September 13, 2017

Considering electric vehicles for your fleet? Here's what you need to know

With automotive technology making great strides in the past five years, the opportunity for organizations, particularly those with large fleets, to take advantage of this innovation is huge. When it comes to electric vehicles, a number of companies have successfully integrated these into their day-to-day operations, seeing strong commercial and environmental benefit. However, if you're still considering whether an electric vehicle is right for your fleet, and need to understand how this will impact staff and business in general, here's what you need to know.

Full Electric v Hybrid Vehicles
There are several different types of electric vehicles on the market today, with varying degrees of dependence on electricity. The main two being battery electric vehicles, or full electric vehicles and hybrids. Battery electric vehicles, as the name suggests use chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs. All of their power is derived from electricity, and there are no internal combustion engines.  Some popular makes of battery electric vehicles are the Tesla, BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf. The alternative is a hybrid vehicle. These not only have rechargeable battery packs, but also run on a regular combustion engine, examples of hybrids include the Toyota Prius or Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Benefits of EVs

As you can expect, one of the main benefits of using an electric vehicle is the reducing of environmental impact. Using electric vehicles reduces carbon emissions, which in turn improves public health and reduces ecological damage. In addition, it shifts the reliance away from petroleum. From an organizational perspective, this is a great way to show the public a commitment to greener business practices and innovation.

Lower Maintenance & Operational Costs
Although electric vehicles will usually have a higher purchase price than their combustion engine counterparts, they have less ongoing costs with annual savings of approximately 35% compared to an equivalent petrol vehicle. Fuel or energy use is also often a significant savings. Not only are electric prices less than that of gasoline, they are also much more stable as a resource, so calculating ongoing costs is easier due to minimal fluctuation. In general, it costs less than half as much to travel the same distance in an EV than a conventional vehicle. In addition, some governments are offering incentives for purchasing an electric vehicle.

Improved Data Visibility and Intelligence
From a data collection perspective, electric vehicles have greater connectivity with onboard diagnostics. This data can be more easily read and transferred to systems, which in turn would allow you to pull up this information at your desk. This could allow managers and drivers to pull real-time information on the battery charge status, service logs, tyre pressure as well as any potential issues that will need to be seen to before the car can be driven again. This not only increases safety and mitigates the inconvenience of knowing when a vehicle is charged and how much range it has, but also allows for easier and streamlined management of the fleet as a whole.


Limited Options of Utility EV - Electric vehicles are not without their limitations, and this is something that will need to be taken into consideration when looking to integrate EVs into your fleet. Although the range of electric vehicles and hybrids have increased significantly in the past five years, they are still somewhat limited in both from a make perspective, and in terms of vehicle type. For example, replacing small petrol cars and sedans is certainly viable with a large range of EV alternatives, however other vehicles such as utilities or trucks don't have as many if any options.

Range Anxiety & Capacity
EVs are still limited in their driving range before needing to be recharged - often less than regular petrol cars. This, combined with the fact that charging stations are generally less prevalent than regular gas stations, and re-charging takes longer can pose some limitations and work-arounds that need to be considered.

Considerations for Integration

While there are still some issues with electric vehicles, the benefits are certainly clear. When looking at integrating these vehicles into your fleets, with the right planning, many pitfalls can be mitigated.

Fleet Use Profiling
First, consider your organisation's driving habits. Are most fleet vehicles used for long or short distances? Or is it a mix? The best way to understand this is to analyse your existing fleets' telematics data. You may find that your base assumptions are quite different from what the reality is - as Meridian Energy discovered.

Staged Integration
A staged approach to integrating EVs into your fleet is a great way to start. This mixed approach allows fleets to identify the ways they can be best integrated into your fleet's operations. Many fleets initially bringing on a number of electric vehicles for shorter journeys and continue using petrol or hybrid electric vehicles for longer trips. However, for some cities, this may not even need to be a consideration if electric vehicle charging stations have been integrated well into the road system.

Cost/Benefit Analysis
It's also important to consider the cost/benefit implications of purchasing electric vehicles. As discussed, upfront electric vehicle costs can be higher, but there are notable ongoing savings across fuel (energy) costs and ongoing maintenance and repairs.

There isn't a better time than now

There is no doubt that electric vehicles are the wave of the future for both personal and business use. With environmental issues now at the forefront of consumers, business and government minds alike, the incentives and expectations of businesses to start integrating electric vehicles, are only going to grow. With the benefits, not only from a corporate social responsibility perspective but also cost savings and the potential to streamline management and data collection, you should be looking into the viability of electric vehicles being integrated into your fleet now.

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