Seven tips for adding electric vehicles to your fleet on the road to net zero


The masterclass took place on March 29 and is now available to watch on demand


Road transport is the fastest growing contributor to global emissions and, here in the UK in particular, transport has been the highest emitting sector since 2016. The transition to electric vehicles is well underway and accelerating, but still needs to happen faster.

Companies with net zero goals will need to navigate — or even lead — the transition to electric vehicles. While the climate and air quality benefits of electric vehicles are clear, several practical challenges remain, including identifying the right models of electric vehicles; develop the appropriate charging infrastructure; secure investments for initial cost and stay ahead of the curve with innovative and emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions.

With this in mind, edie has partnered with E.ON to host an online masterclass on identifying and solving the challenges of electrifying corporate fleets – and ensuring the opportunities are seized and the benefits maximized.

The 45-minute masterclass is now available to watch on demand, in full, for free. However, for those pressed for time, this article summarizes four of the speakers’ top tips for developing, delivering, and accelerating your organization’s EV adoption plans.

  1. Stay up to date with the latest policy changes and EV adoption data

E.ON Drive Managing Director David Butters, also Director of E.ON Infrastructure Services, kicked off the masterclass with an overview of EV adoption in Europe to date. His presentation highlighted how vehicle adoption is happening exponentially – far faster than many popular forecasts, including Bloomberg’s. Looking to the future, the continent’s electric vehicle fleet could well be 40% larger by 2024 than it was in 2020.

Being aware of these trends — and the key drivers behind them — can really help sustainability, energy, and fleet managers start building the business case for EV adoption. Factors in the form of policy and market action constantly change the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles, which is lower than that of ICE vehicles in most cases, but which professionals will no doubt wish to evaluate in detail.

2. Understand the specific needs of your fleet and how viable it is to meet them using electric vehicles

Following Butters’ presentation, E.ON UK Senior Business Analyst Paul Stares provided an in-depth case study of the company’s approach to electric vehicle adoption. E.ON is a member of The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, which aims to make electric vehicles “the new normal” by 2030. By 2030, it targets all vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, and at least half of its vehicles between 2.5 and 2.7 tons, to be purely electric.

Stares’ guidance for developing the business case begins with understanding your organization’s motivations for adopting EVs. Benefits include improved brand reputation, cost savings and reduced emissions as part of a broader net zero strategy.

Beyond that, he pointed out, performing an accurate cost/benefit analysis will require you to carefully consider the specific context in which your organization operates. For example, what size are your vehicles? Are you able to charge them overnight, on site or at employees’ homes? If you charge quickly during the day, what impact will it have on productivity? What range do you need?

Answering these questions will help you assess which vehicles on the market meet your needs. If there are no suitable vehicles at the moment, discussions may be needed to compromise on vehicles or working hours, or electrify part of the fleet now and wait to make more plans wide.

3. Collect data from your staff to better understand vehicle usage patterns

To answer questions about the use of its vehicles and whether employees could charge them at home, Stares explained, E.ON had to undertake additional data collection. The company assessed the average distance traveled by its 13,000 technicians each day and asked staff whose roles involve driving information on whether they have – or could install – an off-street charger in their homes.

This exercise revealed that E.ON drivers typically drive 60 miles a day, with most overestimating the distances they drive. It also led to the decision to install, where possible, charging stations in employees’ homes. When this was not possible, drivers were asked to recharge on the public network. E.ON installed the home chargers at no cost to staff.

“You need to get the real data from your fleet and take the time to analyze it,” Stares said. “There’s no chance of just ordering vans and handing over keys.”

4. Schedule time for driver training and changes to payment systems

Another key consideration raised by Stares is that vehicle integration may well be slower than expected. Manufacturers are facing delays in delivering their vehicles due to global supply chain disruption and once vehicles arrive you may need to train drivers and implement new payment systems to replace driver reimbursement systems for fuel.

“We also needed to find a method to reimburse drivers for the energy they load into their vans,” Stares continued. “All this is brand new; some companies are starting to provide solutions for this, but, of course, it comes at a cost…. It took a lot of effort to develop this and implement it, so be aware.

On driver training, he added: “Don’t assume your entire workforce will jump into the new electric fleet and get the most out of the vehicle right away.” E.ON’s driver training program covers the main differences between driving an EV and an ICE; maximize vehicle range; operation of domestic and public chargers; energy reimbursement and more.

5. Charge your vehicles with renewable electricity

The most frequently asked questions during the Q&A portion of the masterclass concerned ensuring that the adoption of electric vehicles maximizes emissions savings throughout the life cycle. Questions were asked about working with suppliers to assess the embodied carbon of vehicles; develop plans for responsible battery management at the end of the vehicle’s life in the fleet; and fuel vehicles responsibly.

On this last point, Butters said: “Self-production is the best way to guarantee 100% renewable electricity, but many other options are available, notably through tariffs. Whether you are a professional or an individual, a range of energy suppliers will offer you 100% renewable tariffs… talking to your energy supplier is the first thing you want to do to understand what options are available to you. you. »

Some companies, such as E.ON, offer different rates for SMEs and for large companies. In some cases, for larger businesses, the company can specify exactly where they want to source their electricity from.

6. Look at the wider opportunities electric vehicles offer

Both Butters and Stares agreed that companies looking to maximize the benefits of EV adoption might want to go beyond onboarding new vehicles and installing charging stations; Butters pointed out that electric vehicles can often be “the first step” in an organization’s adoption of a set of energy solutions.

Once an organization has introduced EVs and chargers, it is more likely to invest in battery energy storage and on-site generation – in part to manage changing energy demand patterns than EVs can help, and partly because EVs are usually part of a larger decarbonization plan.

Looking to the future, the adoption of electric vehicles will pave the way for businesses to embrace vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies. As Butters mentioned in the podcast episode that accompanies this masterclass, V2G adoption in commercial environments is in its infancy, but rapid developments are likely over the next two years.

7. Collaborate to campaign for new policy changes

As Butters pointed out, the UK government has introduced a series of changes intended to support the uptake of electric vehicles ahead of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars. These include a range of grant programs, including the Plug-In Car and Van Grant programs and the new tariff relief program for companies installing on-site charging stations.

Yet a series of obstacles remain, including the low availability of vehicles for companies with specific needs (eg construction vehicles, emergency response vehicles); concerns around the reliability of charging networks; and the fact that the VAT for charging in public is 20%, compared to 5% for charging at home.

Businesses can work together to ask for more government support to address these concerns. This has proven effective in the past – the car ban was pushed back to 2030 following campaigning by Shell, Royal Mail and Centrica.

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