Home Fleet Management Building a fleet of electric vehicles – and how to manage it

Building a fleet of electric vehicles – and how to manage it

159

As organisations begin to introduce electric vehicles into their fleets, what are the best vehicle management strategies? Five experts discuss the benefits and challenges of having a sustainable fleet.

Increasingly, organisations are choosing to introduce electric vehicles (EVs) into their fleets. Often this is driven by corporate policy on CO2emission reduction,which in turn requires the fleet manager to deliver the transition process. This transition may follow a toe-in-the-water type approach, piloting a couple of hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) or battery electric vehicles (BEV), or, alternatively and typically with greater effect, may take a more holistic and structured approach to implementation with specific targets in mind.

While EVs are currently more expensive than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from both a capital and whole-of-life perspective, this cost premium is reducing. According to Nathan Dunlop, Head of MarketStrategyat Brisbane-based Tritium, one of the world leaders in manufacturing DC fast chargers, price parity of ICE and EV vehicles will occur around 2025. And the EV market will continue to develop:all of the top 10 manufacturers havemade commitments to electrification.

Making the transition to EVs is more than just buying or leasing the vehicles. Successful transition has to be planned and managed through implementation, taking into account specific organisational change management issues, to ensure the new technology isembedded.

Here we talk to five experts about the prospects and challenges of electric vehicles, and the strategies behind sustainable fleet management.

Electric vehicles and the environment

Clearly EVs are a more environmentally friendly option than ICE vehicles, meaning that often the decision to adopt EVs will be a policy decision and not an economic one. Even while maintenance and fuel costs are lower with EVs, on a whole-of-life basis,EVs still currently carry a premium of around 60per cent. For the City of Whitehorsein Victoria, the decision to transition to EVs was based on the Council’s sustainability strategy and the fleet

department’s approach to providing fit-for-purpose assets. According to Simon Kinsey, Manager City Works, Whitehorse is well placed for EV adoption with most vehicles travelling under100 kilometres per day and returning to base each night for charging.

Beyond cost and CO2, there are other benefits with EVs that are not always considered. According to Alexander Kelly of Electric Vehicle Council, EVs provide significant health benefits. “Sixty per centmore people die from vehicle emissions than from car crashes,” notes Kelly.

Vehicle fleet management strategies

Like any change initiative,the introduction of EV’s needs to be robustly planned and managed. Warren Mashford, Manager Fleet Services at City of Canterbury Bankstown,strongly believes staff acceptance is a key consideration to a successful transition. Accordingly, Mashford putsa strong emphasis on change management and communication with stakeholders to address staff concerns about matters such as breakdowns, vehicle performance and range anxiety.

Mashford provided training for drivers and workshop staff to make sure they were comfortable with the inclusion of EVs. “Information and education need to happen and is critical from the outset,” says Mashford.

Fitness-for-purpose is a key principle in fleet management and it certainly applies to EVs. Think about the tasks to be undertaken and make sure EVs are suitable, otherwise the program is doomed. Interestingly Canterbury Bankstown have converted the rear passenger space in vehicles to provide greater stowage space.

Communication should not be limited to drivers and should include the management and governance teams,be it the board, council or executive. It’s also important to get other parts of the organisation involved. Specialist areas in your organisation such as the sustainability or WHS department can be great allies.

Moving towards sustainable fleets

It’s important to have a change champion. For Whitehorse this is Fleet Support Officer Catherine Singh. Singh initially organised to lease a number of vehicles to commence the EV journey. As such the organisation was able to build awareness and acceptance as transition continued beyond passenger vehicles into specialist heavy vehicles. “We have now received an SEA Electric truck that has an elevating work platform,” says Singh.