has four components – training and services, colleague engagement, education, and campaigning:
Training and Services
The number of EV and hybrid services in our garages now represents 0.5 per cent of all vehicle services, while E-bike services grew 372% and now account for 5% of all cycle services.
One hundred colleagues gained the IMI's Hybrid Electric Vehicle Level 2 accreditation in FY20 with another 50 achieving Level 3. A further 200 are scheduled to follow the same path in FY21. One hundred and fifty-eight colleagues received E-bike servicing training in FY20, bringing the total to 439.
The total number of colleagues across the business trained to service EVs or E-bikes now stands at 759.
We will accelerate our investment in training and upskilling so that colleagues can give customers the advice and information they need to make informed choices and provide the maintenance and repair services required for the UK's evolving mix of mechanical, petrol, diesel hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
On our journey to develop Halfords' ESG Strategy, we discovered through listening groups and surveys that our colleagues passionately believe in having an active ESG programme. In fact, we found that 87% said having an active CSR or ESG programme was important, 86% believed Halfords should develop products to help everyone embrace electric vehicles, 78% thought Halfords should be advising and guiding consumers on the choices available when going electric and 65% wanted Halfords to lobby the Government to support great infrastructure. In order for Halfords' colleagues to fully engage and invest in the development of the ESG Strategy, we appointed four colleague volunteer representatives to the ESG Committee, as voted for by the wider Halfords Group. Throughout the year, the colleague representatives attended ESG Committee meetings and made a highly important contribution to the strategy's direction of travel.
Whilst sales of EVs are starting to take off, we are still in the early stages of the transition away from petrol and diesel vehicles. Research shows that consumers continue to have concerns about range and charging infrastructure, though there are signs that these barriers are starting to lift as models with real-world ranges of 200–300 miles come on to the market and hundreds of new charging points are installed each week.
Price is also a barrier, with many electric vehicles retailing at a premium to their nearest petrol/diesel equivalents. However, there is growing awareness that a more meaningful consideration is the total cost of ownership i.e. including finance, fuel, tax and incentives, depreciation, maintenance, servicing and repair.
As the UK's largest provider of motoring products and services, Halfords has an important role to play in helping people understand the costs associated with EV ownership - including the savings that can be achieved by using Halfords garages and stores - and in reassuring them about the scale of the maintenance, repair and service infrastructure that is in place to keep their electric vehicles on the road and safe to drive.
E-bikes and E-scooters are relatively new technologies to the market, so during FY20, we adopted the role of consumer champion to support consumers' knowledge and understanding of them. We conducted consumer research which uncovered and highlighted some of the myths around E-bikes. This research formed the basis of a report on E-bikes, on which we ran a publicity campaign to develop people's knowledge of the benefits of E-bikes. Separately, we conducted research into public opinion around E-scooters and the law. Using these results we have been able to highlight public support for E-scooters and lobby the Government for the law to be changed.
We will continue to invest in consumer research to understand how we can best help people to make the switch to electric vehicles – including E-bikes and E-scooters – and then develop education campaigns to provide the necessary information, tools, resources and inspiration. This may involve collaborations with other organisations in the EV value chain.
The future of urban mobility has been on the political agenda for many years, but the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically increased the need to find new forms of clean, safe and affordable transport, especially for commuting.
One of the key debates in recent months has been the role of E-scooters – stand-up scooters powered by an electric motor. E-scooters are legal on roads in many European countries, including Germany, France, Austria and Switzerland, but not in the UK.
THE ElECTRIC TEchnician
Garry Mantle, Centre Manager at Halfords Autocentre, Wellingborough, began training on electric and hybrid cars two years ago and now puts his skills into practice on up to six vehicles a week. He explained that the training is split into three stages and it takes a few days to complete each stage. Any Halfords Autocentre colleague can access training through the hub or by being nominated by their garage manager.
Garry said: "The hybrid and electric training allows my team to work on vehicles they ordinarily would not get the chance to work on. Very few of our competitors have mechanics skilled in this area so we are seeing more and more premium vehicles, such as Teslas, in our Autocentres."
The Department for Transport has announced a consultation on micromobility, including how E-scooters could be legalised as a new form of environmentally friendly transport on the UK's streets. Halfords is contributing to this consultation, together with a parallel inquiry into E-scooter safety launched by the Transport Select Committee.
Trials of E-scooter rental schemes began in selected UK towns and cities in June 2020. These have been brought forward by one year as part of the response to the challenges created by COVID-19.
We will continue to press the case for the legalisation of E-scooters, liaising with Ministers and officials in Westminster, and with MPs and local authorities in the trial areas. In FY20, we contributed to an All-Party Parliamentary Group ("APPG") debate on micromobility and we discussed the matter with Rachel Maclean, MP for Redditch.
We will also work to raise awareness of the eligibility of E-bikes in the Government's Cycle-to-Work scheme among employers and their employees. We expect take-up of the Cycle-to-Work scheme to expand significantly in the wake of COVID-19 and we will seek to build on our position as the UK's leading Cycle-to-Work retailer.