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Fleets need more time to adjust to EVs

Date: 13 December 2017   |   Author: Rachel Boagey

Rachel Boagey pays a visit to TRL to learn about the next steps for fleets towards an ultra-low emission future.

A lack of range, charging infrastructure, and the many other significant barriers that exist today mean fleets require more time to adjust to EVs, explains Denis Naberezhnykh, head of ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) technology at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). 

TRL has been working hard on ULEV technology for some time, attempting to draw attention, and eventually reduce the barriers, to EV adoption for fleets
and consumers. 

Fleets are a bigger challenge to convert to ULEVs compared with retail customers explains Naberezhnykh. He says that one of the difficulties with fleets is that most of them are not set up to deal with the kind of complexity that comes with EV adoption.

"As EVs come to market, their perception is changing, leading to increased consumer purchasing in that sector. But with fleets, they are used to just picking the lowest-costing cars upfront. You can't do that with low emission vehicles or EVs, because they tend to be more expensive upfront, which makes fleet managers question them as a vehicle choice." 

TRL has discovered through its various projects that, as well as the increased upfront cost for purchase for fleets, there are also the considerations of infrastructure and grid connection cost. 

"While EVs may make a lot of commercial sense to fleets, the transfer hasn't happened due to the complexity of procurement and operation of these vehicles. It's not very well understood and best practices haven't been established very well," he says. "It seems that fleets need more time than the average consumer." 

Most of TRL's work in this area looks at user behaviour and how people interact with the technology, explains Naberezhnykh. "Whatever we learn from that, we tend to feed into advice to help companies adopt technologies in a better way."

To do this, TRL has carried out a number of case studies where it has in-depth conversations with different levels of people within fleets, to figure out the main issues that they regard
as challenges and barriers for their company. 

"Now we are getting our head around this, we think we're at a point where we can understand these operational challenges, and select fleets that are representative to use as case studies on how to jump over the hurdles currently presented by EV adoption," he says.

"Some might decide this particular type of vehicle doesn't work for them, but a different type works fine and from the data we have accumulated, they can take this to their procurement department."

It's not just fleets that TRL tries to advise on ULEV technology. Naberezhnykh explains that the company also spends a lot of time helping with government policies; for example, saying what they should be encouraging, and why the organisation thinks people are not adopting
these vehicles. 

And the company practices what it preaches. "We have our own fleet of vehicles and have charging points around the front of the building. They are plug-in and electric, and the objective is to try and use our position between industry, operators and manufacturers, but also the government, to come up with sensible recommendations like how to proceed going forward."

The next steps, according to Naberezhnykh, are focusing on UK Government goals and objectives, and to try to push the benefits of EVs over the risks. "We think there's a lot more to be gained from doing this," he says. 

The reason is because Naberezhnykh thinks that in cities, there are almost no barriers to using EVs, even in the current day. "I believe there is no reason for cities not to adopt these vehicles due to the mileage and type of driving that is being done in the city. We just need to use our research to make this, and the increased uptake of EVs in fleets, a reality," he says