The United Nations recently called on us to “build back better” as we plan for our post-pandemic recovery. 

In her Earth Day address, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa pointed to the opportunity that now existed for us to “shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe and more resilient”. 

For those pacing the UK corridors of power, this means delivering on a commitment to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. For consumers, it means fully embracing a green mind-set and making more environmentally responsible decisions in our everyday lives. And for companies, it means accelerated efforts to cut their carbon footprint by adopting more eco-friending working practices. 

The drive towards cleaner road transport through electrification is a key component on the road to zero for all three protagonists – and the transition is already well underway. 

Smoothing the bumps in the road 

Obstacles, however, remain before we hit the clear, straight fossil fuel-free highway. 

Recent qualitative research conducted by Webfleet Solutions among OEMs, EV experts and fleet customers revealed three commonly cited concerns over the adoption of electrically powered vehicles by fleets – availability, cost and mind-set. 

Government and industry alike have important roles to play in helping overcome these obstacles – and indeed, considerable efforts are already being made. 

Although a lack of EVs with appropriate range and load bearing specs, especially in the world of HGVs, is currently proving an issue, the automotive landscape is fast evolving. Measures taken to deal with Covid-19 may have slowed market growth, but the number of models available to European buyers is set to increase by around 75% over the next 12 months. And as manufacturers increase availability, prices are expected to fall. 

Despite this, with no established e-mobility playbook to fall back on, the introduction of EVs to fleets will still require careful consideration and cost-benefit analysis. 

Furthermore, driving EVs requires a mind-set change for both companies and drivers if running cost savings are to be maximised. Charging, driving range and the availability of charging infrastructure must all be factored into the way fleets are managed and operated. 

Powering transport with data intelligence 

Through every lens, the smart use of fleet data remains pivotal as businesses embark on their EV journeys. Telematics insights into existing internal combustion engine (ICE) fleets, for example, enable fleet decision-makers to take account of fuel consumption, driving behaviour, past trips, mileage and other crucial data points when establishing whether EVs offer suitable, cost-effective replacements and the impact they will have on fleet TCO (total cost of ownership). 

Where adopted, data insights then become equally critical in their management. 

A fleet manager may use remaining driving distance information, for example, to plan a sequence of orders or to identify the right vehicles for jobs. By knowing exactly how much charge a vehicle has, and how far it needs to travel, fleet managers can avoid having vehicles wait in-line for charging or avoid higher charging costs during peak times. 

The telematics data key has long since opened the door on driving behaviour monitoring – and this key is now set to prove vital in optimising charge efficiency, informing where drivers are wasting energy by needlessly speeding or accelerating too quickly. 

Diagnostic intelligence, meanwhile, may also enable early mechanical interventions to help minimise EV off-road time. 

Further data insights will help business to retrospectively calculate exactly how financially beneficial the addition of EVs to fleets has been, and to compare running costs with ICE vehicles to help signpost future EV strategies. 

Electric will undoubtedly become the predominant fleet vehicle powertrain – but telematics data will pave the way, accelerating our journey to a sustainable, e-mobility future.