The Reality for Transitioning Fleets
Posted on June 15th, 2021 by Charlie Gilbert
Posted on June 15th, 2021 by Charlie Gilbert
We sat down with Charlie Gilbert, Partner at Field Dynamics, to discuss the hidden complexities involved in the transition to a fully electric fleet, as well as lessons learned from our fleet transition projects.
“There is a real mix out there, with various stages of adoption. There are those who are still in their infancy and considering pilots to those who are now well advanced, and highly sophisticated in their thinking and approach. Centrica have made great progress on their objective to fully electrify their fleet by 2025. The development of some leaders bringing out their own advisory services to help others follow in their footsteps (such as Mitie with their Plan Zero service) is symptomatic of the desire and appetite to learn and get it right first time.
It’s crucial that we take the learnings from the early adopters who have made the switch and disseminate what went well, and where the key challenges are. Transitioning at scale needs the detailed thinking, with multiple stakeholders being involved in the process (fleet, operations, finance, strategy, estates, sustainability, exec) – all with different objectives to manage – Productivity vs. TCO vs. strategy vs. brand vs. service. With many organisations under pressure to state that they will have a fully electric fleet by a set date (2030 seems to be the preferred date), there will also be a need to track progress as each stage of your transition is undertaken, especially after the initial easier areas of the operation to electrify are complete.
Whilst size and scale of your fleet are clearly key factors, its more about the diversity of your fleet where the real complexity is introduced. There is a lot of data to collate from multiple systems to understand current operating footprint and scenarios to play out to ensure the transition will proceed smoothly. All this needs to be timed with vehicle and estates leasing cycles.
Fleets that service a multitude of customer needs will have the biggest challenges – handling regular planned maintenance work whilst also managing more unpredictable reactive workloads is challenging enough with an ICE fleet. Throw the opportunities and constraints of EV into the mix and it adds another tier of logic you need to manage. In these scenarios, fleet mix contains everything from technicians who park and charge at home, through to plant and machinery housed in depots. There is then the provision other factors, such as resupply and the services to your directly employed workforce as well as how you service your outsourced entities to consider also.”
“Fleet transition impacts all areas of your business, but an area we believe that is sometimes overlooked is across operational delivery. In addition to the key area of driver re-training, there is the overall design of your service operating model that that might need to be tweaked and adjusted to manage your EV fleet. Some organisations have not fully appreciated this yet, as in pilot phases they provide vehicles to drivers in areas of the business where there is very little impact of change.
Even without the EV question, business as usual transformation is sometimes complex and time consuming – we have worked with organisations helping them model impacts to their depot mix and locations, changes to working patterns or redesign of their operating patches for many years – it can be complex, covering people, process and technology and requires detailed consultation with your workforce – EV fleet transition is no different and engagement is key.
It’s also more than looking at the range of vehicles and considering a like-for-like replacement – let’s play out a scenario for a return to home fleet. According to our research, 34.8% of households don’t have access to off street charging and only 10% of these homes are within a 5-minute walk of a charger. We estimate that up to 50% of their drivers have an on-street challenge, and there needs to be a solution here.
Nearby slower on-street charging is one sensible option, where charging can be undertaken overnight – providing you can get regular access to the charger of course. Rapid hubs like Gridserve (who plan to install 100 EV forecourts) and the wider electrification of the fuel forecourt network who may also help, but many services will need a guaranteed charge on a regular basis and need to start the day with full batteries.
If you are going to provide EVs to drivers who don’t have the capability to charge off street at home, then what do you do? Do you provide additional charging to them at a nearby depot and site? Can you find partners to works with? Even if you need to move the vehicle to a new location where it can be charged you will see operational impacts. Commutes might increase. Working patterns might need to be adjusted. Scheduling systems reconfigured. All these changes need to be captured, measured and assessed.”
“This depends on some key elements. At a high level, the closer your operation of today reflects the range and specification of tomorrow the easier the transition, but delve deeper and its more nuanced than this. I would break this down into some key areas:
“Most leasing providers and telematics companies are building out solutions and bolt-on’s to existing fleet management toolsets to help with the core elements of EV fleet transition – such as vehicle mileage, TCO, emissions and even what models are suitable to switch to.
But further ahead, I am confident there will be new solutions to address fleet drivers which will help with the wider operating model questions, which will need to integrate into back-office systems and data will need to be joined up.
We are already seeing significant interest and funding opportunities for innovation in this area. In the last 3 months £85M of funding from DfT and OZEV has been made available for the decarbonisation of transport in new competitions run by Innovate UK, Driving the Electric Revolution and the Niche Vehicle Network, and their launch events have attracted over 2,500 attendees indicating the interest in this topic.
There will be new partnerships and new service models to broker. One of the areas we have been exploring is the concept of the virtual depot, where large car parks in areas where there is a guaranteed overnight charging need from on-street drivers. We are already seeing this from the car park vendors who are offering the space and now the charger as a managed service. This trajectory will continue – but supply will be start be made available at some new, non-conventional locations.”
Charlie has over 15 years of experience working with a range of field service functions across the service and utility sectors, helping clients to redesign and restructure their operations to improve productivity. Charlie also leads on Field Dynamics net zero and EV transition work.