Why electric LCVs need a different approach to electric cars
Fleet managers need to use a different set of parameters to assess the business case for adopting electric light commercial vehicles (e-LCVs), compared to the transition to electric company cars, according to one of Europe’s largest leasing and mobility solutions companies, Arval.
Where the principal considerations for cars are total cost of ownership (TCO), corporate social responsibility (CSR) and employee satisfaction; these axes change to TCO, CSR and productivity for electric vans, said Shams-Dine El Mouden, International Arval Consulting Director (pictured below).
As essential tools, e-LCVs have to be able to support business operations without interruption, making the transition to battery power more complicated.
“Other parameters enter your strategy, such as your operating model, why vehicles are used, where they are driven – is it urban, rural or motorway? – where they are parked, whether there’s a single driver or multiple drivers, are there one, two or three shifts during the day, and even whether the vehicle is used at night are all important,” said Shams-Dine El Mouden.
No operational compromise
As a first step, he advised fleet managers to identify vehicles that could switch from diesel to battery power without compromising their operating roles, and to select electric models that meet current operational requirements in terms of cargo capacity, payload and range between charges.
Arval’s Consulting team in the UK ran trials of e-LCVs to measure the gap between their official WLTP-tested range and their real world performance in cold temperatures with three different loads; empty, half loaded and fully loaded. The results indicated that a full load cuts the range by about 15%, while British winter temperatures can reduce the WLTP range by between 40-50%.
This means that if a vehicle manufacturer cites an official range of 300km between charges, a fleet manager should expect that vehicle to achieve between 150-180km when fully loaded in a cold climate.
“For fleet managers with vehicles based in Spain, Portugal, Italy or France, the 60% of WLTP figure is very conservative and they could adopt their strategy with more optimistic range values,” said Shams-Dine El Mouden.
He added that even in northern Europe, e-LCVs can meet the requirements of most fleets for most journeys, despite the reduction in range from cold and load.
Range is less of an issue if e-LCVs can start each day with fully recharged batteries, so planning a recharging strategy is vital to the successful implementation of an electrification programme. The simplest solution is for drivers to return their vans to the company car park or depot at the end of their working day, so the e-LCVs can be plugged in, although this may not always be possible. Consequently, some employers are paying for drivers to install a charge point at home if they have off-street parking.
“One of the biggest challenges facing fleets is how to design the infrastructure at the office or how to implement a home charging solution, including who pays for the installation and how can you capture the data about how much power has been used,” explains Shams-Dine Al Mouden.
Ultra-fast, on-the-go charging may provide a solution for company car drivers who can make calls, check emails and work while their cars are plugged in, but even a 30-minute to one-hour charge impacts the productivity of an e-LCV driver during the working day. This loss of productivity has to be factored into the business case for electrification, although there may be opportunities for e-LCV drivers to plug in their vans for top-up charges during lunch breaks or while their vehicles are parked at a client’s premises.
Total cost of ownership
The good news is that the TCO of e-LCVs, in the small van segment at least, is comparable to their diesel equivalents said Shams-Dine Al Mouden. This is not yet necessarily the case for larger (3.5-tonne) vans, due to their significantly higher acquisition prices, although cheaper fuel, lower service bills and shorter maintenance downtime can all help to offset the higher lease price, and support CSR objectives.
“We are at the stage with e-LCVs where cars were three to five years ago, with a limited selection of vehicles and infrastructure not necessarily where it needs to be to support mass take up. We are at the start of the journey for e-LCVs and there is huge potential for adoption,” said Shams-Dine El Mouden.
Images: Shutterstock and Arval