Fleet owners looking at electrifying need more government and industry help to fill in the missing gaps of information and knowledge required to convert vehicles, says a new report by Action Events
As the climate crisis continues to intensify, one of the powerful ways to mitigate emissions in the transportation sector is by converting light- and medium-duty vehicles to zero emissions. But for many fleet managers, the road to zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) adoption can be a daunting and challenging one.
A new report by Action Events, an initiative started by Electric Autonomy Canada, in partnership with Vision Mobility recommends several actions both the industry and the government should undertake to help Canada’s owners and managers looking at electrifying their fleets.
Some of the actions proposed in the report include working together to create a centralized area where information and resources for fleet electrification can be accessed; establishing pilot project standards and ways to share results; finding ways to offset costs or provide incentives to conduct EV suitability assessments; and finding solutions to de-risk the process with the possibility of renting vehicles, charging equipment and software, as part of pay-by-the-month subscription services.
Action Events was launched last year and ran as a series of conferences over five weeks.
As part of Electric Autonomy Research, the findings from those discussions are published in the “Overcoming barriers to the adoption of electric vehicles in light-duty fleets” report.
Sharing knowledge and information
For many fleet owners and operators, the main obstacle they face when electrifying their fleets is not knowing where exactly to start. Generally, there is a lack of understanding of how electric vehicles will fit different fleets’ use cases or what the potential costs for electrifying will be.
“Fleets need information to make appropriate decisions, yet EVs are still at a
nascent stage in rollout,” reads the report.
“Fleets do not want to make decisions that could potentially create unnecessary business risks, such as stranded employees without charge, cost overruns or operational issues associated with adopting new technology.”
The fear of a misstep that could compromise the overall business is a valid concern for fleets. But the report’s findings ultimately show that between different groups of stakeholders, there is a substantial amount of knowledge that is already well-known and available, the key is to create channels of communication and information sharing.
The transition to EVs can be accelerated by increasing knowledge dissemination and information and experience sharing between stakeholders in the industry, concludes the report.
Conducting pilot projects
To overcome the knowledge gaps and increase access to data around EVs, an initial step fleets can take is to conduct small-scale pilot projects. The objective is to test different EVs to see which are best suited for a fleet’s operations, understand how to best utilize the new technology and identify any areas that could be transitioned to zero-emission vehicles now.
Pilot projects will determine the feasibility of electrifying a range of vehicles, but, cautions the authors, they can also be quite costly and time-consuming for fleets.
“Executing pilot programs require significant resources and the ability to manage
different aspects to ensure that the data collected is substantial enough to be
applicable for the fleet,” says the report.
One solution proposed is to have a national framework for EV fleet pilot projects. This would provide standardized methods for EV pilots and the results could be shared in one centralized location.
Performing suitability assessments
The report also emphasizes the need for each fleet to conduct its own suitability assessments, which are used to collect information and data on whether a fleet can easily adopt EVs and understand what types of EVs might be the best for a specific business size or industry function.
Suitability assessments will help “evaluate the cost and operational impact that converting from an ICE vehicle to an EV will have and help create a clear plan on how the vehicles will be used,” says the report.
As recommended by Action Events, if the government is willing to offset the price of conducting EV suitability assessments by offering them free or at a low cost, then it will make the ability to transition to electric for all types of fleets, regardless of size and amount of resources they have, possible.
De-risking EV investments
A final barrier for fleets to overcome is the financial risk of switching to electric from combustion vehicles.
“Fleet managers need guidance and calculators for the financials around leasing fleets versus buying, energy choices and more,” reads the report. “Planning their charging investments not just around the small immediate needs of pilots, but on the assumption that their whole fleet will ultimately need to electrify, will save costs in the long run.”
What was endorsed in the report is for companies to look into setting up “X-as-a-service” (XaaS) business models. XaaS would allow fleets to rent EVs, related charging equipment, software and expertise with a pay-by-the-month subscription service. This would allow them to better understand their expenses and budget with certainty as they transition as well as help to convert some capital expenditures expenses into operational expenditures to “better align with current internal combustion engine vehicle budgets.”
“With effective government support and industry action towards new initiatives, fleets
can transition smoothly in Canada to a low-carbon future, ensuring that they, and the
planet, remain viable in the long term,” says the report.