If you have been reading our EVolution blog series, you’ll already know why my colleagues believe eMobility at scale is key for decarbonisation.  

And while take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) by individuals is essential, fleet decarbonisation is the first—and more dominant—wave of electrification. 

For me personally, it combines my passion for sustainability—developed from a young age when my mother was finishing a master’s degree on the topic—with my own drive to accelerate the shift to net-zero. 

As I work with my fleet operator clients on the electric fleet of the future, we’re talking about: why now, what are the pain points, and how do you get ahead in practical terms?  

Here are a few thoughts. 

The EVolving context

The pressure to decarbonise is on, and my clients know it. With governments in countries such as the United Kingdom stopping internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle sales by 2030, and companies everywhere publishing their net-zero targets, decarbonising your fleet is a key prong of the environment, social, and governance (ESG) strategy. 

Individually and collectively, my clients understand the moral imperative to address climate change and air pollution (Sustainable Development Goals #3, #11 and #13 principally—all due by 2030 too).  

Fleets’ standard business models must change, with government restrictions on polluting vehicles in city centres likely to curtail non-EV operations very soon. And for businesses everywhere that don’t own or operate fleets, decarbonising the supply chain is a pressing concern, with companies now needing to disclose their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and set robust targets to address Scope 3 emissions. 

But fleet decarbonisation is not as simple as buying some EVs and putting in some charging stations, with typical barriers for EV fleet transition including a lack of charging infrastructure; lack of appropriate EV types; and the capital costs of EVs.  

I don’t underestimate those pain points.  

But they aren’t insurmountable. And the good news is fleet decarbonisation can hit cost objectives as well as GHG emissions goals—Accenture analysis suggests electrifying your fleet can generate up to 85% operations and maintenance (O&M) savings compared to ICE vehicles. And moving to EVs may also provide an opportunity to downsize your fleet, with a 1:1 replacement not always needed.  

So if the case is increasingly compelling, how do you do it? Here are four things I’m counselling my clients to think about.  

#1: If you’re not planning for fleet decarbonisation already, start now!  

Let’s say your company’s net-zero target is 2030, by which point you’ll want all your vehicles to be electric. Now work backwards to construct a plan that involves a grid connection upgrade (maybe a year); evaluating and scaling up the right EVs for your business in a strategic way; training and supporting drivers to optimise those vehicles; solving the pain points of charging with the right infrastructure and charging strategies; getting your internal data management processes updated for an EV fleet.  

My experience tells me the smaller things can also trip up the best laid plans. Consider that you may not be able to install charging stations near a school during the day, for instance. A small constraint, but one with the scope to derail a complex rollout plan.  

And at the same time, think holistically. 

It’s not just a case of rolling out or scaling up EVs. Fleet decarbonisation provides an opportunity to rethink how work gets done.  

I’m supporting my clients to think about their operating models and ask: are there more efficient ways to make deliveries? How can we optimise workloads? And what happens if more cities become pedestrianised, and mass charging hubs come to fruition on city outskirts?  

In aggregate, it’s a lot to get your arms around, and if you haven’t started planning, don’t delay. 

#2: Spend the time to model real world conditions 

Baseline your fleet here and now: how it operates, its current efficiency levels. And then spend time to determine the possible impact of real world driving. For instance, we know that driver behaviour can cut EVs’ range by 15%—or even as much as 40% in some cases.  

How? By moving into a real world trial as fast as possible. Take a wide-ranging approach that can encompass variables such as rural versus urban settings; seasonal variation; different job types and durations; EV charging patterns. Then start to trial EVs and collect data around what works and what needs to be refined. 

Above all, consider the business context. 

My law enforcement client needs EVs always available, at any time of day or night, and their EV charging must support that critical business need. Meanwhile, a large delivery client can adjust their delivery schedules and patterns to deliver the best outcomes on cost and efficiency, offering more scope for alternatives to be considered. 

Driver acceptance, training and support is easily overlooked, but crucial to generate the emissions and cost reductions you’re trying to generate. Behavioural change is a crucial component of the fleet decarbonisation journey, requiring a true transformation strategy that enables and supports drivers, prioritises change management and includes engaging early with unions if needed.   

#3: Decarbonise your fleet on clean energy 

It may seem redundant, but I’m going to say it anyway: it’s essential to electrify your fleet with clean energy—if you don’t, you’re only pushing emissions to somewhere else in the value chain. 

Getting the charging timings and plans right has an enormous effect on energy costs. This is where the EV charging platform comes in, and as simple a charging tariff as possible (e.g., overnight, off-peak smart charging) supported by charging stations with the right software. 

With some fleets overspending by figures such as £50,000 in three months just by charging at the wrong time, and dealing with tens of different energy plans or rates from some suppliers, there is scope to trip up at this stage.    

#4: Don’t go it alone 

The eMobility ecosystem is emerging to support my fleet clients. That ecosystem includes automotive, EV charging platforms, billing specialists, energy providers and others. Think EV propositions; EV leasing to fleets; charging in the garage and at the office; green tariffs to go with all that; packaging it all up for the fleet customer (read more here). 

My colleagues have talked about industry convergence as an enabler for eMobility at scale before now, and it’s something I’m encouraging my clients to capitalise on. 

We know partnerships are a key lever for energy providers in the energy transition. We also know that innovation and agility will be key—with Accenture research showing 78% of energy providers believe that those that do not help their customers source energy more responsibly and efficiently with greener products and services will get left behind. 

When it comes to fleet operations, it’s time to EVolve. Contact me to talk more about how and what to do next. 

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George Hobbs

Fleet Decarbonization Lead – Accenture

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