Seven top tips for adding EVs to your fleet on the road to net-zero
Last week, edie hosted a 45-minute masterclass on the electric vehicle (EV) transition, designed to give businesses the information and inspiration needed to accelerate adoption. Here, we round up seven key takeaways.
Road transport is the fastest-growing contributor to global emissions and, here in the UK specifically, transport has been the highest-emitting sector since 2016. The transition to EVs is well underway and is accelerating, but must still happen more rapidly.
Businesses with net-zero targets will need to navigate – or even lead – the transition to EVs. While the climate and air quality benefits of EVs are clear, several practical challenges remain, including identifying the right EV models; developing the appropriate charging infrastructure; securing investment for the upfront cost and staying ahead of the curve with innovative, emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions.
With this in mind, edie partnered with E.ON to host an online masterclass on identifying and addressing the challenges of electrifying business fleets – and ensuring that the opportunities are seized and benefits maximised.
The 45-minute masterclass is now available to watch on-demand, in full, for free. However, for those who are pressed for time, this article rounds up four of the speakers’ top tips for developing, delivering and accelerating your organisation’s plans for EV adoption.
Stay up-to-date with the latest policy changes and EV adoption data
E.ON Drive’s general manager 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 outlined how vehicle adoption is happening exponentially – far more rapidly than many popular forecasts, including Bloomberg’s. Looking to the future, the continent’s EV stock may well be 40% larger by 2024 than it was in 2020.
Being aware of these trends – and the key driving factors behind them – can really help sustainability, energy and fleet managers begin to build the business case for EV adoption. Drivers in the form of policy and market action are constantly changing the total cost of ownership for EVs, which is lower than for ICE vehicles in most cases, but which professionals will doubtless wish to assess in detail.
2. Understand your specific fleet requirements, and how viable it is to meet them using EVs
Following Butters’ presentation was a presentation from E.ON UK’s senior business analyst Paul Stares, who provided an in-depth case study of the business’s own EV adoption approach. E.ON is a member of The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, which aims to make EVs “the new normal” by 2030. By 2030, it is aiming for all vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, and at least half of its vehicles between 2.5 and 2.7 tonnes, to be pure electric.
Stares’ advice for building the business case starts with understanding your organisation’s motivations for EV adoption. Benefits include enhancing brand reputation, delivering cost savings and reducing emissions as part of a wider net-zero strategy.
Beyond this, he emphasised, delivering an accurate cost/benefit analysis will require you to thoroughly consider the specific context your organisation operates in. For example, how big are your vehicles? Are you able to charge them overnight, on-site or at employees’ homes? If you’re rapid charging during the day, how will this impact productivity? What range do you need?
Answering these questions will help you assess which vehicles on the market meet your requirements. If there are not suitable vehicles at the moment, discussions may need to happen about compromising on vehicles or on shift patterns, or electrifying part of the fleet now and waiting before making broader plans.
3. Collect data from your workforce to better understand vehicle use patterns
To answer questions about how its vehicles are used and whether employees could charge them at home, Stares explained, E.ON had to undertake additional data collection. The company assessed the average distance travelled by its 13,000 technicians each day, and asked staff whose roles involve driving for information about whether they have – or could install – an off-street charger at their homes.
This exercise revealed that E.ON’s drivers typically cover 60 miles a day, with most overestimating the distances they drive. It also led to the decision that, where possible, charging points should be installed at employees’ homes. Where not possible, drivers were asked to charge 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 analyse it,” Stares said. “There’s not a chance of simply ordering some vans and handing out some keys.”
4. Build in 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 to delivering their vehicles due to global supply chain disruption and, once vehicles do arrive, you may need to train drivers and put new payment systems in place to replace systems for reimbursing drivers for fuel.
“We also needed to find a method for reimbursing drivers for the energy they load into their vans,” Stares continued. “All of this is brand new; there are some companies starting to provide solutions for this, but, of course, these come at a cost…. It was quite a bit of effort to develop this and implement it, so be aware.”
On driver training, he added: “Don’t assume that your full workforce will jump in to the new electric fleet and get the most from the vehicle right away.” E.ON’s driver training programme covers the main differences between driving EV and ICE; maximising vehicle range; operating home and public chargers; energy reimbursement and more.
5. Charge your vehicles with renewable electricity
The most frequently asked questions during the Q&A part of the masterclass related to ensuring that EV adoption maximises emissions savings across the lifecycle. Questions were raised about engaging with suppliers to assess the embodied carbon of vehicles; developing plans for responsible battery management at the end of the vehicle’s time in the fleet; and powering vehicles responsibly.
To this latter point, Butters said: “Self-generation is the best way to guarantee 100% renewable electricity, but there are many more options available – particularly through tariffs. Whether you’re a business or home customer, a range of energy suppliers will offer 100% renewable tariffs… speaking to your energy supplier is the first thing you want to do to understand what options you have.”
Some firms, like E.ON, offer different tariffs for SMEs and for larger corporates. In some cases, for larger corporates, the business can specify exactly where it wants to source electricity from.
6. Look at the broader opportunities that EVs bring
Both Butters and Stares agreed that businesses looking to maximise the benefits of EV adoption may well wish to go beyond integrating new vehicles and installing charging points; Butters emphasised how EVs can often be “the first step” in an organisation’s adoption of a package of energy solutions.
Once an organisation has introduced EVs and chargers, it is more likely to invest in battery energy storage and onsite generation – partly to manage the changing energy demand patterns that EVs may bring, and partly because EVs are typically part of a broader decarbonisation plan.
Looking to the future, EV adoption will pave the way for businesses to adopt vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies. As Butters mentioned on the podcast episode which accompanies this masterclass, V2G adoption in commercial settings is in its relative infancy, but rapid developments are likely in the next two years.
7. Collaborate to campaign for further policy changes
As Butters pointed out, the UK Government has introduced a range of changes intended to support EV adoption ahead of the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars. These include an array of grant schemes, including the Plug-In Car and Van Grant schemes and the new business rates relief scheme for businesses installing charging points on site.
Yet a range of barriers remain, including poor availability of vehicles for businesses with specific needs (e.g. vehicles for building sites, emergency response vehicles); anxieties around the reliability of charging networks; and the fact that VAT for charging in public is 20%, compared with 5% for charging at home.
Businesses can collaborate to ask for more Government support to allay these concerns. This has proven effective in the past – the car ban was pulled forward to 2030 following campaigning from the likes of Shell, Royal Mail and Centrica.