Slow drive for EV in enterprise as panel predicts fleets are at least eight years away
While there may be a 2030 deadline looming that will see a ban on new sales of diesel and petrol vehicles, EV fleets in companies are still a long way from replacing the company car or van and will require a mindset change according to an expert panel at London’s EV Show last month.
At a consumer level electric vehicles offer a tax efficient way of getting around, acknowledged Wex VP of international technology, Alexandre Page-Relo, but from an enterprise perspective take-up may take a little longer.
Fellow panel member John Lowes, a senior technical advisor at High Voltage Systems and Services, predicted that a complete shift to electric fleets in industry would take “around eight-ish years”.
According to Coleen Highfield, senior director for HR at Wex – a financial technology service provider which is investing in EV charging points – there’s an entire change management system that needs to take place, particularly in upskilling the workforce.
Drivers need to learn how to charge their vehicles not only from their homes but also at their work place and other destinations – something the senior director (also the new owner of an electric Mini) has had to grapple with herself.
A stumbling block that all panellists agreed was hampering EV adoption was the fear of not being able to find somewhere to charge their EVs – which has been termed ‘charging anxiety’.
Andreea Nitica, fleet manager at Village Heating Ltd, told London EV delegates of a recent blunder that saw one EV breaking down, another coming to its rescue but then also breaking down and both drivers’ phones running out of battery. As she pointed out: “suddenly you’re looking at a health and safety issue.”
Enterprises will need to look at putting new policies into place when making the switch to electric.
After the debacle that Village Heating staff experienced, Nitica now insists that all drivers are provided with charging packs, and, as an added layer of protection, it is now the sole responsibility of the driver to fully charge their van every morning.
The company is piloting 15 electric vans on a voluntary basis, and it has already learned that a charging port at the driver’s home as well as on-site is preferable.
But there are still other logistics to consider: What happens when a driver lives in a flat? As Page-Relo asked. Or if the driver leaves the company, at what point and how do you remove the charger?
Highfield admitted there were certainly many complexities implementing an EV fleet from an employer perspective and she added that businesses will need to look holistically at the employee lifecycle.
Who to charge?
From an on-boarding perspective this could be installing a charger at the employee’s home (if possible); assessing the cost of this and then also looking at the liability around employee exit in terms of who is responsible for removing the charger.
Highfield said that there was also a further challenge around the level of time it takes to determine what percentage of the charge has been used for business use versus personal use. There are solutions out there, she added, but these were likely to come at an additional cost, both financially and time-related.
In terms of batteries, all panellists cited the inability of EVs to make long journeys as a drawback.
Nitica had to tackle this pre-pilot launch and as a result chose drivers who lived in and around the London area.
Panellist Michael Hook, operational growth manager at Scotland-based Gofor Finance, agreed the range isn’t quite there yet in terms of EV mileage, but pointed out, “how often do you drive 350 miles without stopping in a non-electric vehicle?”
Go For Finance is also one of the growing number of firms that have become a proponent of salary sacrifice – the concept that, as an employee you sacrifice a small portion of your salary in return for a new electric car typically saving 50% of your annual motor costs through income tax and national insurance savings.
Speaking on another panel at the show, the company’s head of sales, Paul Gordon, told the audience that salary sacrifice was one of the key enablers to electrification, alongside some of the logistical considerations such as charger infrastructure and vehicle lead times.
Highfield concluded that when it came to going electric, there wasn’t a “one size fits all” but it does require a different mindset to owning a traditional company car.
“We need to be flexible and we need to be able to learn quickly. It’s about changing behaviours and thinking ahead,” she said.
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