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Lessons from switching to an EV fleet

In our recent webinar, we discuss Centrica's transition to an EV fleet and what we've learnt so far.

In our recent webinar, Lessons learnt from transitioning to an EV fleet, James Rooney, Centrica fleet engineer; Lucy Simpson, Head of Product for electric vehicles and Chris Jackson, Head of Fleet Partnerships, discussed important insights we’ve learnt and how other organisations can benefit from an EV partner like Centrica Business Solutions.

Switching over 10,000 vehicles to an electric (EV) fleet has been an ambition for Centrica for several years, and a process started as early as 2013. We've also been supporting Electric Vehicle adoption in many other businesses for over ten years.

But transitioning the UK’s third largest fleet brings its own challenges; from managing a new relationship between driver’s schedules and EV charging, to reimbursing employees for their energy consumption.

In this piece we will cover three areas where we have learned key lessons:

1. Vehicles and transition approach

2. Implementing a strategy and roadmap

3. Developing integrated fleet/energy solutions

Centrica is moving its fleet of over 10k vehicles to electric by 2030. Learn about our journey so far.

 

1. Vehicles and transition approach

It may seem obvious, but when starting out the build of your strategy and transition approach, you need to complete a thorough assessment of your fleet. This should at least include a look at the following attributes of the current fleet:

  • Vehicle type – What do you have now? Is there a like-for-like EV replacement? Or
  • Fleet composition - Will you need to factor in adjustments to how you operate with new vehicle types?
  • Average mileage – What do journeys look like? Will you need to change your approach?
  • Environment conditions/seasonality – What type of driving and weather will be happening?
  • Fleet up-time and duration of activity – Can new EVs do the journeys you need or do you have to plan around this?

By understanding attributes such as these, a more tailored transition strategy can be organised. Listening to employees and drivers can also help shape the requirements and expectations of your current fleet so that when the fleet is electrified, it is a like-for-like copy of the old ICE fleet, but with all the advantages of being low-carbon and fuel efficient.

If I go to an electric van, I need to have a warm van: it can’t be cold, I can’t be skinting on the heating.”
James Rooney Centrica fleet engineer

Holding a wider and long-term perspective of the local, UK and even European legislative landscape regarding EV policies is also a crucial element to transition strategy. For instance, over the next five years, numerous countries plan to move all major cities from low emission zones (LZE) to zero emission zones (ZEZ), such as France, Germany, the UK, and Italy. Diesel bans will be introduced to major cities, such as London, Paris, and Rome, within the same period. Understanding this legislative backdrop shows the impetus and need for electrification across Europe.

Testing and implementing the practicalities of operating an electric fleet is a key part of not only a transition plan, but also the management of the fleet in the future. As part of this process, Centrica has so far:

  • Developed testing procedures to be rigorous and informative in their insight delivery
  • Used remote diagnostics to asses vehicle performance, identify vehicle faults, and implement remote repairs
  • Employed intuitive rapid-charge scheduling and worked with stunted charge range
  • Developed a driver app and reimbursement system

Electrification, aside from fuel efficiency savings, can also yield hidden advantages. You can be surprised by cost reductions made in tire maintenance, low-emission zone charges, and even a reduction in vehicle accidents. Overall, the total cost of ownership was demonstrably lower than diesel counterparts.

2. Implementing a strategy

When it comes to implementing a strategy, it is key to make the transition robust and clear by utilising analytics in the creation of distinct vehicle waves. Capturing data from a variety of sources helps accurately forecast impacts upon the fleet, and pairing vehicle waves with charging infrastructure planning allows a transition approach that is holistic and can gain momentum without disruption.

Physical infrastructure is also key. By creating an infrastructure map for a fleet, it can ensure capabilities are deployed where they are required, and the fleet can experience maximum uptime. Furthermore, by leveraging an infrastructure map the transition project can become better informed of which hardware is best for use. Combining this approach with energy solutions, such as Demand Side Response and On-Site Generation, and tailoring these technologies towards sustainability goals can drive a more effective transition approach whilst also investing in the longevity of an EV transition.

The in-life performance of an electric fleet will greatly rely on effective charger management and well-executed fleet management specifics, such as:

  • Automatic reimbursement
  • Tariff optimisation
  • Intelligent private charging
  • Payroll integration
  • Fleet Telematics

What may at first appear circumstantial aspects of the infrastructure of an electrification transition strategy can actually make significant impacts on the total cost of ownership. An average domestic tariff can be within the region of 15p per kWh, whilst time of use tariffs used at lower-rate times can be as cheap as 5p per kWh. With a single engineer over the course of a year, the difference could easily amount to over £500.

Tariff optimisation software is really key to making sure we deliver our total cost of ownership.”
Lucy Simpson Head of Product for electric vehicles

3. Developing integrated fleet/energy solutions

Centrica’s EV transition, involving over 10,000 vehicles, has been developing since 2013 and has built over 2 million miles of experience. This time and mileage experience has been a significant opportunity for Centrica to build key learnings, informing building solutions in other Centrica businesses. It has also helped Centrica develop an ‘EV Enablement’ plan: the end-to-end solution to put the right infrastructure in the right place, as well as a fleet management charging system to reduce the administration hassle and deliver an efficient charging experience.

Fundamentally, businesses can become truly sustainable and maximise their opportunities for a competitive advantage – but they must think differently about how they buy, consume and manage energy. Like Centrica, a growing number of businesses have embedded environmental and social responsibility throughout their operations to win business, gain investment and retain the best employees.

Our recommendation is that you should build out your infrastructure in advance of the demand and you should also embrace the new world of distributed energy.”
Chris Jackson Head of Fleet Partnerships

Centrica’s experience in transition our own fleet continues to inform the solutions we create for our customers as well. We’re building an integrated network of EV Enablement solutions and partnerships to support businesses and public sector organisations make the shift to EV themselves.

  1. Workplace EV charging – Making it easy for customers by offering Hardware procurement, charger installation, operations & maintenance, driver management, getting power to site, the energy management of site, and electricity supply as part of our offering.
  2. Depot charging – Identifying optimal sites for energy optimisation and infrastructure, as well as on-site generation, such as solar PV and battery storage. Such sites provide a ‘certainty of charge’.
  3. On-route charging – always providing a safety net for depot charging, where Centrica can work with a growing network of infrastructure partners, and where vehicle travel routes can be mapped against emergent infrastructure.
  4. On-street charging – Pioneering new technologies in order to provide charging availability to those without a driveway. Ultimately a roaming agreement with UK charge point operators will be required by the country as a whole.
  5. Home charging – addressing challenges such as driver reimbursement, tariff optimisation software, and distinguishing between business and private EV charging energy consumption.

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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