26 Oct 23

The Road to Real Sustainability - Episode 2: Key scenarios to decarbonise your fleet

Reducing vehicle emissions requires a coordinated plan to understand duty cycles, evaluate potential EV replacements and create a failsafe recharging strategy.

Actions speak louder than words, so corporate commitments to reduce fleet carbon emissions and combat climate change need to be matched by strategic decisions and a strict timeline for progress. Switching to electric vehicles (EVs) may seem like a silver bullet to shrink a fleet’s carbon footprint, but it’s not a policy that can be adopted in isolation. Success depends on a series of co-ordinated steps to identify vehicles that are fit for purpose, cost effective to operate, and which can be recharged without disrupting operational cycles.

Expert partners can provide software and telematics tools to monitor a fleet's current vehicle usage patterns, analysing the distances driven daily to see which vehicles could complete their journeys without having to recharge along the way. The assessment criteria could also extend to payload requirements for light commercial vehicles. When this monitoring and analysis has been conducted, fleets and their advisors can create a shortlist of potential battery-powered replacements for existing diesel vehicles.  

Make the right comparison

With this shortlist is in place, fleet decision makers can start to build a financial business case, based on a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis. This takes into account any incentives, discounts, and grants to cut the capital costs of EVs, which typically have higher acquisition costs than fossil-fuelled equivalent models, as well as further in-life savings. Tax breaks, cheaper energy costs and lower service and maintenance expenditure can all help support the TCO of EVs in comparisons with petrol and diesel, and depending on the local market may demonstrate that a fleet can actually save money by transitioning to an electric powertrain.

Many businesses will also want to factor their corporate responsibility to do the right thing into their decision making, said Markus Deusing, CEO of Alphabet International.

He urged fleet executives to compare the: “Environmental and societal benefits of using EVs, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, decreased air pollution, and public health benefits, with the total cost of the transition. You have to look at it holistically - for now it may end up being a little more expensive, but it is good for the environment, for society and ultimately for the employees.”

Above all, companies need absolute confidence that electric vehicles can keep the wheels of their business turning without disruption. This requires a thorough assessment of charging infrastructure requirements, calculating where vehicles will need to recharge, whether at home, at the workplace or depot, or on public networks, as well as an assessment of charging downtime.

EV charging considerations

Fleets with the potential to charge vehicles at their own premises have to evaluate the number and speed of chargers required, as well as the maximum power supply needed when EVs are plugged in to all of the chargers, said Deusing. Smart charging technology can help to balance demands on the local grid and avoid expensive upgrades to power capacity at a site, but there is no avoiding the cost of the civil engineering and charging hardware. The important factor is to future-proof infrastructure investments by anticipating energy demands after an entire fleet has transitioned to battery power.

Further savings can be made through the implementation of a charging management strategy, staggering charging times to avoid overloading charging infrastructure and optimising the use of off-peak tariffs.

This is imperative, because while the variance in diesel prices per litre is no more than about 30% between the cheapest supermarket fuel and the most expensive motorway service station, the difference in electricity costs can be over 1000%   between cheap home charging at a few cents per kWh and high cost ultra-rapid charging at 79c/kWh. Financial incentives for company drivers to install a home charger, and simple procedures to reimburse drivers for domestic electricity used to recharge a company vehicle can both deliver valuable savings in the long-term.

Given this wide spectrum of charging prices, fleet decision makers need to have systems in place to capture and analyse data on charging expenditure, while making life easier for drivers and expenses departments with billing and payment solutions.

Complicating these issues are the different states of EV readiness between countries, in regards to charging infrastructure, a complex situation that demands a global vision alongside a highly detailed understanding of local market conditions.

“Companies need to integrate both international and local strategies to transition to EVs effectively,” said Deusing. “They need to harmonise fleet electrification strategies with local needs, regulations, infrastructure, and preferences. By realising this heterogeneous approach to transition, a company can better tailor its efforts to each individual market and maximise its chances of success in the EV space. This will also help them navigate any challenges or barriers that may arise along the way, ultimately leading to a smoother and more successful transition to EVs.”

Say yes to driver engagement

Even markets or localised fleet operations that cannot switch to EVs today can take active steps to start shrinking their carbon footprints. One option is to adopt biofuels made from sustainable sources or natural gas, both of which emit lower levels of greenhouse gases. Another is to improve the efficiency of the existing fleet, implementing all the basics of good fleet management, such as regular maintenance, proper tyre inflation, planning the most efficient routes, and training drivers in eco-driving techniques. 

Engaging drivers in decarbonisation programmes is vital for a smooth transition to battery power, so a communication programme that explains both the environmental gains from EVs, as well as the financial savings that zero emission vehicles can offer employees (through tax breaks) and the business, should be central to electrification plans.

“A comprehensive education programme for drivers on the benefits of decarbonisation can increase the adoption of sustainable practices. Companies can provide incentives, webinars, and training to drivers to help them understand the importance of reducing carbon emissions and how their driving behaviour impacts environmental sustainability,” said Deusing.

 Watch Here the video with Markus Deusing about ‘Key scenarios to decarbonise your fleet’


10  steps to fleet decarbonisation  

1 Identify vehicles that can transition to electric powertrains based on their daily driving ranges and payload requirements, andrequirements and evaluate suitable EV alternatives.
2 Analyse the charging infrastructure required for each potential EV. Assess where EVs will recharge, taking into account the charging need of each vehicle, charging speed, and the location of charging stations along drivers’ usual routes.
3 Claim available incentives, discounts, and grants to reduce the capital and operating costs associated with EVs. Factor in lower maintenance costs and energy savings to build a positive TCO case for EVs.
4 Draw up a timeline for an EV transition, starting with vehicles that have the highest potential for fuel savings and emissions reductions.
5 Analyse how many workplace/depot chargers the fleet needs, the speed of charging required, and whether the site has the power capacity to support charging today and tomorrow. Create a policy that clearly establishes the priority of access to workplace chargers (including company vehicles and employees with their own, private EVs) and decide who pays for charging costs.
6 Introduce an energy management strategy to take advantage of lower cost, off-peak electricity tariffs.
7 Measure and evaluate energy usage data, analyse, and generate reports to identify trends, track costs, and optimise charging patterns to reduce associated costs.
8 Incentivise company drivers to charge at home by subsidising the cost of a wallbox and establishing a fair reimbursement policy for electricity usage.
9 Engage drivers through a comprehensive communication programme, explaining how and why the company is introducing EVs.
10 Remember the fundamental reasons for decarbonising. Compare the environmental and societal benefits of using EVs, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, decreased air pollution, and public health benefits, to the total cost of the transition.


Find more about the first episode here : The Road to Real Sustainability - Episode 1: Get ready for greenhouse gas accounting

Markus Deusing, CEO of Alphabet International, will share further insights about The Road to Fleet Sustainability at the 2023 Fleet Europe Days on 22 & 23 November in Lisbon. For more information and registration details, click here

Authored by: Jonathan Manning