GAP Group’s green plans
9 June 2021
There's a challenge surrounding any new technological shift. Some end users will embrace it eagerly straight away while others will wait, perhaps because of price consideration or wariness, and we’ve seen this with everything from flat screen TVs to electric vehicles.
So hirers investing in equipment for the green revolution face the initial prospect of both enthusiasm and apathy from their customer base and, potentially, a subsequent dilution of revenue opportunities for core diesel equipment. Utilisation will initially be weaker for electric plant, thus an even higher hire rate is needed if a satisfactory return on investment is to be achieved.
It calls for careful management and a good understanding of your customers.
“While the future of machinery is certainly electric, hydrogen and battery driven, perhaps the future isn’t exactly right now,” said Mark Anderson, GAP’s Managing Director North, when I met him at the Glasgow-based hirer’s headquarters. “For example, if every diesel machine were replaced with a battery version, the infrastructure isn’t yet of a scale to charge them all – we also need to consider the use of HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) and GTL (Gas To Liquid) fuels in diesel machines as an alternative.”
“Manufacturers are still developing the technology. At the moment, batteries suit some machine types better than others. On a telehandler, a heavy rear-mounted battery can act as a counterweight for stability. Whereas, on an LCV tipper, for instance, the weight would detract from its overall carrying capacity.”
Mark also raised some interesting questions about residual values: “What is the life span of a battery? What would it cost to replace it and would that affect the potential resale value? Generation 1 product often has ‘bugs’ which affect the value.”
This is another reason why maximising utilisation is so important with the new technologies.
One of GAP’s initial approaches is to offer customers a package of green, eco-friendly equipment for a certain period on a paid trial basis. This could comprise, say, an electric mini excavator, telehandler, dumper and a cut-off saw. Contractors who have already embraced this approach from GAP include BAM Nuttall, Balfour Beatty, BEAR Scotland, Colas and Kier to name but a few.
“This allows customers to try the equipment extensively in real-life conditions to see how it suits them, while keeping good overall utilisation,” said Mark. “Going green shouldn’t just be a box-ticking exercise – it’s about choosing the right product for the right application.”
Other environmentally friendly options have also been introduced on various fleet items, such as solar panels on welfare vans in GAP’s Vehicle Hire division. GAP also recently hired out its first fully electric light vans through its Vehicle Hire division on a long-term contract. The Nissan EV 200s have a range of up to 180 miles and lend themselves to short local journeys and for transportation around large work sites.
Some years ago, GAP introduced its Green Action Plan promoting measures to help the company and its customers reduce their carbon footprint, from eliminating waste and encouraging recycling, to establishing an environmentally responsible supply chain.
On top of this, the hire company has in fact created an Environmental & Innovative Products brochure, showcasing the eco-friendly equipment available for hire (which can be viewed and downloaded here.)
“Hire companies have a crucial role to play in enabling the take-up of new technologies,” said Mark. “Hire is the ultimate green industry: it allows equipment to be used by many people throughout its maximum working life, epitomising the concept of a circular economy.
“It is clear there is a vast environmental evolution taking place. If you don’t become part of it soon, it is likely you will struggle several years from now.”