We first ask Nakrani how he thinks VEV stands out against its opposition. He says: “I think our big differentiator, is that we’re a turnkey solution. Lots of e-fleet companies can only do certain parts, we can provide the charging and installation, we can supply the digital software, and we can help with energy provision, vehicles, and finance options. 

“For us, one of the things we’re finding when talking to fleets, is that the move to EV is a big change – right? Doing one vehicle is easy, or easier, but when you start supplying ‘mission critical’ fleets, it’s a lot of pain and a big risk for them. So, we ‘take the pain away.’ We’ll do all the thinking, but we also develop a plan that is deliverable. Then, we’ll deliver that plan, and we will stand by it. 

“Our offer includes the charging infrastructure, the solar, the battery, the vehicle, and power. We’re giving a full suite of services. So, what we’re saying is, ‘if you come to us, we’ll take a step back to understand the fleet’s requirements and challenges, working closely with them, and then we’ll design and provide a solution they can stand behind’. That’s a big deal, not many other providers say they’ll stand behind it if it goes wrong. If it goes wrong, we will fix it and we will suffer some of the consequences because of that – which I think is a good thing.”  

Nakrani goes on to tell us VEV is typically focussing on larger fleets, where it all starts with a ‘top-down’ target. He says: “Most large companies have declared the fact that they are going to move their fleet to electric by 2030-35. The first step is to start planning – when the CEO makes the announcement, it’s not usually in anyone’s budget, it’s not always totally thought through as a defined plan, and it’s not underpinned as such. One of the first things that we do, is we define the process that will meet the business’ target. So, on a practical level that means we assess the current vehicle fleet, we assess their property, we assess the power, and from that we build a plan. That’s Phase One.

“In Phase Two, we de-risk that plan. So, we consider how we could deploy with limited scale, backup, and continuity plans. If that’s successful, we’ll take the information that we’ve learned into a bigger plan, then make it bigger again, do the same thing again, and by the time go get to Phase Three, Four and Five, (the journey is a long one!), they will have de-risked their structure from a cost perspective.

“We ultimately want to make sure that the cost structure and the usage profile of the fleet are closely mapped. This is made possible through expert analysis of fleet operations and energy data in our software platform. We have a tonne of information and data points that enable us to make much more precise choices of fleet configuration, energy supply and costs.” 

Nakrani explains that VEV is relatively new, but backed by a huge company Vitol, that has been around for many years and he’s grateful he doesn’t have to worry about the longevity of their business. He says: “When we started, we mapped the UK market, then came up with a list of 665 fleets that we wanted to go out and talk to. That list has grown to just under 2,000 now, as we’ve progressed. Already, we’ve had meaningful conversations with over 600 of them, and by meaningful, I mean: ‘Are you going to move to EV? What are your plans? How many vehicles? What are your facilities? What are your concerns? What’s your budget?’ We’ve been doing all of that, and what’s been brilliant for us, is not one of them has said transitioning to EVs is unimportant. 

We go on to talk about movement of the ICE engine ban to 2035, and Nakrani exclaims his shock at this move. He says: “I was really surprised, I thought there was consistency in the marketplace and that was known. So, I wasn’t expecting it. I get why other businesses and manufacturers are unhappy – I used to work for Ford. It takes four years to design and build a car, from start to finish. They made an investment for this requirement; they’re putting a noise into the marketplace, and this changes the business investment requirements! As a business owner, this has caused me some concern. 

“The fact is, for fleet owners, this is a ship that has sailed. As much as I’m frustrated sometimes about some of the ups and downs of various regulations, it doesn’t change the plan a lot for fleets, because they’ve made an initial commitment to 2030, to achieve the two-degree target – that’s the main goal I hear when I talk to them at senior level. They say even if the deadline has moved a bit it doesn’t change their game too much because they need to transition to EV to decarbonise.

There are only a few that aren’t converts. Most people who drive an EV for the first time, are excited by it and want to find out how they can purchase one.”

Nakrani tells me he believes there are several factors causing issues for company adopters as they make the EV transition. He says: “One major problem that clients come to us for, is that they’ve already bought a couple of EVs, and they haven’t got any charging infrastructure. They thought it would be easy but have come up against grid constraints – they can’t put it in their depot. What can they do? 

“That’s one example, where we say, hang on! Let’s think about how you use the vehicles, let’s think about when you need to charge… whether a solar panel and battery will solve this problem. So, fleets don’t have to spend a fortune to wait for the grid to be upgraded. 

“A regular concern I hear is about the high up-front capex expenditure figure. It is a very different cost structure moving from diesel to EV. One of the advantages of working with us is the partners that we work with, and we can help make sure the product is financed
and affordable. 

“Customers ask what happens to the residual value of the vehicle? Should I keep an EV for three years or seven years? We can help with all those questions because we’ve been doing it at scale, addressing these questions for many customers and coming up with useful solutions.

“Then there’s the operation of the fleet – keeping vehicles running. The AA told me about the vast number of vehicles that run out of fuel – it was huge! If you think, with EVs, that problem could be the same or even bigger due to the lack of charging structure. What does a fleet manager do if that happens? Well, we build a business continuity plan, we sit with our customer and go through the scenarios if your employees fail to charge and what will happen. This is what happens if the charger doesn’t work, these are the spares you’re going to need, and this is how long it’s going to take for repairs. We get all this information together into the optimum fleet operation pattern and we’re so confident that we guarantee it! That gives a lot of peace of mind.

“The other thing we do a lot of is mythbusting, I’ll use the example of EV fires – clearly the thermal runaway and batteries are very dangerous when things go wrong. However, when you look at the stats for how many fires occur, EV versus ICE, and you look at the test parameters, you find there isn’t a problem. In this space, you need experts, or people that have done this before.”