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9 steps to switching your fleet to electric vehicles (EV)

The approaching 2030 deadline for the end of ICE vehicle sales is driving fleet operators to step-up their plans for transitioning to EV. But how do they capitalise on opportunities and what key factors need to be considered?

The move to EVs is now inevitable; and businesses and public sector organisations can reap significant environmental, financial, reputational and operational benefits from embracing this technology sooner rather than later. Centrica is already working with organisations like Ford, Lotus and Vauxhall to build the sustainable energy transportation infrastructure of the future.

In this article Lucy Simpson, Head of Product Management for EVs, outlines some of the important steps that we believe fleet operators should take to develop a future-proofed, scalable and cost-effective EV transition plan.

At Centrica, our own fleet of 11,000 vehicles has already started it's transition to EV with an additional order of 1,000 commercial vans from Vauxhall announced in July 2020. We've been learning a lot along the way on how to best make the switch, the challenges all organisations will face and questions that need answering to make the move as simple, fast and cost-effective as possible.

1. Assess your fleet make-up and EV rollout speed

It may sound obvious, but first priority is to work out what your potential EV fleet will look like and how quickly you want to complete the transition. This can be achieved by understanding your operational and financial setup and how electrification can viably be delivered for your organisation. Questions to ask must include:

Vehicles

  • Are there EV equivalents to the vehicles currently within your fleet and how accessible are these EV equivalents?
  • What is the daily mileage of your vehicles and entire fleet?
  • What are the typical vehicle payload levels throughout the day?
  • Where do vehicles typically dwell and how long at each location?
  • Where does most travel take place; motorways or urban routes?

Energy

  • Is there an adequate power supply to meet increased demand at your work places and depots?
  • Is there suitable space to install on-site generation such a solar?

People

  • Is there strong support from your senior management team?
  • Are employees looking workplace charging?
  • Are there sustainability pressures from stakeholders?

A strong feasibility study will help you build out an integrated strategy for switching your fleet to EV, act a set of guiding principles through implementation and provide you with a baseline of information and data to keep you on track. As technology rapidly develops and prices continue to fall, it is wise to monitor your position at regular intervals.

2. Get engagement and buy-in from management and staff

Transitioning your fleet to EV is a serious, long-term commitment; it's not a one-off project. You need to scale resource for continuous management and development, while introducing appropriate tools to monitor and optimise your EV strategy and create a good experience for your drivers. 

A driver-centric strategy

It's vital to gain the  buy-in of drivers. Working patterns may change due to the need to make more ‘back to base’ trips for recharging and the need to factor in greater wait times for re-powering their vehicles. With electric charging networks still in development and not as extensive as anyone would like, driver routes may need to be altered to enable on-the-road charging. Effective scheduling and logistics planning can ease these challenges, but engage drivers early in the process and demonstrating the benefits of tools such as mobile apps and route planning.

For organisations that make at workplace charging available to staff and customers, success will depend on adequate take-up from individuals. Effective consultation in the planning stages will help you gain employee buy-in, forecast potential demand and feed into the design and development process.

Fortunately it's a relatively easy to 'sell' the benefits of EV charging to both employees and customers. The environmental and cost-saving benefits should be clearly articulated, which will help generate enthusiasm and support staff and customer retention and attraction. What's not to like when a business demonstrates sustainability leadership and supports its employees and customers by subsidising the running costs of their private cars.

 

Read our whitepaper to learn more about the benefits of switching your vehicle fleet to EV.

3. Understand the regulations and incentives driving EV deployment

When developing your EV strategy, an important step is ensuring you understand the regulatory landscape; and crucially the incentives you can access. Transport is responsible for 27% of the EU's total CO2 emissions and has a profound effect on the air quality of our cities and communities. With commercial vehicles are responsible for 20% of all vehicle related greenhouse gas emissions, despite accounting for only 5% of vehicles on the road, there is a huge opportunity for business to support improvements in air quality and reduce emissions.

As such, decarbonising transportation is a major policy priority for EU, UK and local governments, who are encouraging businesses to adopt EVs via a range of policies, regulations and incentives.

