The top five trends in electric fleets for 2020

Monday, January 20, 2020 - 10:15
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As the UK works towards net zero emissions by 2050, new initiatives and policies are emerging that have provoked increased discussion surrounding the future of electric vehicles (EVs). News stories in recent months have focused on everything from the potential of green number plates to quicker adoption of EVs or stories on how flying electric taxis will revolutionise how we travel.

Some of these predictions have been floating around for a long time, seemingly always just one more year away. So here, I aim to give you an insight into what the top trends in electric fleets will be in 2020.

Electric Fleets

Proliferation of Vehicles

Vehicle availability is widely accepted as the main brake on EV adoption in both the private and fleet sector. Today, there are 60 plug-in electric models available in Europe. By 2021 that number will nearly quadruple to 214.

The announcement earlier in 2019 of the partnership between Amazon and Rivian shows the desire of larger transportation firms to get their hands on light fleet EVs. This deal is unlikely to see delivery in 2020 though, and if the big players are struggling to electrify, smaller players are unlikely to be able to do so in big numbers.

This approach has similarities to the earlier DHL – Street Scooter partnership, which should see an additional 20,000 EVs on the roads worldwide in 2020.

However, demand for these vehicles is only going to increase and production is not likely to keep up for now. Diesel bans and low emission zones are going to grow in scope and scale in the coming year. Demand for electric box trucks capable of less than 200 miles per day that are able to enter city centers will, therefore, grow substantially.

As I write this I am waiting for the imminent unveiling of the Tesla Cyber Truck, a platform that, just like Rivian’s, could easily be reconfigured for commercial use. Be prepared to see the ‘Tesla effect’ spread, with special things coming out of the likes of Arrival and Morris as nimble, small companies come into their own as they are not confined by what they have done in the past.

The larger OEMs are on the right track and will scale eventually, but not in 2020. There is simply too much investment elsewhere for them to respond to the demand curve the industry will see next year.

Short Distance fleets will grow rapidly

Whilst the last mile will continue to develop, other short-distance fleets will also see rapid growth in 2020. New vehicles, such as yard tractors in shipping yards, distribution centers, railway depots, where there is no such concern over range and road charging infrastructure, will see a larger and faster-growing electric share.

These vehicles and use cases offer the path of least resistance. Shuttle vans and garbage vans will follow soon after, as they offer short, predictable routes with regular and assured depot charging.

We may also see an uptake in transition vehicles in 2020, whilst fleet managers are waiting for full production of battery-powered EVs to take off. This option being plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) that are able to transform from diesel vans to PHEV vans at the flick of a switch, allowing them to enter low emission zones by running purely on electric whilst inside and pure diesel outside, thanks to a geo-tracker.

Long haul will take longer to adapt, this doesn’t mean nothing will happen in 2020, there will be a number of steps forward, just not at the speed some may be hoping for.

Realisation that infrastructure is what you make of it

Despite what you have heard, a lack of charging infrastructure is not an argument for most fleets. The ability of fleets to charge at a depot, increased DC charging coverage across the UK and the capabilities of modern smart charging to expand the potential capacity of sites that were previously limited by power will become more apparent in 2020. The year will also see an increase in Roaming Agreements, allowing you to use one provider very much like a current fuel card, usable at different companies’ charging stations across the country.

Easy integration is possible

Fleet owners need to work closely with charging companies to take advantage of the savings offered by EVs however. It is mission-critical to you that adoption does not interfere with day to day operations. This demand is being met by a strong push for service level agreements that see charging not as an amenity but as a mission-critical part of your operation, ensuring that continuity of activity remains constant.

Charging companies are adapting to make this process easier than ever, adding integrations between smart charging, fleet & power management software platforms. Real-time dashboards can scale with the adoption of your fleet, showing the state of your network from a global perspective right down to individual depots. These systems can schedule charging in an integrated way with existing platforms, ensuring that route dispatching is optimized with vehicle charge levels, maintaining continuity of activity whilst optimising TCO.

The EU will start to outpace the US in EV adoption growth

Whilst not strictly in 2020, in the next two years the EU will see more production capacity for EVs than the US in both fleets and private settings. The market is larger, the distances are more suitable and whilst much of Europe is still at an early market stage, it is one that is prepped to play catch up and scale quickly.

A 2018 study by Forbes found that as battery costs decline, the unsubsidised costs of eFleets will be cheaper than diesel within a few years, we should be almost at this point by the end of 2020.

From the rise and fall of the Baker Electric Motor Vehicle Company at the turn of the 20th century to the demise of GM’s EV1 at its close, the story of electric vehicles has had more plot twists than Apollo 13. Today, with a looming climate crisis and pollution choking our cities, EVs are finally—triumphantly—ready for lift-off.  The small step that began with the first mass-produced plug-in EV a mere decade ago is fast becoming a giant leap in the evolution of transportation. One that promises to revolutionise every aspect of fleet management, though we may be still one more year away from mass adoption.

Author: Alain Costa Head of Service/Delivery Fleet Europe ChargePoint 

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