Building an Electric Fleet

With new models arriving on the market, and potential government incentives (or penalties) on the way, is now the right time to make your move to EVs?

Drive Electric is a membership organisation, that provides a platform for leading businesses to make the transition to an electric future. They produced the practical ‘How to Guide’ with SG Fleet, Meridian Energy, and EECA. We asked Drive Electric’s Mark Gilbert for his tips for building an EV fleet.

1. What do you need to know about your staff?
When you’re introducing EVs, you’re introducing change and that can be tough, especially in larger organisations. Your best friend in this whole process is having good GPS data and someone who can interpret and model it. Ask:

  • What’s the average trip distance?
  • How many trips are over 100 kilometres?
  • When are pool vehicles going out during the day?

All this impacts the bottom line and some potentially unpopular decisions may need to be made. Do you give your salespeople the right to take their car home for example? Or leave it at work to charge?

2. What do you need to know about your fleet?
Understanding which cars are allocated as ‘a tool of trade’versus pool vehicles, is important because in the case of a tool of trade vehicle, obviously significantly more engagement is needed.

Another important consideration is the lease-profile of the fleet. When Westpac moved to EVs, they undertook in-depth, whole-of-life financial modelling, including the predicted cost of setting up charging infrastructure in year one.

Meridian Energy’s case was different. It owns rather than leases its vehicles, allowing Nick Robillard more freedom to make the big calls, with fewer internal stakeholders to persuade and more flexibility around timing.

The way that you procure and manage your vehicles will affect how agile you can be about transitioning to electric

 3. Vehicle selection : What do you need to know to choose the right EV? 

When choosing cars for your team, ask: What’s the profile of the user? Is it someone doing door-to-door sales inside the metro area, and never going out of town?” In that case, the Nissan Leaf is absolutely fit for purpose.

For staff doing longer open road trips, perhaps a vehicle like the Hyundai IONIQ,– although given it only has a 180-odd kilometre battery range, you’ll perhaps be relying on public charging infrastructure on key routes. Or if you need full flexibility, a plug-in hybrid EV (PHEV) might be ideal to give confidence to the driver that they won’t be caught short. Do the research and the trip modelling so you can get the right vehicle. Apps such as PlugShare can tell you precisely where to find charging stations on any route.

 4. What do you need to know about charging infrastructure? 

Vehicle selection is the fun part, but sorting out charging infrastructure is where procurement managers really earn their keep. The cost to put in chargers varies massively according to the site.

  • What capacity do you have on your power board?
  • How far is it from the board to the car park you want to provision?
  • Are you putting in AC or DC three-phase?

If you lease premises, then you’ll need to come to an arrangement with your landlord and fellow tenants. It’s an improvement to their building, so are they going to contribute? Are you going to separately meter the power? Who’s paying for the power?”  How you answer those questions can mean the difference between spending just a few hundred dollars and spending far more. 

5. Charger capacity and type - how do you choose? 
At Meridian’s main offices, they chose 7.2kw AC single-phase pod chargers. They don’t take long to get a vehicle back to 80 per cent charge, after a usual day’s use. But there are DC three-phase 22kw fast chargers capable of recharging a battery to 80 percent in 60-90 minutes – provided the building has the capacity to deliver that amount of power.

For pool vehicles that return to base each day, you can set them to charge overnight during off-peak and get a lower price. Otherwise, would you consider home charging? If staff are able to charge at home, you’ll need to sort out who pays the bill, not only for the power used but also, potentially, to install a specialised charger. If someone is living in an apartment, this could be a challenge.

Businesses may need to consider access to public charging before making any decision about the type and number of chargers to install.  

6. Do the numbers stack up? 
EVs may be more expensive upfront. Against that, you’re only spending an average 30 cents a litre to keep them running. And with fewer than 30 moving parts, maintenance costs are negligible. 

When Meridian was looking at the IONIQ, their experience was that it cost around $15,000 more per vehicle than if they bought a similarly sized diesel alternative. On the other side of the ledger, however, that premium exactly matches the average $15,000 average operating expenditure of their non-electric vehicles over three years – meaning that, effectively, having next-to-no operating costs pays back the premium in only three years.

Also, the residual value is looking good, with EV fleet cars retaining 87 percent of their original purchase price after 14 months, compared with the 70-75 percent value with non-EV fleet vehicles.

Conclusion
So, these are the six important things to consider. But this is not just a question of numbers. Consider also, that New Zealand’s commercial and Government organisations have a vital role in ushering in an electric vehicle future. It’s all a matter of leadership.

See EECA’s total cost of ownership for vehicles tool, which helps fleet managers to compare the cost of buying, running and on-selling new vehicles, including fully electric vehicles.

To read the full ‘How to Guide’ and learn more about Drive Electric White Papers and other business resources, or to enquire about membership please visit driveelectric.org.nz or email [email protected]