Electric vehicles persuade Mediahuis

‘All new company cars must be zero-emissions from 2026.’ That is the goal enshrined in the Coalition Agreement of the Belgian Federal government. Mediahuis, the newspaper publisher which includes De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad newspapers in its stable, is already well on the way to meeting this target. No less than 42% of all vehicles entering the fleet in 2020 were electric, and Mediahuis is planning to step up this progress further in 2021.

The staff at Mediahuis are no longer surprised by one Tesla more or less in the car park. Since the newspaper publisher included this revolutionary vehicle in its fleet list, numerous staff members have been persuaded of the benefits. ‘Electric vehicles are clearly gaining in popularity’, confirms Mobility Officer Sandra Eemans. ‘Of the 196 vehicles we renewed in 2020, 72 were electric. 

They weren’t all Teslas, but included other makes and models too. We’re raising the bar even higher for the 2021 orders, and are hoping to end the year with at least 60% of the vehicle fleet being electric. The list of available vehicles now contains only electric and plug-in hybrid models: no more petrol vehicles.’

Avoidance, sustainability, greener

Sandra Eemans explains that this impressive transformation was preceded by a long period of preparation. The first discussions were held as long ago as 2018 – not coincidentally the year in which Mediahuis began planning the relocation of its operations to Antwerp and the centre of Brussels. 

‘The move had a big impact on staff’, recounts the Mobility Officer. ‘Many people had to think again seriously about how they would make the commute. We took advantage of this opportunity to revamp our mobility offer. We realised that this was the moment to put our ideas about ‘avoidance, sustainability and greener’ into practice.’ 

To help map out the new course, Sandra Eemans brought together colleagues from various departments in a new mobility team, in which HR and Procurement as well as Communications and Facilities Management were all represented. ‘That was important,’ says Sandra, ‘because if we wanted to persuade colleagues, we needed to make sure the whole picture added up. As well as offering attractive electric vehicles, we also had to develop an appealing financial, practical and administrative package. 

The open support we received from management also helped.’ A survey showed that staff were mostly concerned about the size and range of electric vehicles. ‘I’ll no longer be able to go on a car journey’, was one of the most frequently cited arguments for not choosing electric. Armed with the results of the survey, Sandra Eemans and her colleagues put together an updated mobility plan. 

The number of vehicles on the list was limited, and all diesel vehicles were removed; staff could only choose an electric, full hybrid or petrol-powered car. Colleagues who ordered an electric vehicle were offered the option of hiring a car at a discounted rate during holiday periods. Mediahuis provided a standard charging infrastructure at colleagues’ homes and offered the further incentive of dropping the existing contribution payable by the employee.

Trusted partners

To help with the practical development of the car policy and putting into practice for employees, Mediahuis surrounded itself with partners who know their way around the subject, including KBC Autolease. Sandra Eemans: ‘To enable colleagues to make the best choice for them, we felt it was important that they should be able to put their questions directly to the specialists. 

The mini-car showroom set up in our car park was also a revelation for many. For most of them, this was the first time they had actually sat in an electric vehicle.’ KBC Autolease, a long-standing partner of Mediahuis over many years, supported the transformation mainly from behind the scenes, for example by calculating the TCO. 

‘We have found that the lease company is on the same wavelength and largely shares our ideas about electrification’, says Sandra Eemans. ‘All in all, KBC Autolelase now provides more than half of our lease contracts. We also work with KBC Autolease for Olympus, the mobility app which allows colleagues to combine different modes of transport. Trains, bike-sharing and car-sharing (using Cambio) are especially popular.’

Word-of-mouth advertising

Whether Mediahuis will succeed in achieving its and the government’s target (zero-emissions by 2026) is impossible to say with certainty at this juncture. Kris Nelen, account manager at KBC Autolease, has every faith, however: ‘When I see the efforts that Sandra Eemans and her colleagues are provide the best possible information and guidance to staff, I’m convinced that Mediahuis will achieve the target. 

All the more so as the number of electric vehicles on the market continues to increase and prices continue to fall. I also believe that the positive experiences of the first cohort of employees will persuade many others.’

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