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Strategic deployment of EV chargers more important than just big numbers, Allstar says

Date: 24 May 2022   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Fleets deploying EVs need to be able to access the right sorts of charging in the right strategic locations, according to fuel card firm Allstar.

The company, which has for several years been offering EV services alongside its traditional fuel cards, is aiming to educate fleets about the differences between electric fleet fuel management and the traditional set-up based on petrol and diesel vehicles.

Speaking to Business Car at the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) annual conference, Tom Rowlands, VP of strategy for Allstar Business Solutions, explained that the company has to manage customers' expectations regarding the number of sites on its electric network, which, while it covers more than 2,000 locations (with over 5,700 charge points), is nowhere near the 7,700+ filling stations covered by its regular fuel cards. 

However, he pointed out that just adding more charge points to its network indiscriminately would not necessarily be the easy win that it might with traditional filling stations.

Rowlands said: "I guess the great thing we have with Allstar and the problem we have with Allstar is it is universal in the fuel sense, so people come to expect a universal network in association with Allstar. I think what we are trying to build is a strategic network that works for fleets, which means rapid [charging speed] versus necessarily full coverage.

"Part of what we are working through is perception versus reality. Because people are used to big numbers being a good thing in the fuel sector, because a fuel pump is a fuel pump, versus that strategic network. 

"You could have a network of 20,000 charge points which is much, much worse than a network of 6,000 charge points, depending on where they are and what types of charge points they are in terms of speed.

"So, I think it's about trying to get people into that mindset of a strategic rapid and fast network, versus necessarily just a big network."

Rowlands said that Allstar had found fleet managers needing more support when rolling out electric cards to their drivers, compared with traditional fuel cards - even when issues are not necessarily Allstar's responsibility.

He said: "The fleet manager gets in touch with us when they have bad driver experiences, and I think some bad driver experiences come through the issues with the network, in terms of the size of the network, but some driver issues are purely based on broken chargers, or an unreliable network, which is something we can't necessarily control. But we still get a lot of the noise because we are the payment mechanism. 

"It's an evolving space. I think we see it more as a consultative sell and then a kind of hand-holding as you go through the early stages, but we hope it will become more standardised like a fuel card."

As well as its public charging network coverage, Allstar also moved into the home-charging space earlier this year with the launch of Allstar Homecharge, in partnership with payment platform Mina.

When asked how fleets should deploy home charging versus public charging, Rowlands said: "My advice to fleets generally is don't look for one solution that fits all your drivers. You have got to look at the individual driver, their circumstances, how they drive, where they drive, to understand whether home charging makes sense for them versus public, because I think if you have got a driveway and you drive relatively short mileage then home charging is an obvious, easy, and cheap solution. 

"Up to 70% of drivers don't actually have access to driveways, and therefore they are pretty much reliant on a fully public solution, whereas other drivers might have driveways but drive long distances, so they rely on a mix. 

"I think the point we are trying to get to at Allstar is you need to have all the options available to you, on the road, at home, and at work, to make it work for all of your fleet."

One of the issues discussed at the AFP conference was a lack of interoperability in the UK between charge point manufacturers, compared with in continental Europe, and Rowlands agreed that efforts should be made to tackle this.

He said: "I think you definitely want to see the charging manufacturers work more in the UK, and I think it will get mandated at some point from the government anyway. 

"We can circumnavigate it to a degree but we obviously need charge point operators (CPOs) to work with us, and certain CPOs simply don't want to open up at this point, they feel like they have a USP with their particular networks. 

"But I think we are getting to a place now, with a couple more CPOs that we have in the pipeline, that we will have a good network that has got national coverage."