The art of electrifying vehicle fleets: it takes vision, preparation, and human-centeredness

The transition to an electric vehicle fleet stands on the roadmap of most Belgian companies, where it brings up lots of questions around how to best plan and implement such a program across the organization.  

Various reasons are pushing companies towards this transition. But once a company has made this decision, where to start and what to think about? The impacts of this change are major for the company, as, even though it starts as an HR project, we quickly see that it impacts various parts of the organization: its infrastructure, its processes, but also how to educate employees to fully embrace this transition and make it a success.

WHY AN EV TRANSITION?

First, several financial advantages come with electric fleets. Tax incentives are evolving in the coming years, with tax deductibility decreasing for thermal and hybrid vehicles, and increasing for electric vehicles and charging points installations. The total cost of ownership (TCO) is also lowered, as many studies prove that the lower operating costs and the possibility to get subsidies compensate the higher upfront costs from vehicles purchases and charging infrastructure installation. Additionally, fuel costs keep increasing and electric cars can help reduce such costs for the company.

Then, the focus on environmental sustainability impacts increases in most organizations; companies are willing to reduce their impact, and is it largely upon the demand from clients, employees and suppliers.

Of course, the evolution of the automotive market also naturally leads the choice of new cars by companies and employees to the electric range and its many innovations.

Each company has its own combination of motivations and its own priorities, but it is in any case certain that this change is hardly avoidable and represents significant opportunities to take. However, once the choice to switch to an electric fleet has been made, the preparation and execution of this transition shouldn’t be underestimated.

DATA AND PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS, THE KEYS FOR A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT…

We recommend to start first with a review of the current fleet which will allow the company to understand better their needs in terms of fleet, by analyzing the number of vehicles in the company, their usage, the distances travelled daily, the charging levels, the types of itineraries, parking locations, etc. A segmentation of employee types, and features they need, can then be made in order to better prepare its transition.

To carry out this analysis, collecting data is essential and technology can help: for example, Fleet Telematic Systems, collecting driving data of your fleet vehicles, or employee surveys, that can be a less expensive solution.

When needs and segmentations are clarified, operational considerations need to be addressed.

WHAT OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS SHOULD YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT?

  • Fleet Replacement

An important aspect of this transition is the choice of vehicles to add in its fleet catalog. Features, choice criteria, prices, etc. are completely different from thermal cars and the selection must thus be carefully considered.   

Companies are advised to gradually change the fleet to electric cars, preferably when leases come up for renewal. This transition indeed requires time and planning as delivery time for electric cars can be long. Additionally, this step-by-step deployment has the advantage of setting up pilot groups that will detect challenges related to EVs usage and solve them before the deployment is accelerated, as well as identifying successes to keep implementing.

  • Charging Approach

As a company, you will consider the installation of electric vehicle chargers on site but also at your employees' homes.

For the latter, the company is advised to ask itself the right questions and consider its options.

Does the employer pay for the installation of a home charger? What electricity consumption will the company pay for? This will depend on the package that the company wishes to offer to its employees.

As for the electric vehicle chargers on the site, many decisions will have to be made.

First, access to the charging points will have to be considered. These can either be used only by company vehicles or can be extended to employees' vehicles, customers and visitors, neighboring companies or even the public. The choice will depend on the company's objectives in terms of visibility, image, or tax deductibility.

Secondly, the type of charging station is important to consider. Does the company need slow, medium, or fast charging stations? Will you install very smart, smart, or less smart charging stations? The decision will depend on whether the employees and/or visitors generally stay in the company all day or whether they are just passing through.

And finally, an estimation of the number of charging stations to be installed on the company premises is needed. This last point refers to the notion of the electric accessibility, described in the next section.

  • Electricity Accessibility

Installing charging stations on your company premises can be a real challenge. Local electric installations and networks are indeed not always ready to manage the new important amount of electricity needed at once, with the sufficient electrical voltage, and this can result in major investments.

Precise calculations, based on preliminary analysis of the usage and habits of employees, are required to anticipate the needs in terms of energy for premises. These calculations, put in comparison with what the actual infrastructure offers, will clarify the scale of investment required, so that this can be considered in your planning and budget.

To reduce their costs, and their environmental impact, companies are advised to investigate the possibility of producing their own renewable energy, using for example solar panels or wind turbines to feed the charging grid. It can as such use the energy produced for charging purposes for its own fleet or third parties.

  • Electric Fleet Support

To help you run this transition smoothly, experts in change management can help you develop a plan that addresses all elements of the integrated strategy, from design to installation, operation, and maintenance to cover all the different situations that could occur (accidents, etc.). Together you will look at these different operational aspects but also others such as support services, supplier agreements, etc.

In addition, some companies are experts in collecting fleet data and assisting HR with cost optimization.

Finally, some softwares and tools can also help you manage your fleet daily, such as EV charging management or on-site energy management tools. These applications will allow any organization to have complete control over performance. This helps fleet managers achieve optimal costs, manage access to charging and monitor driver efficiency.

HOW TO ONBOARD AND EDUCATE YOUR EMPLOYEES?

In addition to these operational considerations, important human considerations must also be considered. Indeed, such a project implies a change for all employees. The unknown, such as electric cars, is always scary. Therefore, it is essential to ensure communication but also education for your employees, by:

  • Highlighting the advantages of EVs, such as the environmental and the economic advantages, to generate enthusiasm.
  • Keeping the employees informed about the project, the planning, and every step of the process. The success of the project will depend on the involvement of the staff.
  • Preparing well the preliminary analysis to consider all the scenarios that employees might face.
  • Collecting feedback from employees who are testing the electric cars, share it with the others, and answer all possible questions.
  • Communicating on all operational aspects such as on-site charging, home charging, software, etc. to avoid employees lacking information and feeling lost in this change.
  • ...

By involving your employees in the project, you will facilitate their adoption to this major change. We recommend involving more deeply a few selected employees representing the different profiles in your company and build this program based on co-creation with them. These representatives can this way play the role of ambassador of and for your employees.

AS A CONCLUSION…

To successfully transition from thermal to electric cars, it is important to keep in mind that a detailed and thorough  preparation is recommended. Set up a project team, define a planning, a clear methodology, and anticipate each important decision and risk. This will ease the work for your HR teams, but also facilitate the adoption of this important change for your employees. All along and after your transition, we recommend implementing program monitoring: KPI can be defined to easily follow-up on your transition project. You can for example measure the degree of adoption by your employees, the costs reductions your company is experimenting, the impact of this transition on your company’s carbon footprint, etc.

This transition to an electric fleet is thus very important to go through and has various advantages. We would be delighted to discuss this challenge of a transition from thermal to electric fleets with you. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested!

We would also like to advise all companies to look further and start thinking about mobility for their employees as a broader approach. Many options exist today and are being developed to offer your employees more various mobility packages, such as mobility budgets, alternative transportation means, etc. To discover more examples and best practices, stay tuned and read our new article to be published very soon on this blog!

Lisa Legrand & Pauline Muls 3 November, 2022
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