Some key regulations include

  • Sale of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned under UK government proposals from 2030 (2032 in Scotland).
  • From 2021, the EU fleet-wide average emission target for new cars will reduce to 95g CO2/km
  • Creation of Low carbon emission zones in many cities (e.g. Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London from 8 April 2019) and Oxford is consulting on banning petrol & diesel cars from the city centre from 2020

Some key financial incentives

  • UK Office of Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is increasing the affordability of EVs via its Plug-in Grant Scheme and Workplace Charging Scheme (up to £10,000 grant to install up to 20 sockets).
  • Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) are exempt from Vehicle Exercise duty in the UK  and can be written down against corporate tax liability​
  • EVs qualify for 0% Benefit in Kind (company car tax) in 2020, meaning the driver of a BEV will pay over £500 per month less tax than the driver of a comparable ICE vehicle
  • Car tax will rise to just 2% by the 2024/2025 tax year, meaning long-term certainty for fleets

4. Build a business case that includes TCO

With the economies of scale of fleet management, falling technology prices for batteries and charging infrastructure - the cost of moving to EV is reducing. Furthermore there are major opportunities to integrate your EV infrastructure with renewable on-site distributed solutions, such as solar and battery storage, or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs); which can further reduce energy costs and enhance sustainability across your entire estate.

Total cost of ownership (TCO)

Centrica's international survey of more than 1,500 energy decision makers, which showed that 68% of organisations see electric vehicles as a path to reducing fuel costs associated with fleets. We know a lot about total cost of ownership, with our fleet the 3rd largest at 12,000 vehicles.

After the initial project scoping, your next priority is to ensure that your financial model is robust and economically sustainable and that it aligns with your company’s broader financial goals. Understand the full ongoing costs for the EV infrastructure and energy supply so that you can accurately forecast the total cost of ownership for fleet electrification. Validate the financial viability and explore all the funding options – from full ownership to financed or leased assets. Ensure that you make the most of the funding and tax incentives and consider how to maintain visibility and control over usage in order to keep costs under control. If your plan is to expand onsite generation capacity to integrate with your EV ecosystem, it's important to consider how you will finance your additional energy infrastructure to meet updated power requirements.

When implementing EV for at-work charging, you have the additional challenge of designing and implementing an appropriate financial charging model for employees and/or customers to fund the initial infrastructure investment and ongoing power supply and management costs. This has to be economically attractive and viable for both the business and the service user.

Centrica is moving its fleet of 12.5k vehicles to electric by 2030. Learn about our experience from Centrica's Fleet Manager Steve Winter.

5. Design a solution strategy for today; and tomorrow

When you are ready to move onto more a more detailed stage in your switch to EV, working joint with an EV enablement provider can help you to develop a plan that addresses all elements of the integrated strategy – from design, though to installation, operation and maintenance.

Together, you will need to address a raft of major challenges and decisions, including:

  • Procurement of key components such as charging hardware and software; reporting, management, control and monitoring solutions; driver apps; building works and signage
  • Support services including operation and maintenance (O&M) arrangements, support with legals, regulation plus health and safety; and in-life operational support such as a call centre for drivers
  • Service Level Agreements are key to successful engagement with EV infrastructure and software providers to ensure that the expected system up-time and fleet efficiency is achieved
  • Additional power needs that may be required including higher capacity grid connections; new or expanded on-site generation infrastructure and grid balancing service
  • Energy estate integration with existing or expanded renewable on-site generation and battery storage; as well as use of energy insight sensors solutions to optimise efficiency and sustainability
  • Flexibility and 'smart' options such as the use of Demand Side Response to generate revenue by unlocking flexible energy value from your site or in preparation for future utilisation of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G)

When choosing technology its important to build in infrastructure-flexibility and the ability to upgrade or move with technology developments, future-proofing your EV setup. It is vitally important to manage the health and safety risks associated with EVs, for example the risks associated with the presence of high voltage components and cabling on site, and the storage of electrical energy.

6. Scope out a robust project 

With your strategy in place, and answers to the questions in steps 1-5 covered, the next stage is to develop a plan of action. If you are working with a partner, they will guide you through the project scoping phase, where it's crucial to ask all the essential questions early to avoid implementation issues or delays further down the line. Key decisions include defining the EV policy; funding arrangements; site identification; power availability; planning permission requirements; space logistics, etc.

Resilient, forward thinking

In addition, when planning for your fleets switch to EV, it's essential to consider measures to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the EV infrastructure as downtime will have a direct impact on business continuity. Building in robust resilience measures using renewable on-site generation is essential to manage risk from power supply disruption.

Future-proofing your EV solution to avoid obsolescence is difficult when technology is evolving so quickly, but this is no reason to delay the transition and the financial and environmental benefits that this can bring. Careful planning is essential to ensure that your EV infrastructure offers the flexibility to adapt as your fleet evolves and technologies or business priorities change. 

Our Energy Pathway engagement methodology provides a clear path from an initial idea, through to detailed project specification and importantly ongoing optimisation of your solution; ensuring the longevity of your EV fleet solution.

7. Implement fleet software & tools that ensure optimal performance

Developing your strategy, purchasing the right vehicles, building your EV setup and addressing any power constraints you have with on-site energy solutions are only some of of the challenges organisations need to overcome. In addition to this Fleet Managers need a suite of software applications to ensure optimal  you require to manage charge points, energy use and deal with the commercial aspects of multi-site charging.

