Our in-house electric vehicle expert answers business owner questions on fleet electrification.

The addition of Sam Clarke to the ranks of GRIDSERVE last year was excellent news for our team and for business fleet owners across the UK. As our Chief Vehicle Officer and a well-known ‘Green Fleet’ expert, he offers industry-leading wisdom on the logistics and surprising benefits of electrifying your business fleet.

A Renault Kangoo on the road and delivering goods to UK customers.

Sam cut his teeth early in the commercial EV world when he created Gnewt, a green logistics specialist with the UK’s largest commercial EV fleet. Over the last decade, he’s won multiple awards, worked as an industry advisor, co-authored academic papers and become one of the most influential players in the world of Low Carbon Fleets. 

After a year in the driver’s seat at GRIDSERVE, Sam has been busier than ever, but we managed to put him on the spot this week to answer some tricky questions from three UK business owners who are considering the shift to an EV fleet.

Look out for the next piece in this ongoing series, where we’ll use Sam’s experience as a green fleet owner to answer all of your questions about going EV.

A line up of commercial electric vehicles from Mercedes. As you can see, all types of businesses can make the transition to low carbon transport.

Sam, the first question that our business audience has is ‘Why’? Why should my company consider an EV fleet in 2021? 

Well, there are loads of reasons, but I’d say the benefits can be summed up in three main points: 

1. Reduce OPEX

I always like to start with the bottom line. Whether you outright purchase or lease, electric vehicles will (on paper) likely seem a more expensive option when the capital asset value is considered in isolation. However, by making the change to electric vehicles, fleet owners are looking at a significant reduction in operating expenditure. The reduction of fuel and maintenance costs are a huge consideration, but there are also definite benefits for those operating in tariff-heavy low emissions zones. To put it simply, electric fleets offer a better total cost of ownership (TCO) for business owners.

2. Gain a competitive edge

Another positive to fleet electrification is the opportunity it offers to differentiate your business and stand out from the competition. Running a green fleet is a significant USP you can offer to conscious consumers. Importantly, not everyone is doing it yet, so you’ve got a chance to get in early and incorporate a CSR policy that has significant gains for the environment but also benefits your brand.

3. Be a forward thinker

Thirdly, you’ll be future-proofing your business. Anyone buying a diesel or petrol-fuelled vehicle at this point should be aware of the upcoming restrictions. While these aren’t being enforced yet, most major car companies are now producing EV vehicles and intending to transition away from ICE before the 2030 UK deadline.  

There are electric fleet vehicles to suit almost any type of business.

Next, we have a question from an Essex-based fresh food delivery business who are pretty sceptical about cost. They want to know how you justified the initial investment to electrify your fleet, as it’s more expensive per vehicle.

That’s a fair question. I think business owners instinctively see the initial cost as a barrier; I know I did and on first look, it’s true, EVs are more expensive than their diesel or petrol counterparts. But I got a much more accurate cost calculation when I looked at the big picture.

For example: When you recalculate the total cost of an ICE vehicle by including the fuel and maintenance expenses over five years, you’ll realise you’re working with a very different base number. In reality, an EV fleet with charging and maintenance included will be on par and often cheaper than staying with diesel in the long run. 

I guess the trick is fully understanding what your fleet costs are now, and how much you can offset them with commercial electric vehicles. In most cases, going electric will show business owners a return on their initial investment in three to five years and a continued reduction in operating expenses from that time.

Business owners can install depo chargers or use the ever-growing public charging network.

Then there’s the job of charging a fleet of vehicles. How can business owners be confident this won’t reduce productivity?

This is an important question, and straight off the bat, you should know that charging options will vary for fleets of different sizes. The solution will also depend on your business model, your balance sheet and your premises, so it will be different for everyone. I’ve laid out the basic options below. Still, it’s not a matter of choosing one or the other – stay open to the idea of a combination situation or even a slow transition where you use different charging methods to reduce your operating costs.

1. Depot charging

Some business owners choose to install their own private depo charging infrastructure when they get an EV fleet. That’s what I did, and it allowed me to charge at night and utilise dwell time on my own premises. To do this you must install workplace chargers, and if you want to increase your fleet even more, consider smart charging systems that allow you to load balance effectively, take advantage of the best off-peak electricity prices and potentially connect to the grid to use the battery fleet as a power source (V2G). I’ll share more about that another day but GRIDSERVE can assist with all the above when you’re ready

2. Charging Stations

There are also plenty of options for fleet owners who don’t have lots of space for depot charging, or those who run fleets where staff do long distances. For this, I recommend public charging facilities. You can see a map of all the public charge points in the UK here. There are many, and GRIDSERVE is currently building a nationwide network of rapid charge Electric Forecourts® and Electric Hubs to extend that range even further. In my opinion, successful public charging is simply about range management and good planning. You can easily map routes for drivers to stop by a charging point at some time in their workday just as they would stop by a petrol station.

There’s a lot more to say about charging, choosing the right vehicles for your fleet and managing the transition with telematics, but I’ll leave it there for now. When it comes to running a business, the bottom line is always a priority, so I recommend you start by using one of these calculators to define your total cost of ownership then go from there.

I’ll be back next month to answer more questions so send them through here  or just get in touch for a chat.

Until next time!

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