17 Nov 22

Why fleet sustainability involves more than electric vehicles

Fleets with a genuine environmental commitment have to look beyond the electrification of their vehicles to deliver truly sustainable operations, according to industry experts at the Fleet Europe Summit.

Electrifying powertrains clearly helps progress towards carbon net zero goals, but other factors also play a significant role in the wholelife carbon footprint of vehicles.

Renewable energy

Sourcing green, renewable energy is one of the first considerations, shortening the distance that an electric car has to drive before it has a lower carbon impact than an ICE equivalent to 30,000km, compared to 160,000km using a typical German energy mix that includes fossil fuel-generated power, said Florian Luft, Director of Business Development, Envision (pictured above).

“A mobility transformation without an energy transformation does not provide the full impact of emissions savings,” he said.

Moreover, electric fleet vehicles will be able to play a key role in the storage of renewable energy and ‘peak shaving’ (reducing the need for CO2-intensive energy generation at peak times).

“Going electric is the beginning of a net zero transition, which involves going way further than changing the engine of a car,” said Luft.

CO2 from vehicle production

The carbon emissions of vehicle production will become a consideration for environmentally-focused fleets, with manufacturers striving to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from manufacture and assembly.

Stellantis is aiming to be ‘carbon free’ by 2038, said the group’s COO, Uwe Hochgeschurtz (pictured above right, with Fleet Europe editor in chief Steven Schoefs).

“In all the processes from suppliers, to manufacturing to delivering cars, to driving and using the car must be carbon neutral. And if you emit some CO2, you need to be able to compensate,” said Hochgeschurtz.

One challenge, however, is that the manufacture of an electric vehicle has a substantially larger carbon footprint than a comparable ICE vehicle, due largely to the battery packs.

Kerstin Meerwaldt, Strategy Lead Sustainability Experience, BMW Group, said: “When you electrify a fleet a lot of the emissions move from the tailpipe to the supply chain and factory. The manufacturing process of batteries is really energy intensive,” said.

Within two years BMW will open a factory in Hungary powered entirely by renewable energy, and by adopting a circular economy strategy of using green power, recycled materials and planning from the design stage of a vehicle how its components can be recovered and reused, the manufacturer is aiming to reduce the lifecycle CO2 emissions of its vehicles by 40% by 2030, compared to 2019 levels, said Meerwaldt.

CO2 data analysis

This type of forensic, science-based knowledge is missing from many fleets, said Yves Helven, CEO of Ovidrive (pictured below right).

“Sustainability goes much further than replacing a petrol car with an electric car. It’s about the reporting, adhering to the right accounting principles and then making the right analysis and choosing the right options in the right countries for the right types of fleets to achieve that 2030 or 2035 target,” he said.

“I understand that we all want to simplify the complex tasks that lie ahead of us, but when it comes to sustainability you need to accept a certain level of complexity. And if you have trouble dealing with that complexity, look for help – the supply chain is there to help you.”

Residual emissions remain an important consideration for fleets that have achieved the highest level of electrification, added Helven.

“Even in a very mature country with 100% uptake of EVs, you still have about 30% residual emissions compared to your baseline. In less mature countries it goes up to 70%,” he said.

“This is the part you cannot deal through electrification, so what do you do next? Do you try carbon offsetting, or a transition to mobility solutions, do you use telematics to teach employees to drive in a more sustainable way? You need to roll out a number of solutions to get your residual emissions down to where you want them to be in 2030.”

CO2 simulator

Leasing giant Alphabet has developed a simulator tool that allows fleets to model the CO2 impact of different strategies, so fleets can assess the success and the cost of individual policies, said Marcus Deusing, CEO, Alphabet International.

He cited new research by Alphabet that showed 38% of fleets have specific CO2 reduction targets for the next six years, and 64% of fleets identify a reduction in their CO2 emissions as ‘very important’.

Fleet EV sales rising

The findings are echoed by new car sales data, which shows that fleets are leading the charge towards electrification, with a higher uptake of battery electric models than private drivers, said Marc Odinius, CEO, Dataforce.

He forecast that EVs will become the dominant powertrain in the top seven European fleet markets by 2027, overtaking petrol, with countries such as the UK and Belgium achieving this milestone even earlier. In 2022, 13% of true fleet sales in these seven countries will be electric, compared to 33% diesel.



Authored by: Jonathan Manning