Fleet business is electric business

EVs are already seen as the winning technology for 21st-century mobility.

The fleet-vehicle business, represented mainly by leasing companies, buys hundreds of thousands of new cars and vans worldwide. That purchasing power is significant—all the more so when you consider that there is already consensus among company directors that fully electric fleets are the way to go.

Annie Pin is chief commercial officer at ALD Automotive, a global leasing and fleet-management company operating in 43 countries. She began leading ALD Automotive´s electric-fleet programme in 2018, but in the years since then has seen all the focus move to zero-emissions vehicles. “EVs are our business, now. We have seen rapid uptake in terms of number of cars, and that is applying increasing pressure,” she says.

Manufacturers are struggling to maintain EV supply in the face of the commodities squeeze resulting from conflict in Ukraine, and the long-standing shortage of silicon chips that has forced many brands to revise production forecasts and delay deliveries. Even more pressing is the availability of infrastructure, and the power supply required to support ever-increasing demand for roadside charging.

“50% of people do not have a private location where they can charge either at their place of work or home,” Pin says. Patrik Havranek, who leads fleet management at ISS, a global facility services company, makes a similar observation. ISS expects to have a net-zero fleet by 2030 comprised almost entirely of electric vehicles, but for ISS to be running 90-95% of its fleet on electricity, its employees will need to be able to charge up at home.

“Many of our people live outside the city centre and they drive their van home at the end of the working day, but most do not have access to public or private charging,” Havranek says.

This preoccupation with charging is closely linked with the limited range that most EVs currently offer, an issue that is even more problematic when it comes to light commercial vehicles such as panel vans. “I am not a fan of big batteries, because they reduce the available payload by around 200 kg,” Havranek says. But a smaller battery means a shorter range, and with that a greater need for charging points.

To address some of these challenges and help customers to navigate their way through the transition to electric vehicles, ALD Automotive has developed a number of digital tools and consultancy services. “What we sell now is not just a fleet of vehicles. It is a mobility solution that takes account of the needs of each driver in a fleet. What if there is someone who cannot charge at home? How do we reimburse the cost of charging a company vehicle at home? We work out how to deal with that,” Pin says.

ALD Automotive´s tools calculate the mix of powertrain technology that a company will need to cut its CO2 emissions by a given date. For clients concerned about scale of investment, there is a platform that works out the cost of emissions reduction per tonne of CO2. “That works for a single car, or for 20-30,000 cars,” Pin says.

The platform also factors in approaches like car sharing, and even use of e-bikes instead of cars in some instances. Even so, the cost of running EVs is already lower than with internal combustion, mainly because of savings on maintenance.

Though there are clearly ways around many of the fears that fleet managers and drivers express when considering the move to electric vehicles, there is also acceptance that other propulsion technologies will be necessary for certain types of vehicles. “I am sure that internal combustion will be around for longer than some people think,” Havranek says.

But he also cites the promise of hydrogen. This fuel is touted to be the preferred solution for heavy-goods transport, and a pilot project in Switzerland featuring 50 trucks has helped to expand hydrogen refueling infrastructure in the country. In 2020, there were only two places to fill the gas tanks. Now there are 10.

Annie Pin and Patrik Havranek will be speaking at the Main Stage Plenary Session:
Electrifying entire company fleets – is it possible?
Tuesday June 14th at 12.05 pm

Book your ticket to EVS35

By: Guy Kiddey, Footprint