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Comment: Why stakeholder buy-in is key to successful EV fleet transition

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Alberto De Monte, business segment director OEM, EV and sustainable mobility at Masternaut, on the case for electric vehicles and how fleets can demonstrate it to senior leaders.

Masternaut has already discovered that UK fleet operators could replace 40% of their current light commercial vehicles with electric alternatives today

The Government’s ’10-point plan for a green revolution’ announced in November 2020 may have come as a shock to some fleet managers, bringing forward a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040 to 2030. With a typical five-year fleet buying cycle, the move to EVs and its logistical challenges have suddenly become a whole lot more ‘immediate’.

A casual observer might not see the problem: EVs bring substantial cost, efficiency and environmental benefits, so why wait? Despite these gains and a rapidly approaching government deadline, however, there is still significant industry resistance. Which begs the critical question, “Is the UK industry ready for the transition to EV?”

Fact from fiction

One of the greatest challenges is to separate fact from fiction. A number of perceived challenges around EVs persist. Our own survey research captures a range of issues that weigh on fleet managers’ minds – with three of the most frequently cited pain points being prohibitive cost (36%), a lack of national charging infrastructure (36%) and ‘at-home’ charging for drivers (28%).

Contrast these perceived problems with reality, however, and we see a very different picture emerge. Our research with fleet operators who are already progressing towards transition finds that considerably more than half see good EV performance, 51% report costs as good and well over a third have felt that it helped their brand image.

What we need to do is to make sure all of our stakeholders have all the facts.  If we can share the potential of EVs, demonstrate how we are realising that potential – and how it will benefit them – we will bring our stakeholders with us. 

Show and tell

Ironically, there are a lot of moving parts as the industry moves to electric-powered vehicles. Consequently, the first step must be a clear commitment from the wider business — and its senior leadership — to EV fleets. It is a statement of intent to all interested parties: this is going to happen and we are going to work together to achieve the goal.

Experience, however, suggests that “show” as well as “tell” is an effective strategy. Combining intent with data helps stakeholders understand why this is important and, ideally, how this will have a positive impact on their working practices.

A great place to start is to identify and share the success of other companies. Royal Mail for example, is planning to add an extra 3,000 electric vehicles to its UK fleet, increasing its number of electric vehicles to around 3,300. To begin with, the electric vans will be introduced into low-emission zones and green cities. To make this achievable, Royal Mail is planning to install charging stations in all delivery offices where the e-transporters are to be stationed.

Strength in numbers — the data driver

Beyond anecdotal proof points, a business needs relevant, accurate and insightful data to demonstrate the EV rationale to stakeholders.

Guesswork here is not good enough. It’s why Masternaut has spent over a year working with the fleet managers of over 37,000 vehicles to understand — in detail — the issues that most impact their fleet decision-making.

It has shown that operators, for example, need a quick and reliable way to identify the journeys most easily transferable from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to EVs. Using its data insights, Masternaut has already discovered that UK fleet operators could replace 40% of their current light commercial vehicles with electric alternatives today, with little to no impact on day-to-day operations — while reducing tail-pipe emissions by 8.3 million tons of CO2 a year.

Identifying this ‘low-hanging fruit’ is incredibly valuable as a means of demonstrating EV capability and bringing a company’s many stakeholders onboard. As they see the benefits of EVs, it brings the confidence to move forward and scale to ever more ambitious activity. Step by step, win by win, goal by goal — companies will move successfully to EV fleets.

Accessible insight

This deep dive into fleet manager needs shows how complex the move to EVs can be. For any company at the start of the process, the journey might appear impossibly daunting. Operators need simplicity — both in terms of their own planning and critical stakeholder management.

It has led Masternaut to concentrate insight within its MoveElectric tool. It enables fleet managers to make informed decisions, based on parameters which reflect their unique business needs and working patterns. With calculations anchored in the reality of vehicles currently in use, operators have a highly accurate read-out of what’s immediately achievable, whilst eliminating disruption. It means they can make a reasoned business case to each stakeholder group before anything changes.

With real-world data visualised in easy to understand ways, transition teams can create simple roadmaps with defined, meaningful objectives and clear, time-scaled deliverables. In combining data with insight, operators can, for example: understand what vehicles they need and when; align vehicle buying cycles with growing EV capabilities; and build in-house charging infrastructures, while combining these with rapidly expanding public charging networks.

Ready or not

With government policy shifting to ‘sooner rather than later’ with EVs, our original question around business preparedness is largely irrelevant. The change will come whether a company is ready or not. The real question is, “How can your business benefit from it?”

Change always brings opposition and that opposition is almost always based on a fear of the unknown. Success demands a combination of data and insight to bring people with you — across all the many and varied stakeholder constituencies.

Access to the right tools will bring the industry the confidence it needs to overcome EV challenges and seize EV opportunities.

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