Toronto-based Element Fleet Management has created a roadmap to help clients switch to battery-electric vehicles in response to growing investor pressure to cut carbon emissions.
“One of the primary things that we’re seeing that’s driving the transition for our clients today is that there are Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) mandates that so many of these organizations have rolled out,” said Avninder Buttar, vice-president of strategy at Element, which styles itself the world’s largest firm solely devoted to managing other companies’ transport fleets. “Greenhouse gas reduction targets require them to really have a clear plan for how they’re going to transition their fleet.”
The Arc Element plan outlines the sequence for that transition: from fleet planning, to vehicle acquisition and financing, through charging, maintenance, and end-of-life remarketing, reports Electric Autonomy Canada. Arc Element also helps clients set up pilot programs and develop roadmaps to full EV deployment. The company has a million vehicles under current management and 5,500 clients across North America, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Arc Element package is based on a year of development, during which Element’s team engaged with clients to identify problems with shifting away from internal combustion engines. The biggest challenges included the cost of ownership, availability of suitable vehicles, and charging infrastructure.
“The complexity and cost of that charging infrastructure is one of the biggest wild cards for most of our clients,” Buttar said. “They’re not sure how best to invest, especially in early days, without really knowing what the roadmap is.”
But Arc Element also dives into more subtle considerations, like which customers already have facilities that can service EVs, how to deal with expense reimbursements, and concerns about range anxiety. The company also strategized with customers to map out service routes and determine which categories of vehicles were most likely to end up in locations where recharging would be difficult or impossible, Electric Autonomy says.
The program leaves open a role for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as a transitional step to accommodate gaps in infrastructure and driver knowledge. Buttar warns, though, that failing to keep a PHEV’s battery in recharge mode while driving can lead to lower energy efficiency than that of a conventional truck, due to the PHEV’s greater mass.
“My perspective on hybrids is that they fit a really useful function for fleets, that is both as a transition vehicle as well as a replacement vehicle where EVs don’t exist,” he said.