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Comment: Why it pays fleets to go electric

By / 6 months ago / Features / No Comments

With uptake of electric vehicles on the rise, Lucy Simpson, head of product management for EV enablement, UK and Europe at Centrica Business Solutions, looks at the options for electrification open to fleet managers.

Lucy Simpson, head of product management for EV enablement, UK and Europe at Centrica Business Solutions

The UK’s commitment to banning the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2030 has already accelerated the shift towards EVs. And, it seems fleet managers and those responsible for operating business vehicles are set to have a central role to play in turbocharging the transition.

In our recent survey of 200 British businesses, we found that more than £8bn had already been invested in EV adoption. The research suggested that this figure was set to increase to £12bn over the next two years, as firms prioritise the introduction of electric cars and vans into their operations.

When working with large fleet owners there are three questions we ask which helps us establish where they are in their EV journey.

  • What does the typical day look like for your fleet and how will charging fit in to that?
  • What consideration have you given to the additional electricity demand required?
  • How ambitious are your plans for electrification?

The first question is important, as it will help us to build a picture of the make-up of the fleet and where charging will take place. But, COVID-19 has thrown a spanner in the works for many organisations. Many workplaces remain shut. Fleet mileages are reduced. No one is sure when, or even if, normality will return. What’s certain is that the new normal won’t be the same as pre-COVID, making planning for the future extremely difficult. One trend that we are witnessing is an increased demand for home charging installations, initiated by employers, so that delivery drivers, company car owners and mobile workers have consistent access to charging.

The question of who pays is one that is of concern to many fleet managers. It’s something that Centrica is working with customers to find answers for. The new Centrica fleet charging app works with any standard charger enabling drivers to charge at home, at the workplace or on the road.

It features automatic reimbursement of charging costs, automatically identifying and excluding any private vehicle charging on the same charging point. The app features payroll integration, so that the driver is automatically reimbursed while monthly statements, showing all charging transactions, are created and sent to fleet managers.

The added benefit of charging at home is that correctly configured systems can mean access to off-peak charging tariffs, which brings two benefits. The first is significantly cheaper costs, public charging is nearly ten times the price of off-peak domestic charging. Home charging is also arguably easier from a technical standpoint. For most businesses, adopting EVs will mean installing charging points on site, which in turn creates additional energy demand. The cost of upgrading your supply to power a large fleet is something that puts many businesses off taking this route. Home charging spreads this load over a wider area and, in the vast majority of cases, does not incur additional system upgrade costs.

However, businesses can also choose to integrate on-site charging infrastructure with the latest energy technology in order to help mitigate these costs – and unlock a host of other benefits in the process. Generating, storing and managing their own energy on-premises, independently of the grid, can help firms meet the increased power demand of an electrified fleet in a way that is much more cost effective over the long-term, as well as reducing emissions and minimising any potential upgrades required to the grid connection.

For example, a business could install solar panels and battery storage on site and link them to its EV infrastructure. Electricity generated through the solar panels would be used to power the charging points directly, and any surplus stored in the battery to cover shortfalls in power caused by peaks in demand, or when the weather is cloudy and the panels aren’t able to generate enough energy alone.

By generating and storing energy on-site, businesses can unlock new revenue streams through participation in demand side response (DSR) schemes. Through DSR, businesses commit to reducing or shifting their energy consumption when demand on the grid threatens to exceed supply – this could mean switching power source to electricity generated on-site rather than from the grid, for example.

Today’s smart energy management systems can track all of the factors involved in the arrangement, including rates of generation, the amount of power in storage and the current market rate and make automated decisions based on complex algorithms in order to optimise value to the business.

As businesses continue to transition towards a greener future, electrified fleets and modern energy technology can work together to make operations cleaner and more profitable. Whether at home or in the workplace, the solutions are out there to make the transition fast and cost-effective.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie edits all the Fleet World websites and newsletters, and loves to hear about any latest industry news - or gossip.