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Fleet managers ponder EV uptake

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For fleet managers considering the replacement of all or part of their fleets the question of the moment is whether now is the time to begin the transition to electric vehicles.

Brendan Wheeler, the co-founder and chief executive officer of EV charging provider EVSE Australia, says some of the earlier barriers around EV cost and availability are being overcome, and with fleet managers turning over their vehicles every three to five years the EV issue is the compelling question of the moment.

“There are upwards of 34 different EV models, from small SUVs to vans, trucks and buses, so that broader range is helping with the uptake,” said Wheeler, who will be a keynote speaker at IPWEA’s upcoming Fleet Conference in Brisbane in March.

“With more brands in the market, prices have come down, and you only have to look at developments such as major car makers like Volvo moving to fully EV by 2026 to see which way the world is heading.

“Then there is the cost of petrol which has spiked significantly, so there is also a total cost of ownership equation around servicing and maintenance requirements and fleet managers are seeing that the gap in capital outlay can be paid back pretty quickly these days.”

Founded in 2015, EVSE has done around 10,000 charging installations with the number increasing to around 3000 last year. Wheelers said that while the trend has been one of continuous growth, last year’s growth was “exponential”.

EV implementation was not only being accelerated by changes in the EV market, says Wheeler, but many organisations have sustainability targets around achieving net zero emissions.

“There’s a broader push to reduce carbon, and that spans solar and LED lighting and now extends to EVs,” he says.

“And some people are reluctant to do business with organisations which are not committed to sustainability, so there’s a brand incentive as well.”

EVSE delivers turnkey solutions for customers in the residential market, and to commercial fleets for corporates and the three tiers of Government.

Wheeler says many managers of larger fleets are pursuing a “staged roll out” where they add EVs for general rather than specialised use as they explore the market.

“There’s always some hesitancy around new technology and how it changes things and whether it is going to work as you might forecast,” he says.

“So what I see and I think the best way to approach it is to go for the easiest vehicles to electrify, so a local council might transition to an EV which is simply used to drive around the council area for meetings and inspections and come back to the office carpark and be parked there overnight.

“That is a very simple use, against trying to electrify those vehicles you need to drive interstate once a week or for more specialised use.”

Wheeler also says there is a wide diversify of charging types, depending on the context.

DC charging, for example, is the closest thing to re-fueling a traditional vehicle and the unit even resembles a petrol bowser. DC charger speeds range from 20kW to 350kW.

Then there are AC chargers suitable for home or office use, for fleets or in commercial settings where users have longer dwell times to charge or limited access to power.

“The fleet space is quite complicated and advanced, and a client’s needs will change as they scale up the EV component of their fleet,” says Wheeler.

“So for that reason we approach these engagements as a partnership rather than just a one-off sale, because we understand organisations are on a journey with their EV implementations and charging is a major part of that equation.”

IPWEA’s 2023 Fleet Conference will be held at the Royal International Convention Centre and Showgrounds in Brisbane from Monday 27th to Wednesday 29th March 2023

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