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Electric vehicle data service to broaden reach

Date: 18 October 2018   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Fleet Innovations has launched an app-based version of its Cleancar service that tells businesses whether or not they can feasibly switch to electric vehicles. Jack Carfrae reports.

Fleet Innovations has converted its Cleancar system to an app format to roll it out to a wider number of customers. 

The company specialises in establishing whether or not businesses could realistically swap existing internal combustion vehicles for plug-in equivalents by tracking data gleaned from dongles inserted into the vehicles' 12-volt sockets. The practice typically involves collecting around a month's worth of telematics-style information about typical journey cycles, which is then scrutinised to ascertain if a vehicle's normal usage is such that it could be swapped for an electric version without hindrance to the operation and determine if the exchange would generate a financial saving.

Launched this month, the app version is said to offer exactly the same data and results, and will be distributed in conjunction with partner firms such as energy suppliers and dealer groups looking to promote electric vehicles (EVs) and clean energy initiatives. 

Speaking to BusinessCar, CEO Alex Baker explained that moving to a digital format would allow the service to reach a broader audience. "If somebody's got 300 vehicles, all we do is send out 300 dongles to the company and away you go," he said. 

"Bringing on 300 users with dongles is easy at the moment; bringing on 10,000 users really isn't. We've spent a lot of time rebuilding it so that if, for argument's sake, a major energy company wanted to offer it to 100,000 users, then this system will support that. It's designed to be rolled out to large numbers of users very quickly." 

He said Cleancar's fundamental practice of data gathering would not differ with the new platform, but added that while the app would render the service available to a larger group, it would only offer data gathering and results, and would not include subsequent analytical and consultancy work previously offered to fleet customers. 

"With the dongle, once the journeys are tracked, they're sent via a sim card to our portal," he added. "We normally collect about a month's worth of data, and we're then able to say: 'One, are you suitable for an electric vehicle? Two, which electric vehicles are best suited? And three, will you actually save any money by making the switch from petrol/diesel to an electric vehicle?' 

"In terms of the difference between using an app and a dongle, the data we collect is the same. I suppose it's the 80/20 rule, where 80% of the process is the same for everybody but, previously, there's been quite a lot of bespoking, specific to fleets, whereas the plan for the app is to get it out there and keep building on it."

The app will primarily be offered as a white label product, allowing partner companies to market it under their own name and with additional features specific to the organisation.  

"Our ideal partners for this would be energy companies, vehicle motor manufacturers, finance companies, dealer groups - basically anybody that's selling vehicles, charge points, energy or anything like that - and would benefit from people driving electric vehicles," said Baker. 

"We could have a dealer group version, for example, and we'd have the capability to build in that dealer group's pricing, special deals and things like that. There'd be a bit of development work required for that sort of thing, but we could absolutely do it."

He added that one large business had already signed up to launch its own, labelled version and that the app had been well received by other blue chip firms canvassed by the company. "What we didn't realise is that, when we went out and started speaking to potential partners, just how positive those conversations would be."

Baker said the app would also be available via conventional online channels such as the Apple App Store and Google Play as a free download, but users would be charged an as-yet undisclosed fee in order to progress with the service, as the firm's primary objective was to market the app via large partner businesses. All versions will, however, be continuously updated based on customer feedback and additional but currently unspecified features are due to be added over time. 

The company has previously worked with fleets including aerospace company BAE, which it assisted in the procurement of 60 Nissan e-NV200 electric vans and the installation of 26 charging points at its Portsmouth naval base site.