In the media

Getting fleet electrification right

Amy Marshall

By Amy Marshall, Chris Dale

Fleet News

27 March 2023

This article was first published in Fleet News

As the UK Government’s 2030 deadline for ending the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles looms, fleet owners and operators are focussing on efficient fleet electrification.

With fleets comprising 60% of new car sales every year and plans to electrify 700,000 fleet vehicles in the UK by 2030, these decisions have a significant impact on realising net-zero targets.

It's important to recognise these figures comprise a broad range of fleet categories, each with unique needs. From employee lease vehicles to vehicles used to carry out field operations, and emergency services.

Each fleet is different

Electrification plans must meet each fleet owner’s specifications, not just vehicle types and charging mechanisms, but wider organisational needs – both present and forecast.

Fleet owners have a rapidly growing range of options to choose from across vehicle types, battery capacity, charger options, and charging solutions. However, this introduces a more complex procurement picture.

Major commercial OEMs now sell electric vans of varying capacities.

Solutions exist to dual-meter residential properties’ electricity provision, meaning employers can directly cover costs for those charging electric vehicles (EVs) at home.

Regulatory deadlines mean fleet owners may be tempted to move fast, enticed by appealing deals or the desire to beat long EV lead times.

The risk is that organisations end up with vehicles or infrastructure that may not meet their changing operational needs or pay for an unnecessarily over-specified system.

Less haste more speed

To ensure the transition to EVs is successful long term, organisations’ operational needs must be embedded in all procurement choices.

The speed of change, the hard government deadline, and the different operating requirements of EV fleets mean that companies shouldn’t rely upon their transport department to make isolated decisions.

Whole business considerations

There is a clear case for involving the wider organisation in transition planning from the beginning, to consider what an organisation needs now, and how its operations may change over the course of the transition and beyond.

This ensures the transition is flexible and adjustable, and organisations can respond to changes in the business and technology.

Effective transition plans need detailed top-down and bottom-up analysis incorporating key decision makers in operations, finance, sustainability, and IT domains.

This process must include a careful analysis of how current fleets are used and how their daily use cases, storage and charging may change with the transition to EVs.

In addition, plans should examine what behavioural changes will be required and how to make the shift attractive to end users.

The plan should be accompanied by a strategy to manage any business continuity risks and plans to implement any changes to the operating environment. To give some examples:

Commercial fleets and third-party logistics companies must assess how they deal with dispersed depot locations, how to charge multiple vehicles concurrently and quickly, and the tools needed to manage complex planning and scheduling. They will need to consider the implications of return to home charging, as well as return to depot, and public charging. They will also need a careful focus on how their business might change over the next 5-10 years and the effect on current purchasing decisions.

For emergency services, a critical factor is maintaining operational effectiveness through vehicle availability; ensuring that vehicles are charged and can respond to calls. Charging infrastructure availability and stability is a vital consideration in any procurement and transition plan.

Government departmental fleet operators face time pressure as ministers have committed to 100% zero emissions by 2027 from ~40,000 vehicles in central government fleets. Yet the same detailed planning work around vehicle usage, charging and reimbursement applies.

The long and winding road

Good progress is now being made. Technology is maturing, increasingly reliable, and cost-effective, public acceptance is growing and government policy is clear. What is needed is to accelerate and broaden that work.

Fleets make up a large proportion of total vehicles on the road and miles travelled.

We must collectively do all we can to make change happen rapidly and sustainably.

That includes seizing the real opportunity to think differently about transportation, how many vehicles are needed and how they are used.

Addressing these questions means fleet owners can contribute to saving the planet and significantly reduce their capital outlay.

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