Electrifying your business fleet can be a big step, representing a change management challenge. Here we outline some of the key considerations to help ease the transition.
With climate change action high on government agendas, countries worldwide have committed to net zero carbon output and are looking to legislate to meet their targets.
Accounting for 10 per cent of global emissions, it is easy to understand why road transport has become a key focus for attention. Indeed, according to the United Nations, emissions from this sector “are rising faster than those of any other”.
The direction of travel is a positive one. The electrification of transport is fast gathering pace as vehicle manufacturers advance battery technologies and bring greater choice to the market. An increasing onus is also falling on the wider world of business to establish green fleet strategies.
The business benefits of e-mobility are clear – electric fleet vehicles (EVs) can mean lower running, operational and maintenance costs.
A best practice approach to EV deployment is called for, however, for these benefits to be realised.
Switching to an electric fleet should be viewed as a change management project, requiring careful planning to ensure that business disruption is minimised and that cost-savings are maximised.
The fleet review
A fleet review should be considered an important first step on this journey, helping determine if employees’ average mileage and the typical trips taken in traditional ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles could be undertaken in EV equivalents. Having the appropriate business intelligence available to support and simplify this feasibility assessment, such as telematics reports, is paramount.
Consideration should also be given to charging infrastructure and availability at this early stage, including the scale of local public provision, the potential for charging stations to be installed at drivers’ homes, whether chargers are needed at business premises, how many and the extent to which they can be accommodated.
Choice lists revisited
Constructing fleet choice lists based upon lease rental costs can falsely represent the position of EVs in car grades.
Although the price gap between electric vehicles and their ICE-powered counterparts is narrowing as technology advances, in most cases EVs remain more expensive to lease or purchase upfront.
They do, however, benefit from lower running costs, with a lower cost per mile thanks to the electric powertrain, and lower maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts.
This means that TCO (total cost of ownership) can invariably be lower, when all such costs, including LEZ charges, are considered.
Consequently, drawing up choice lists based on vehicle TCO can ensure electric models are categorised more accurately, and are made more accessible to a wider number of employees.
Beyond the charging considerations undertaken during the fleet review, a more in-depth charging strategy should also be introduced to minimise energy costs and business disruption, while optimising day-to-day EV fleet performance, operation and productivity.
This should include measures that encourage cost-effective charging practices, such as steps to ensure charging takes place when energy tariffs are most favourable.
Access to relevant fleet data can, once again, can play a vital role here. It may not be necessary to keep vehicles fully charged, for example, and information on vehicle routes, usage, charge point availability and customer demands will help determine the optimal charge levels and required charging intervals.
Having information to hand that allows the kWh per km efficiency of fleet vehicles to be compared will help highlight inefficiencies, guide driver training initiatives and maximise range.
Software solutions that provide management with access to real time battery levels, remaining driving ranges and charging statuses can also prove helpful.
Fleet policies under the microscope
A switch to EVs is unlikely to call for complete fleet policy rewrites. The differences, however, need to be acknowledged and revisions to documentation made where required.
Particular attention should be given to fuel and electricity reimbursement. The introduction of new processes should be evaluated here, either on a per-mile or per-kWh basis, with smart, automated systems offering the potential to ease the complexity and administrative burden of dealing with multiple fuel types.
Elsewhere, other considerations may include alterations to the use of electric pool vehicles – which may not be suitable for long business journeys – along with charging practices and procedures, including rules for company charge point usage.
Employees should be made aware of all such policy changes.
In some cases, drivers may be fearful or resistant to change, with the transition to an EV signifying a step into the unknown.
They should consequently be informed of the changes you are making at every stage of the process. By regularly communicating with them, explaining your plans and outlining the benefits of driving an EV, a smoother transition can be achieved.
For leased fleets, making the EV switch at renewal can make it easier to undertake deployment and to support and educate small groups of drivers at a time. Processes for reimbursing drivers’ charging expenses, along with charging and recharging protocols at office locations, should be clearly communicated.
A thorough driver training programme, including ‘take-away’ educational materials, should also be arranged to ready drivers with the skills they need to drive and operate their new vehicles as safely and efficiently as possible.
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