Switching a company fleet to electric vehicles (EVs) is not as straightforward as it sounds. There may be cost implications and the existing fleet has to be matched with suitable electric alternatives. Furthermore, the circumstances of the people who are going to be driving the vehicles need to be taken into account. After all, there is little point in giving someone an EV to take home at night if they live in an apartment without a charging point.
According to Polestar head of Irish market Kieran Campbell, the best advice for companies considering a switch is to discuss it directly with the brand chosen to supply the vehicles. This will allow them to match their needs with the products the brand has on sale.
“Take the time to do the correct research and evaluate the total cost of ownership of the battery electric vehicles [BEVs] versus the existing internal combustion engine [ICE] vehicles,” he adds. “A direct conversation needs to happen with the brand to establish the customers’ needs and find the most suitable product for the client. As this may be the first move a client will be making into the world of BEVs, it is vital that their needs are met after being thoroughly identified.”
Fiona Brady, head of operations and public affairs at Free Now Ireland, advises businesses to assess the benefits of EV ownership before making the move. “Taxi drivers are small business owners,” she says. “When choosing a vehicle for their business, they look at the total cost of ownership and, most importantly, how it can work for their business in the long term. By opting to switch to an electric vehicle, they are future proofing their business and reliability on a finite resource. As well as preparing for the future, there are some immediate benefits to switching including lower running costs and lower service and maintenance costs.”
Customer reaction is also important. “Another important factor is the growing demand from consumers for businesses and brands to provide more sustainable options,” she adds. “Research we carried out earlier this year found that 87 per cent of passengers are worried about climate change and 97 per cent of our passengers think that it is up to businesses to make it easier for consumers to adopt greener habits through their services.”
Free Now is assisting drivers who want to change to an EV. “We appreciate that making the switch to EV can be a big decision for some drivers and we want to support them in making an informed decision,” Brady says. “That’s why we have a dedicated, in-house EV expert switch team who work closely with drivers, providing them with the information and resources ranging from supports available, accessing finance, vehicle choice to charging options and the benefits of making the switch.”
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) advises businesses to consider a number of factors including range and usage patterns when making the switch to an electric fleeting. Noting that the key difference between internal combustion and electric vehicles is the driving range, the SEAI points out that as electric vehicle driving ranges have increased, a single charge can now cover all the standard travel requirements of a fleet user.
The type of route the vehicle will be used for is a good indicator of suitability. If driving distances are quite stable across the week or month, then it’s straightforward to understand if an EV is suitable.
Charging is another issue. If the business has a base location where vehicles are parked at night, this is ideal for overnight charging. If the vehicles are not brought back to a base location, they will need to be charged by the public network or by employees on a home charger, if they have one.
This may require companies to install chargers in employees’ homes or to come to alternative arrangements for overnight charging if that is not an option.
The use the vehicle is to be put to is another important consideration, according to the SEAI. For example, if heavy loads are going to be carried, that will affect the driving range and may limit the choice of models available to the company. However, a growing number of larger EVs are coming on to the market and this should solve that problem. They come with a bigger price tag as well, of course.
Finally, the SEAI advises businesses to trial vehicles before purchasing. This will offer the opportunity to assess the range and capabilities of the vehicles under real world conditions.