Electric Vehicles and Fleet Management (Part 4):
In this series, I’ve so far established what’s driving the growth in electric vehicle (EV) models with global automakers.
And I’ve addressed why Australia needs to get ready for the arrival of more EVs – despite a lot of the wider groundwork (such as consumer purchase incentives and wider recharging networks) not yet being in place.
If you haven’t already, take a look at the three previous instalments to read about these topics.
This is the final episode in this series on electric vehicles and fleet management. And it focusses on answering this important question:
IN FLEET MANAGEMENT, HOW DO I INTEGRATE AND TRANSITION TO EVs WITHOUT IMPACTING MY OPERATIONAL CAPABILITY AND COSTS?
There will be some challenges for all of us in fleet management.
And they can all be worked around with homework and time.
OK, let’s start.
Here are some key topics you need to be aware of with EVs in Australia:
Range anxiety: This is probably the biggest resistance people will have to EVs, next to cost. It’s when the driver of an EV thinks they might run out of battery charge and fear they’ll end up stranded on the side of the road. (Restarting most EVs with flat battery isn’t like pouring a small can of petrol or diesel into an empty tank so you can get to the nearest service station.)
This issue will persist until we have a widespread network of recharging stations (like petrol stations) and automakers build EVs with longer driving ranges between battery recharges.
Cost: Most full EVs cost more to make compared to equivalent petrol/diesel models. So they’re more expensive to buy (well, they are for now). Scale will likely bring these prices down. Right now, their cheaper running costs aren’t likely to give any decent offset to their higher capital outlay.
But this could change in time.
And you might need to factor in the cost of battery recharging units if you need to recharge your fleet on-site. It’s worth looking into organisations like Chargefox and Jetcharge about EV recharging.
Resale value: At the moment local resale values for EVs are reasonable. It’s because of the limited number available for sale. But once volumes increase, resale values will probably fall, especially if the vehicle needs a replacement battery.
Maintenance support: Most auto brands that sell EVs, especially BEVs, don’t equip all of their dealerships and official workshops to support the maintenance and repair of these models. This could take some time to change.
The full environmental story: For EVs, this hasn’t been realised. At the moment, building and disposing of EVs can have a bigger impact on the environment compared to conventional vehicles that have petrol and diesel engines.
In time this could also change.
There are other alternative engine technologies (such as hydrogen-powered fuel cells, which produce electricity (to drive an electric motor) and emit only water vapour). But if your organisation has a strong ‘green’ stance and message, you need to consider these current facts with EVs.
Taxes: The fuel taxes that exist at the moment pay for things like road building and road maintenance. If the country suddenly dropped its current use of petrol and diesel fuels, new levies would likely emerge.
The need for roads – and their costs – will still be there. So be prepared for new charges to come along. There will always be costs associated with running vehicles on roads.
So, as a fleet owner or fleet manager, these are some key topics you need to be thinking about – whether you’re big or small.
If you’re a good fleet management operator, you’ll navigate these challenges.
And navigation step one is addressing this:
HOW DO WE TAKE THE PLUNGE IN A DISCIPLINED WAY – WHILE EDUCATING THOSE AROUND US ABOUT THE BENEFITS AND SAVINGS?
As with any new technology, we should take small steps.
It’s what governments have done for some years now.
It’s what automakers have been doing.
And it makes sense that we should, too.
Today’s conventional vehicles can run for up to 150,000km and/or 10 years without too much hassle. Improved reliability and technologies make this possible.
So, unless your fleet has hundreds of vehicles running more than 30,000km a year, any change-over to new vehicles – including EVs of any kind – will likely be slow.
If you choose to start moving to vehicles with electric technologies, there are plenty of models available now that are a solid and reasonable first step to an EV.
Hybrid vehicles offer low fuel consumption – especially plug-in hybrid vehicles. There are some affordable prices available for these, and their service intervals can be quite long. And they’re showing relatively solid resale values.
Starting with hybrid vehicles is a good step towards full battery EVs.
Put fuel consumption towards the top of your purchase criteria. This will force you to unearth some good mild-hybrid vehicle options that otherwise wouldn’t make your list.
Full BEVs are best suited to urban commuting and mobile toolbox vehicles where the vehicle spends much of the day idle on a worksite. This is especially the case when you consider the small recharging network that’s currently available.
Don’t discount the traditional daily commute. It might have disappeared during COVID-19. And it might not return as we’ve known it. But there’s still plenty of professions that need a vehicle for the daily drive to work – and for when work puts them on the road.
EVs suit this role.
But make sure the optimum replacement time is set at five years OR 150,000km, whichever comes first. This ensures the car’s residual value has been built into its ownership cost (as you know, this is good fleet management practice.)
Plan for a long replacement cycle. Doing this means you’ll probably enjoy decent jumps in technology and performance when the replacement vehicle comes around. And you’ll further justify the cost of an EV. And you’ll reduce the overall ownership cost of the outgoing vehicle.
So there you have it:
The future is electric.
As a fleet management pro, I encourage you to start preparing to integrate AND transition to cars and commercials with EV technologies.
It might not be for a while, and you might not replace your entire fleet with EVs.
BY PREPARING NOW, YOU’LL BE IN A STRONG AND MORE COMFORTABLE POSITION FOR THE CHANGE WHEN THE TIME COMES.
And you’ll avoid a lot of stress and cost.