The charging challenge: gearing your fleet to go electric

As pressure is put on corporates globally to becoming increasingly green, so too is the pressure mounting on fleet owners to ensure they provide the infrastructure to lead the charge on electric car charging stations, writes Mohammed Sader.

In a recent report published by Shell on the Future of Fleet, Katya Atanasova – Vice President of Shell Fleet Solutions – makes the observation that while the retail, entertainment and travel sectors have undergone radical disruption thanks to new technology, the commercial fleet sector has remained largely unchanged. But, as she says, not for much longer.

Many countries across the globe have now set deadlines for ending sales of petroleum- and diesel-engine vehicles. For Norway, this deadline is 2025, just five years away. Sweden aims for 2030 and the UK, China and France 2040. The Shell report even predicts that by 2040, almost all smaller vehicles worldwide are likely to be electric.

In turn, automotive manufacturers are now focusing on a zero-emission future, consciously shifting investment towards electrification. For example, the Volkswagen Group – the world’s largest automobile manufacturer in terms of sales – has stated it will invest €44 billion by 2023 in electric vehicles and related technologies.

Back home in South Africa, the call for the setting of a similar deadline will need to start with corporates, in particular those who buy fleets. Both figuratively and literally, it is the private sector that will need to lead the charge to put pressure on the government to provide the necessary infrastructure so that more electric cars can be produced and connected to the grid.

This is no doubt a daunting thought in the days of load shedding. However, as pressure mounts on traditional fuel sources, and innovative solutions are evolving across the globe, change is both a must and equally inevitable. To quote the Shell report: “As the market shifts away from traditional fuels, no one can afford to stand still.”

The implications are very real; companies that delay the transition to new fuels – and there are a variety of them from electricity, hydrogen and liquid natural gas (LNG) to gas-to-liquid (GTL) and biofuels – may find themselves forced to rapidly undertake an entire fleet transition. The cost burden alone, not to mention the disruption, maybe more than some corporations will be able to shoulder.

Back home at Fleet Elite, spokesperson Mohammed Sader says the key to this evolution is the education of our fleet owners. “We aim to maximise return on investments for our clients, but as we strive to provide problem-solving solutions for the very real challenges that lie ahead this is the time for corporates to start future-proofing their fleets.”

This means we need to demystify the challenges that people perceive around electrical charging, for instance. In an article by Arthur D Little Global, dealing exactly with this topic in terms of the future, a number of key points are discussed, from whether or not renewable energy will put electrical grids under pressure, to increased volatility in wind and solar alternatives and the threat of electrical blackouts.

However, the conclusion drawn is that these challenges to charging will diminish significantly as the need in turn increasingly drives new business models to meet the demand. And therein lies many opportunities, particularly as alliances form to create a “volume-driven” scenario. At this point in time, it’s up to fleet owners to recognise where the future lies for themselves, and to begin the process towards adaptation sooner, rather than later.

• Fleet Elite is a division of DealersOnline, a company that specialises in procurement and disposal strategies to maximise the return on assets for fleet-owning companies.

Photo: Pixabay