Home » Transport » Why new initiatives are needed to help fleet operators transition to electric

Maria Bengtsson

UK&I Electric Vehicle Lead, EY UK LLP

Alwyn Hopkins

Advanced Manufacturing and Mobility Sustainability Leader, EY UK LLP

Ian Smith

Partner, EMEIA Sustainable Mobility, EY UK LLP

It’s not easy for fleet operators to swap petrol and diesel vehicles for electric. To help them transition, they need a strong business case coupled with facilitative government policy.

Switching from gas-guzzling vans and lorries to electric vehicles (EVs) is vital for the UK’s net-zero goals. However, commercial fleet operators encounter major challenges in this transition.

Infrastructure for efficient EV transition

“First, there’s the question of how fleet vehicles can gain efficient access to public charging infrastructure exactly when they need it,” says Maria Bengtsson, UK&I Electric Vehicle Lead, Ernst & Young LLP (EY UK LLP). “The other issue is that many charging point bays in the UK are designed for cars. That’s a problem for bigger vans and lorries.”

Unfortunately, installing new charging points — fleet-friendly or otherwise — is complicated. “It’s a complex operation,” explains Alwyn Hopkins, Ernst & Young LLP (EY UK LLP). “It can require technical infrastructure work like upgrading grid connections or installation of substations for sufficient power capacity, and calls for navigation of a complex, multi-stakeholder ecosystem.”

Charge point operators are a commercial
enterprise. Raw economics is part of the equation.

Businesses want policy certainty before investing

The rollout of charging infrastructure has slowed for another reason, notes Ian Smith, Partner, Ernst & Young LLP (EY UK LLP). “We might like to think that every stakeholder views this issue through a sustainability lens,” he says. “Charge point operators are a commercial enterprise. Raw economics is part of the equation.”

It’s the same for fleet operators, with big questions about the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Considering the purchase price and all other associated costs of EVs, is a transition from diesel to electric financially viable?

“The answer might be ‘yes’ for smaller fleet vehicles,” says Smith. “But, depending on the duty cycle, maybe not quite yet for larger lorries — arguably, alternative fuels may still have a transitionary role in that bracket.”

Facilitative government policy is therefore needed to create a) the financial and regulatory environment to encourage EV rollout; and b) the market conditions to allow faster rollout of essential infrastructure.

“That’s challenging for charging point operators and fleet operators, who — like companies in the maritime and aviation industry (see article on page 11) — need a solid business case for infrastructure investment and fleet transformation.”

The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organisation or its member firms.

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