Having the right tools in place to manage electric vehicle charging and site energy management enables any organisation to have complete control performance. While an integrated Driver App provides a seamless experience for all users by helping them find, access, utilise and resolve any issues related to charging stations.

The right package of EV management software can help Fleet Managers achieve the optimal fuel costs, manage charging access and monitor driver efficiency.  Ultimately ensuring that total cost of ownership for the fleet remains within the business case and plans.

Driver management and commercial optimisation

  • Implement effective driver reimbursement with automatic systems that manage home chargers, calculating accurate charging costs and automatically reimbursing drivers for their costs
  • Utilise tariff optimisation tools that support Time-Of-Use (TOU) tariff flexibility to enable drivers to optimally charge when the rates are low; creating further total cost of ownership savings
  • Provide the flexibility for private charging that allows drivers to charger their vehicle for non-work related travel, with software to automatically identify and exclude those transactions from reimbursement
  • Ensure full transparency for drivers with regular reports and statements capturing charging transactions and business and private-charge costs, so they can monitor and compare to reimbursed value
  • Develop a seamless payroll experience with integration of HR systems that connect your charging technology to your payroll system to feed and reconcile driver reimbursement automatically

Managing chargers and your network

  • Real-time visibility and status of your charging network is a must; ensuring you have the tool available that deliver real-time visibility of chargers, charging network and access snapshot up-time performance
  • Institute data analytics and alerts that capture and alert you to key information on charger status or defects, hourly and daily utilisation, CO₂ generation data, utilisation of energy and earned revenue
  • Deploy a range of reporting mechanisms that enable scheduled, configurable reports that are either of standard regularity or adhoc and have the flexibility to focus down to an individual charger and port level 

On-and-off-site energy management 

  • Ensure efficient charger with load sharing capabilities that sharing of power between chargers, keeping you within your site energy constraints and maintaining cost-effective charging
  • Integrate on-site sustainable generation and battery storage solutions such as Solar to supplement and enhance grid-sourced energy, minimising costs during peak demand and from grid DNO utilisation expansion

    8. Select an energy partner that support long-term growth

    Planning and implementing the complex EV infrastructure for fleets requires specialist technical and regulatory expertise. Your transition to electric can comprise multiple vendors across the project's long lifetime, making it exceptionally difficult to navigate. This is further complicated by the fact that new suppliers and solutions are emerging all the time.

    Unless you have the right experience and resources available in-house, it's likely that you will require expert support to guide your EV enablement package. This involves integrating the many disparate elements of the project, including software, hardware and energy provision; planning control; regulation, installation; operation and maintenance, etc.

    Choose a partner who has long-term experience across the entire value chain, who will help to facilitate a joined-up and a seamless experience to avoid technical and operational inconsistencies. Centrica’s capability across home installations, varying complexities of workplace charging and owning the required energy services means we are the right partner for your fleet’s transition.

    9. Overcome site energy constraints with a scalable strategy

    One of the key challenges of  workplace EV introduction is securing enough sustainable power capacity both now and in the future to meet your extra requirements.

    Switching to EV will increase power demand, so if you don't have an adequate power supply to meet your long term needs, you will need to consider upgrades to the grid supply infrastructure, or the implementation of new on-site generation solutions to self-generate your own clean energy supply. This important issue is often overlooked, as demonstrated by our research. This showed that only 43% of businesses have considered the impact of EV on their power requirements

     By integrating your EV infrastructure with renewable on-site distributed solutions you can reduce energy costs and enhance sustainability across your entire estate. There's also an opportunity to earn revenue via lucrative Demand Side Response (DSR) and supply optimisation programmes. This is an attractive option for back-to-base fleets, where vehicles may be plugged in for longer periods.

    Complete support for your EV fleet

    Centrica Business Solutions has launched the most comprehensive single-supplier customer electric vehicle (EV) offer to date. Our solution for Fleets leverages our own transition experience and in-house technology and capabilities to help organisations save time and maximise efficiencies.

    With our EV enablement solution your organisation will be able to address the operational implications relating to evolving national infrastructure, range restrictions along preferred routes and accurate reimbursement of driver energy costs; simplifying the transition with an integrated system for vehicles, infrastructure, energy and optimisation.

    With a global network of more than 15,000 engineers and technicians, and expertise in designing, managing and financing complex solutions, Centrica has already installed more than 17,000 EV chargers and is uniquely positioned to provide a holistic solution that addresses the challenges of EV adoption.

    Find out more about our EV enablement solution below, or get in touch to learn how our experience in managing the EV switch of the UK's 3rd largest fleet makes us the perfect end-to-end solution partner for your organisation.

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