In collaboration with industry partners and with the support of the federal government, Electric Autonomy Research is embarking on a major initiative — set to launch this fall — to educate and engage fleet managers, to connect them with EV-related vendors and to share best practices in fleet electrification
In the push to electrify the light- and medium-duty vehicle classes in Canada, a key demographic needs to be reached: fleet managers.
It is this community of decision makers that Electric Autonomy Research is aiming to connect with and serve with the creation of a new digital platform that will provide awareness, education and resources about the benefits electric vehicles can bring to fleets.
The fleet project will aggregate information about vehicle availability and purchase rebates and combine it with peer-to-peer learning and industry best-practices.
“We realized there was a need to build a single knowledge resource where fleet owners could start on their pathway to electrification,” says Ilana Weitzman, vice president of strategic development at Electric Autonomy Canada. “By putting a resource like this out there, you are signalling to fleets that this is on its way and and that there are true benefits to electrification.”
To help launch the project, Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) has provided Electric Autonomy with a $176,375 investment through its Zero Emission Vehicle Awareness Initiative.
“With the support of the Government of Canada, we’re excited to be launching Canada’s number-one knowledge platform to advance the electrification of fleets,” said Nino Di Cara, founder and president of Electric Autonomy in the NRCan press release.
“We’ll be working directly with our industry and research partners to develop learning modules, real-world case studies, best practices and videos that act as a resource to inform, educate and empower fleet owners and operators to successfully transition to zero-emission vehicles.”
“Through investments such as this, we’re equipping Canadians with the awareness and knowledge they need to confidently make the switch to a zero-emission vehicle. Ensuring easy access to ZEVs across Canada is a critical part of our plan to lower emissions and achieve our international climate goals. Through this and similar investments, we are putting more Canadians in the driver’s seat on the road to a net-zero future,” said the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources
Understanding the problems
Along with that outreach and research, the platform’s scope will also be informed by the findings detailed in a 2022 Action Events forum report entitled, “Overcoming barriers to the adoption of electric vehicles in light-duty fleets.” (Action Events is a stakeholder forum series to advance adoption of new mobility solutions in which Electric Autonomy is a co-partner along with Vision Mobility.)
Topping that list is the revelation that the greatest barrier for fleet adoption at this stage is the void of information on fleet electrification and the scarcity of needs assessments that allows fleet managers to identify vehicles to suit their specific duty-cycle needs.
“From the initial discussions during the forum event through to the working group meetings, it’s clear that fleet operators have a lack of knowledge and gaps of information about EVs,” reads the report.
“A major concern for them is that they do not understand how EVs will fit in with their particular use cases, nor are they aware of what the potential cost structures will look like.”
What the forum revealed is that while individual fleet managers do possess key pieces of information and expertise on electrification, many still lack the breadth of knowledge needed to comfortably make the transition.
In response, a key goal of the new platform will be to break down silos and facilitate information sharing between fleet operators and other stakeholders.
Leveraging questions into opportunity
The first step towards ensuring the fleet education initiative provides the most relevant information to fleet managers and owners is to identify the knowledge gaps that scare interested parties away from electrification.
“One of the biggest learnings so far is that fleet owners traditionally know vehicles — that is their bread and butter. Now, they really need to understand energy and charging and that is a new pillar of knowledge,” explains Weitzman. “Fleet electrification is really a planning exercise.
“You have this opportunity to re-engineer how your fleet works. I imagine that opportunity to reimagine how you work and what you do and how to create efficiency doesn’t come along every day. I think this is one of those pivot points where people can really maximize this transition.”
Electrification of commercial fleet applications will inevitably change the way fleets are managed, resources distributed, duty cycles established and the workforce trained. But when equipped with the information they need to navigate these issues, fleet operators will be able to realize the benefits rather than fall behind.
“It’s always great to be learning about a new piece of technology and furthering your skill set. If you’re a fleet owner and you want to stay current in your field, this is a great skill to be onboarding at this phase. You’re not going to lose,” says Weitzman. “Generally, when you look at the data, when people start electrifying, they don’t stop. They keep going because their experience is positive.”
While the passenger EV-driving community is a largely collaborative one with dedicated national organizations and local chapters, the commercial side is decidedly more divided.
Electric Autonomy Research‘s fleet project, in addition to providing a one-stop shop for critical information on fleet electrification, is striving to help plant the seeds of a corporate community of transitioning fleets that can provide essential peer-to-peer support.
This “co-learning,” says Weitzman, can provide a safe space to discuss mistakes, successes, best practices and instil the feeling that a fleet manager isn’t grappling with change alone.
“Humans are naturally curious. I think, no matter what field you’re in. Our hope is also to build a community and a cohort around this,” says Weitzman.
“I do think there is strength in numbers: being able to look to one side and look to the other side and know that people are on this journey with you.”
Electric Autonomy Research’s fleets project will be launching in Fall 2022 with more information expected over the summer.