An electrifying journey

Company Focus

Beverley Wise, Regional Director UK & Ireland for Webfleet Solutions, explores the opportunities for fleets to harness data to support the electric transition.


Fleet electrification is gathering pace as the UK’s transition to a carbon neutrality intensifies.


Electro-mobility will have a vital role to play in our fight against climate change, and the call to action for businesses is unequivocal. With the sale of new fossil-fuelled cars and vans set to end in just 8 years, there’s a pressing need for fleets to establish robust green strategies, with clearly defined timelines for change.


In addition to public policy stimuli, electric vehicle (EV) deployment can also prove compelling when viewed through the lens of financial returns.


EV fleets will not only realise environmental and reputation gains, but they can also benefit from cheaper fuel – despite soaring energy costs – lower operating and maintenance bills, tax incentives, grant subsidies and charging exemptions.


For businesses looking to make the move, however, it can be difficult to know where to start.


Enter stage right telematics-generated data intelligence.


As fleets assess the feasibility of adopting EVs at planning stage, telematics insights can help them calculate prospective Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) savings. Tools such as WEBFLEET’s Fleet Electrification Report, meanwhile, will help them establish the typical mileage and commutes currently undertaken by drivers.


Drawing upon data from existing vehicles, maximum daily ‘real world’ mileages can be selected by fleet managers, along with criteria ranging from road types to standstill times. And by doing so, they can identify their internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles that could be readily replaced with EV alternatives.


Consideration should also be given to the operational nature of journeys. Telematics insights can help shed light on these.


Although EV choice is improving, fleets should pay heed to payload requirements, along with other business prerequisites, such as the need to tow civil plant or other equipment.


Elsewhere, charging infrastructure and availability can be another influencing factor. Limited public availability can be a problem in rural areas, for example, while charging space can also be at a premium at motorway services, compounding range anxiety and complicating journey planning.


Telematics mileage and dwell time insights will help signpost where vehicles spend most time, enabling businesses to identify whether companies need to use home, office or public charging infrastructure, or a combination of all three. The business strategy will depend upon fleet composition and business use, and this will be unique to every organisation.


Workplace charging is likely to be of particular value to commercial fleets whose vehicles return to a central depot, for example, for companies whose field-based employees face long car journeys to the office or for those who, due to a lack of off-street parking, are unable to install home chargers.


Scalability, taking account of future growth, should be built into fleet plans, but the charging landscape is rapidly changing and fleet decision-makers would be wise to keep one eye on the future.


New charge points are being installed on a daily basis, with the government setting aside more than £1bn to boost infrastructure rollout. From June, electric vehicle charge points must be installed in all new residential and non-residential buildings with more than ten parking spaces.


The data route to EV management


Telematics insights will not only support the initial EV transition, but also the fleet’s on-going management.

Connected data can be used to optimise vehicle routing, for example, ensuring drivers make the most of their electric miles and reduce en route charging.


Range anxiety can be moderated by monitoring battery level and remaining driving distances. All the while, mapped coverage of charging points will help drivers find the closest EV charging stations via their connected sat nav devices.


Geo-fence alerts can be set up to identify commercial vehicles entering Ultra-Low Emission Zones, helping highlight where EVs could be used more cost-effectively.


SMR in the spotlight


Although EVs tend to suffer from fewer maintenance issues, where problems occur, they can be out of commission for longer periods with repairs relating to electrical components calling for the discharging and recharging of batteries.


On-board diagnostics, malfunction alerts and connected EV health data, including battery status, relayed to managers from their electric fleets in real time using telematics platforms, can ensure preventative maintenance work is carried out in a timely manner.


Vehicle maintenance planning tools will also help fleet operators make use of real measured mileage to plan maintenance intervals.


Furthermore, the impact of harsh driving styles – including aggressive cornering, braking or speeding – on fleet maintenance costs can prove as damaging for EVs as for ICE vehicles. Advanced solutions such as WEBFLEET’s OptiDrive 360 will scores and profiles drivers based on performance indicators that relate to efficient, smooth and safe driving.


Armed with such powerful insights, progressive businesses will be better placed to make the right decisions at the right times. Moreover, invest in a future proof-solution from a provider that has a track record of bringing cutting edge technology to market and they will be raising the bar in sustainable, efficient fleet management for years to come.


More detailed support for commercial fleets making the EV switch can be found in Webfleet Solutions’ guide to van fleet electrification guide here.