Challenges for OEMs in electrifying commercial fleets

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What are the problems with transforming to an electric commercial vehicles (ECV) fleet and how can you overcome them?

Whether you’re looking at fleets of light and medium commercial vehicles (LCVs and MCVs) or light truck fleets, there are obstacles to overcome before the full potential of electrifying commercial fleets can be realized.

In the third blog of the eMobility series, my colleague Philipp Purrucker and I (Philipp M. Haaf) discuss these challenges and potential solutions.


The low level of uptake in electric commercial vehicles (ECVs) continues…

Electric mobility is gaining momentum for passenger vehicles, but the uptake of ECVs is still poor in the commercial sector due to major obstacles such as a lack of information transparency or a unified approach to integrating vehicle technology with existing infrastructure. Because of this, OEMs are looking for solutions that include the implementation, operation, and optimization of effective ECVs. But to satisfy their customers, OEMs need to address existing challenges in this area by creating effective holistic solutions and utilizing external partnerships where appropriate.

The adoption and continuous integration of electric vehicles into commercial fleets depends on business specific criteria. These usually include conditions such as Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), infrastructure, service, emissions, regulatory risk, and vehicle characteristics such as range, reliability, payload, life duration, model variety, and charging time. Poor information in these areas is causing uncertainty for commercial fleet owners and a reluctance to integrate ECVs into their fleets.

This article will describe problems relating to ECV fleet transformation, from the customer’s perspective, and will propose some solutions to overcome these challenges in three key areas:

  1. The problems associated with electrifying fleets
  2. The solutions that OEMs need to offer
  3. New options for meeting customer requirements.

The problems associated with electrifying fleets

Implementation

Commercial fleet owners know that integrating and operating an efficient fleet is crucial for success in the e-mobility market. However, they lack information on how to effectively implement and operate ECVs or the costs surrounding them. They struggle to find electricity-based substitutes for existing vehicles that meet their requirements of their driving profiles.

Complementary infrastructure is another key area where owners lack information. Uncertainty in charging and power contracts makes them even less inclined to transition to ECVs, regardless of any pre-existing models.

Operation and optimization

Charging and energy consumption have a crucial impact on the efficiency and costs of electric fleets. Factors such as delivery times, varying routes, traffic jams, and operating procedures clearly affect vehicle range, but they also create specific charging windows for ECVs. Success, therefore, depends on utilizing fleets effectively in terms of their allocated routes and quickly exploiting any charging windows which become available.

Charging all vehicles at once during the nightly immobilization period causes bottlenecks at grid connection points and entails high costs. Additionally, extending the grid connection or installing more power chargers will involve further heavy investment for fleet owners.

To support these investments, the market requires attractive financing solutions, in addition to automated billing and cost-efficient power contracts with sufficient grid connections – which are critical enablers for ECV fleets.

Another key customer demand is the real-time digital availability of fleet data which will help monitor and optimize operations.

The solutions that OEMs need to offer

Planning and implementation

Many of the problems described above can be solved with a holistic solution that includes complementary services (Fig. 1), while working with partners to help deliver a comprehensive solution within their given areas of expertise.

Figure 1 Holistic solution with partners

Light commercial vehicle (LCV) and truck OEMs need to advise their customers about existing ECV fleet solutions and publicize case studies of successful fleet integrations. This will reduce integration reluctance and the promote the benefits of ECVs, while also showcasing how to implement and operate them successfully.

Furthermore, all costs should be transparent across implementation, operation, aftersale service, charging station, and energy consumption. In addition, including variables on the TCO calculator such as regulator subsidies and soft benefits such as no driving bans in cities, are just some of the opportunities available here. The calculator should include duty cycles, driving profiles, and charging options to make it easier for customers to build their optimal ECV fleets.

As full-service providers, OEMs will also need to ensure the satisfactory delivery of electric vehicles, IT support, and ensure charging stations are installed correctly. This can be achieved by adopting the “Netflix Model,” where customers do not own the ECV but pay for its usage. OEMs need to decide if a package with a fixed price and agreed upon range is more attractive to them or if they want a pay-per-use model. Once this is done, guaranteeing maximum customer flexibility can be a unique selling proposition for the OEM. Data monetarization is key here. Done properly, this will enable OEMs to generate a vast amount of data throughout the whole value chain and enable them to offer additional services, products, and features to their customers.

Operation and optimization

When it comes to operation, customers want OEMs to deliver solutions for load balancing, efficient energy management, and payment automation. Making use of solar cells installed on-site will help ensure sustainability and long-term cost efficiency. OEMs can create additional value for customers by offering monitoring and optimization, based on data from vehicle and energy consumption statistics. OEMs will also need to offer charging infrastructure that meets commercial requirements, and guarantee on-site service such as installing and maintaining power chargers.

New options for meeting customer requirements

OEMs need to overcome a market that is limited by a knowledge gap and skepticism towards ECVs. To do so, they need to inform the market, and demonstrate the benefits of ECV fleets through success stories. They also need to offer a good variety of models to enable customers to choose vehicles that match their exact business requirements. Moreover, OEMs need to ensure TCO parity with conventional powertrains – especially via lower initial costs – as this will increase ECV fleet attractiveness.

E-mobility calls for an integrated approach when developing the integrated solutions required for ECVs to succeed in the market. In addition, OEMs need to consider the effects of e-mobility on their own businesses and the growing  threat they face from the impending disruption to the market. This is why R&D investments that differentiate and position them as reliable e-mobility providers will be key to their competitiveness.

 

Philipp Purrucker

Consultant – Capgemini Invent

 

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