When it comes to company cars and mobility in the workplace, the past year has been a special one in many regards. Employees are increasingly working from home rather than in their office, while at the same time, we're seeing a dynamic transformation in drive technology. In 2021, for example, not only were more electric vehicles registered than ever before, but they also outnumbered diesel vehicles for the first time. A conversation on the impact of these developments with hkp// group experts Jonas Friedrich and David Voggeser.

Mr Friedrich, Mr Voggeser, how do electromobility and increasing rates of working from home affect company car regulations?

Jonas Friedrich: We can allow the figures to speak for themselves. A recent survey conducted as part of the hkp/// group Top Management Surveys showed that a record number of 71% of companies are currently revising their company car policy, and that they see the promotion of electric or hybrid company cars as a central motivating factor behind this. Only one in ten companies named changed employee mobility needs in the course of increased levels of working from home as the reason behind this revision.

David Voggeser: We believe that the main trend among companies is the highly dynamic increase in the spread of electric vehicles. From the employee's point of view, the ever-growing range of electric vehicles is highly appealing, as are their tax benefits. The increasing demand, in turn, allows companies to develop and build on the range accordingly. But of course, sustainability is also a driving factor behind this - both by employees wanting more sustainable mobility, and especially by companies for whom the issue of sustainability is becoming more of a strategic focus.

Are you surprised that changing mobility requirements during a time of increased rates of working from home play a subordinate role? How can that be best explained?

David Voggeser: Yes and no. One explanation could be that well before the coronavirus pandemic, company car schemes had already developed toward extended mobility concepts in which mobility alternatives usually complemented company cars. Thus many companies had already created flexible mobility offerings before the pandemic.

Jonas Friedrich: This picture is also reflected in other figures from the survey cited above. According to the survey, around 90% of companies continue to offer company cars. Slightly less than half offer public transport passes as an alternative, and around 60% offer company bicycles. At least one in four companies grants a freely-available mobility budget.

How exactly does a company go about promoting electric company cars?

Jonas Friedrich: Specific tools are increasingly being embedded  in company car guidelines to promote the use of electric and/or low-emission vehicles. In addition to an increased range of electric and hybrid vehicles, this also includes targeted regulations with regard to CO2 emission caps. For example, we are increasingly spotting bonus-malus systems that create incentives for selecting company cars with low CO2 emissions.

How are these regulations set up exactly?

Jonas Friedrich: There is a wide range of options. As a rule, however, companies grant leasing rates that reward lower CO2 emissions. If employees opt for an electric vehicle, the maximum possible monthly leasing rate is granted.

What are some further options for promoting electric vehicles?

David Voggeser: Some further, fairly common examples of support measures include the option of free charging at the workplace or financial support for purchasing and installing wallboxes at the place of residence. The latter needs to be seen in an overall context, however. A frequent challenge here is the question of whether installation can be done at all, for example if local electricity grids don't permit the installation of further or only less powerful wallboxes. Ownership is also a recurring theme.

In these cases, promoting these aspects could quickly become counterproductive as it can annoy people... Which different or fundamentally new issues arise from using electric and hybrid vehicles as company cars?

David Voggeser: The majority of the questions relate to the safeguarding of the charging process as well as the simulation of costs. Making the best use of government funding is also a factor in many projects.

What are some specific issues here?

Jonas Friedrich: It’s often all about ensuring that hybrid vehicles are primarily operated electronically, or deciding which driver profile is suitable for sustainable use as an electric vehicle in the first place.
David Voggeser: There are also central questions about ensuring the functionality of electric and hybrid vehicles as companies cars:. How is it guaranteed that employees are able to drive to work in the morning with a charged company car and then drive home again  after work? Or simply the question of how employees charge at all?

How are companies tackling this topic?

Jonas Friedrich: We have developed effective approaches with our clients to solve these challenges in a technically, procedurally and tax-sensitive manner. In addition to driver profile analyses or verification measures for the charging infrastructure, these also include simulation tools for the flexible design of corresponding instruments or cost forecasts.

So there are questions to be answered that go far beyond the choice of an electric or hybrid vehicle. What should companies pay particular attention to in order to use company cars sustainably?

David Voggeser: In our various current projects on this topic, it has been shown time and again that it makes sense to clarify in general, even before discussing details, which goals are to be achieved with a revision of the company car policy or with a development of a mobility concept. This approach avoids dead ends and saves resources.

Mr Friedrich, Mr Voggeser, thank you for the interview!

Author David Voggeser

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