The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is looking to go fully electric with its fleet of non-operational vehicles, with a plan to see 100% of its car and van fleet to be completely zero-emission by the end of 2027.

Known as the ‘white fleet’, non-operational vehicles are cars and vans under 3.5 tonnes in weight and currently provided to the Mod through a leasing agreement as part of the Phoenix II contract. Any vehicles not provided under the Phoenix II programme are deemed ‘operational’ and as such used in roles where full electrification is deemed “not appropriate”.

According to two separate written parliamentary responses, there are currently between 745-760 fully electric vehicles in the UK Armed Forces’ inventory, approximately 5.86% of the fleet.

The vast majority of these platforms have been manufactured and supplied from overseas, with an earlier written response stating, within only the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) fleet of civilian vehicles, 4.2% were fully electric and 4.6% being plug-in hybrid. There are currently no UK-built electric vehicles in the RAF’s vehicle fleet.

As of 27 June 2023, there are 39 plug-in hybrid vehicles in the UK MoD’s ‘white fleet’ and one battery electric vehicle that were built in the UK.

There are a further 1,414 hybrid vehicles deemed as being Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) in accordance with the Greening Government Commitment to Zero emissions by 2027, according to the UK Government.

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Official figures state that from 1 February 2021 to 1 November 2021, the UK leased 353 internal combustion vehicles, 16 fully electric, and 277 hybrid vehicles. From November 2021 to 31 December 2023, it leased a further 1,193 internal combustion vehicles, 387 fully electric, and 965 hybrid vehicles for its white fleet.

The MoD’s big green machine

The UK MoD is keen to demonstrate its green credentials, with ESG programmes deemed critical even as the country’s military is squeezed by structural changes, financial and budgetary pressures, cuts to personnel numbers, and criticism of the standard of military housing.

The RAF has been a particular advocate of zero-emission and other ESG programmes, pledging to be net-zero by 2040, far ahead of its service counterparts.

Aviation makes up a significant proportion of UK defence emissions, at over 30%. The RAF also plans for its first net-zero airbase by 2025.

Also, at the recent Royal International Air Tattoo, UK Defence Procurement Minister, James Cartlidge, signed the Defence Aviation Net Zero Charter, as part of the MoD’s “contribution to the Government’s Net Zero by 2050 goal”.