Fleets make the move

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Words: Mark Gilbert
18 May 2020

At the recent “Electric Vehicles and Beyond, Conference” held on what is becoming an electrically driven Waiheke Island, Drive Electric Inc. used the opportunity to launch its latest whitepaper titled “Making the Move to EVs”. This talks about fleet optimisation at some leading NZ companies. You can view this on the Drive Electric website.

A few years ago, a number of major companies committed to converting 30 per cent of their fleet to EVs by 2021. A local company, Retyna, has recently audited the status of this commitment and concluded that some have achieved this transition already, and others are well on the way. Meanwhile the Government fleet is not expected to reach such numbers until well after 2025!

These companies have recognised the shift that needs to take place if NZ is to meet its international obligations on greenhouse gas emissions, and decided with their staff to start the journey of transforming their fleets. It’s not a wholesale change as such but a clearly planned and implemented approach. It’s about gaining knowledge, experience and evidence. Regardless of ideologies, public companies have to follow a process to implement such a change.

The white paper is not a zealot view of what might be. It canvases the approach corporate fleets are taking to learn more about the opportunities around electric cars, and how they, both local bodies and businesses, might approach it.

The author has interviewed Westpac Banking Group, The Warehouse Group, Auckland Council and Customfleet (arguably one of the largest fleet companies and owner of vehicles in New Zealand).

Naturally one expects the old chestnuts of range anxiety and availability of charging infrastructure to be major issues. But both are more or less red herrings when making EV fleet purchasing decisions these days.

This study established that when companies take a good hard look at fleet numbers, they find they have more cars than they need and a fleet reduction can help fund the transformation to EVs. This is usually based on studying the day-to-day fleet movements using GPS and telematic data to inform the fleet manager.

Factoring in charging infrastructure solutions is also required for support of the new fleet, as is removing fleet silos and reviewing the fleet as a whole. Most businesses have some commitment towards sustainability and climate change and therefore are predisposed to decarbonisation of the fleet. This will become more important with NZ signing the Net Zero Carbon Bill late last year, and the UK agreeing to end the reign of purely fossil-fueled vehicles by 2035.

The benefits of fleets adopting EVs is that they provide a lower cost pathway that staff, businesses and the public can benefit from. For example, Amazon and others committed to over 100,000 commercial delivery vans from both Rivian and Arrival. The latter two companies, by the by, have neither commercially produced nor actively retailed a vehicle of any type to date.

This dynamic potentially changes the vehicle manufacturing game. We saw it with the presell of the Tesla Model 3. Customers voted with their wallet before even taking a test drive, and most were happy to wait for delivery. I’ve had nearly 30 years in and around the motor industry and this type of forward order bank is something we only dreamed about.

Such cases will feed new models into the markets they are intended for, and eventually provide lower cost used cars, thus eliminating some of the expected financial and depreciation risk for these companies.

If you have a fleet of vehicles it is worth reading this latest white paper. It may help you start the discussion at your business. I believe the companies involved are very willing to share their stories with you, so you can make the move too.

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