On Thursday 28 November 2019, Energy Saving Trust hosted its annual Fleet Heroes awards and conference – celebrating those leading the transition to cleaner, greener transport. As a judge for this year’s awards, it widened my eyes on the imperative for closer collaboration between energy and transport sectors to deliver net zero ambitions. This collaboration is unlocking some of the more exciting opportunities across the energy transition. In this blog, I summarise my thoughts on why fleet should be central to your New Energy strategy for the next few years.
Fleet managers are the New Energy customer
The Fleet Heroes awards is not an electric vehicle awards, but it perfectly exemplifies how electrification is shifting both the energy and fleet sectors. See a list of the winners here.
Having worked alongside energy managers and fleet managers, I realise these two separate industries are not so different. Both roles involve maintaining operations, while reducing costs through efficiency gains.
But, the electrification of transport agenda has been a step-change in moving the energy manager and fleet manager roles from running in parallel to overlapping each other. This overlap creates questions of how do I monitor recharging of vehicles? What depot upgrade will these vehicles require? Do I renegotiate my electricity tariff?
Over the past few years, major energy players across Europe have launched tailored fleet products and services to help answer these questions. The Fleet Heroes conference held panel discussions with representatives from SSE Enterprise, UK Power Networks and Centrica – all committed to supporting the transition.
The increasing battle for the fleet customer relationship will be won by those with the best route to the customer and the best understanding of the future of fleet management.
Fleet heroes are putting New Energy into practice
In the energy transition, we often talk about the co-location of assets to create local energy systems: see Delta-EE's own insights. At Fleet Heroes, some fleets are on the leading edge of this.
The challenge of charging several vehicles, combined with the ambition to decarbonise, unlocks several technology solutions. For me, this was best exemplified by the winner of the Electric Vehicle Hero award on the night – East Coast Organics Ltd.
East Coast Organics Ltd is a vegetables producer and supplier based in Scotland. With an ambition to deliver sustainable farming, the company invested in a fleet of fully electric vans for deliveries. To support the sustainable recharging of the fleet and overall operations of the business, the company’s warehouse has been fitted with a 26 kW solar array and four Tesla Powerwall batteries, alongside EV chargepoints.
The battery storage allows the fleet to recharge either directly from the solar panels or by taking grid energy at off-peak times. This ensures the fleet is charged overnight with the lowest carbon emissions and lowest burden on the electricity grid. With financial savings of £5,000 per van per year, the combined technology could have a return on investment sooner than you might expect.
This is just one great example, but it is not alone. There is an emerging trend for EV sales leading to other services, such as solar, batteries or energy management systems. Fleets will likely be ideally placed to lead in distributed flexibility value streams as they develop in the coming years.
How to match long-term ambition with short-term action
I came away from the Fleet Heroes conference with mixed feelings. While tremendously inspired by awards winners, I cannot help but notice the chasm between ambition and action over the very next few years.
Tim Anderson, Head of Transport at Energy Saving Trust, noted this in his address to the conference. He drove home the environmental concern, that “the urgency around delivering net zero has never been more important… we need solutions.” So, how do we encourage short-term action?
I see two key ways of achieving short-term action:
First, deploy ‘try before you buy’ schemes offering multi-month, low cost rental of various EV models across the UK. An exciting, yet small-scale, example was presented by Highways England during the conference and I believe this could be a win-win for many industry players, stimulating the supply-demand cycle.
Secondly, create a catalogue of EV & electricity solutions for fleets. As a nascent industry with commercial imperatives, this would be no easy feat. But, an independent and updated guide to the various combinations of charging solutions and other technologies should bring clarity and confidence to decision makers across the market.
If you agree or disagree, do get in touch to let me know your thoughts.
With huge thanks to the team at Energy Saving Trust for hosting such an engaging afternoon of discussion and having myself and Delta-EE as part of the judging panel. This collaboration across sectors will only blossom so I look forward to seeing future fleet (and energy) heroes emerge in 2020.