The State of Fleet Electrification for HGVs – Are we ready?

The State of Fleet Electrification for HGVs – Are we ready?

By Andrew Brown, Strategic Partnerships Director

Last week, at Whitespace Connect, I gave a presentation to 12 UK councils about how they can accelerate their decarbonisation efforts through fleet electrification. Whitespace provide software solutions to the waste collection sector, top of mind for UK councils which have three legal obligations:  Social Care, Protect the Vulnerable, Waste Collection.

Given that 10% of the UK’s total carbon emissions are from fleets, council leaders were keen to learn about how electrification can reduce carbon emissions and save local authorities money in the long-term.

Refuse collection vehicles (RCVs), which are classified as heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), are arguably the largest carbon emitters of council vehicle fleets. During the presentation, I raised the point that despite around 40% of local authorities outsourcing waste collection to contractors, carbon reduction responsibilities remain with the councils themselves.

The conversations I have with councils tend to focus on TCO (total cost of ownership) as they transition fleets to EV.  Councils want to review how we bring different funding options into the planning process and how they can change their fleet profile in the future. An EV fleet won’t be a replica of the diesel fleet of today, it’s a different model that will deliver on targets.

Following on from the conversations I had at the event, I wanted to take a deeper look at the state of HGV electrification, and the challenges and opportunities that organisations face in transitioning their large-vehicle fleets to electricity. The depot is changing from being a purely operational location into an integrated micro-grid hub comprising vehicles, grid connection, solar, battery and chargers.

Multinational companies are leading the way

Most companies consider light commercial vehicles (LCVs) to be the easiest to electrify. Indeed, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are mostly handling orders on cars and vans, with HGVs still largely in the testing phase.

This echoes what we see at VEV, with fleet operators focusing their efforts on cars and small vans, while large vans and HGVs are sidelined. Most operators that we talk to are still waiting for HGVs to have increased range, or more capacity to meet their requirements.

In spite of this, there are some outliers. For example, refrigerated truck rental company Petit Forestier Group recently committed to electrifying all 1,000 of its 16-tonne commercial vehicles.

As technologies evolve, so are HGV fleet transitions

With EV battery life extending, charging infrastructure improving, and fleet management systems getting smarter, we’re starting to see new truck models coming to market. And an increasing number of businesses are starting to retrofit their truck chassis as electric.

The companies that are transitioning their HGV fleets are starting to reap the benefits of new technologies by reducing their running costs and reshaping their operations. For example, RCVs that have switched to electricity can now operate during the day, saving on congestion charges in inner city areas.

With fleet managers finding it increasingly challenging to access electric vans from their suppliers, transitioning HGVs early presents companies with a further opportunity to meet decarbonisation targets and meet stakeholder expectations.

Addressing concerns over HGV range

For most fleet managers, the biggest concern about transitioning their HGV fleets is the distance vehicles can travel without having to recharge. However, by making some changes to operations, HGV range can be significantly improved.

According to recent research from Eurostat, around 45% of all goods transported by road in Europe travel less than 300 km. This suggests that with smart route planning and scheduling, much of these goods can be transported with electric trucks.

In a recent interview with Volvo Trucks, Anders Grauers, Associate Professor in hybrid and electric vehicle systems at the Chalmers University of Technology said:

Much medium range transport can be carried out by electric trucks already today, the most demanding long-range transport is not yet ready, mainly because of a lack of public charging infrastructure, the batteries being slightly too small and the charging power on the trucks being a little too low.

But it is almost certain that we will see electric long-haul trucks because they will be the most cost-effective solution. This is because electricity is so much cheaper than diesel.

I agree with this sentiment and believe that many medium-range HGV fleets are already at a point where they can be transitioned. I also predict that fleet operators who wait, will find it more challenging to access electric HGVs in the coming years, as companies adopt electrification en masse.

Planning for a demanding future

As more companies adopt EVs, OEMs will likely experience a surge in demand for their flagship models. Fleet operators therefore need to plan ahead, adopt early, and consider alternatives if they choose to wait.

Fleet managers can get ahead by evaluating which assets can be transitioned right now, while they place larger orders that take longer to process.

While LCVs may be easier to transition, for fleet operators to achieve their sustainability goals, they should also focus on transitioning other assets.  Many fleets will be surprised at what proportion of their assets can be electrified and in many cases with minimal changes to operations and smart implementation of charging infrastructure

Our fleet management dashboard, VEV-IQ, can help you understand which vehicles are ready for electrification based on average mileage data across all your assets.

We also encourage fleet operators to map out their routes and evaluate where they can rely on a mix of public infrastructure and in-house charging.

Get in touch with one of our expert team today and find out more about VEV’s commitment to fleet electrification.

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