In this special series on the evolution of electric vehicles, Element’s Aaron Baxter, Executive Vice President of Custom Fleet, Australia and New Zealand, shares insights from the company’s work to support clients in their transition to EV.
Q. Tell us a little about Custom Fleet and the landscape in Australia and New Zealand to support the transition of Electric Vehicles for fleets.
Custom Fleet has been operating in Australia and New Zealand for about 40 years and joined Element Fleet Management Corporation five years ago. We have more than 100,000 vehicles under management, involving more than 1000 of the largest corporates in Australia and New Zealand, including New Zealand Government fleets, where leadership on EVs has been very high in recent years. The Government there has set ambitious targets for the adoption of electric vehicles and is investing heavily in charging infrastructure. We are also seeing a fairly robust second-hand market emerge for EVs. As a result, we have gained first-hand experience in helping many fleets make the transition across a variety of industries.
Q. What is your approach in working with clients who are thinking about transitioning their fleet to EV?
Custom Fleet has taken a consultative approach to working with our clients, putting their business goals first. We help our clients sort through which vehicle types are right for them and which offer the most value while meeting their financial and environmental priorities.
We felt that it was important to take a holistic view of the entire EV ecosystem and formed strategic partnerships with leaders in their respective fields which include electricity generation, public charge point operators and manufacturers of charging infrastructure.
This means that we can present a fit for purpose, end-to-end solution with access to the best expertise available that drastically simplifies the process for clients who are transitioning part or all of their fleet. Furthermore, we can also offer sophisticated reporting tools to help clients track electricity use, overall fleet efficiency, and environmental impact.
We work hard to stay current, to ensure we can provide clients with the latest in emerging innovations and regulatory changes. Our Custom Fleet New Zealand country leader Michelle Herlihy joined the Drive Electric NZ board last year and that partnership also helps to keep us at the forefront of the evolution.
Q. What specifically can clients expect by way of support if they are thinking about the transition?
We recently launched the EV+ Program which provides an end-to-end solution for electric vehicle fleet conversion. It begins with a comprehensive fleet analysis. We determine which vehicles are suitable for transition based on how the vehicle is used and how far the vehicle is driven. Fleets are also modelled and benchmarked based on the total cost of ownership and emissions reduction. Earlier this year, we developed a complete replacement cost analysis for New Zealand’s largest energy retailer. This included the identification of vehicles that should be replaced through a utilisation analysis.
If clients require charging at their workplace, we can facilitate site inspections and energy audits of their property and then supply and install the charging equipment. If required, this can also be financed through us.
We also provide a consolidated view of all charging transactions and costs on a single invoice, whether these are incurred at public charging stations, at the workplace or at home. We achieve this via integration with the largest charge point operators in Australia and New Zealand
Q. At a time when clients are looking for credible and experienced advice about adoption of electric vehicles into their fleet, can you give us some real-life practical examples of client transitions?
Given our expertise in helping clients embrace and capitalize on EV use, we were chosen by New Zealand’s leading retailer, The Warehouse Group (TWG), to electrify 73 passenger vehicles out of the 240 vehicle fleet by the end of 2019. We coordinated vehicle deliveries, signage and telematics, provided one consolidated invoice which includes costs associated with public charging and installation of charging equipment at some employee’s homes so vehicles can be charged overnight.
We also installed EV charging equipment at three different sites for Watercare Services Limited in Auckland and for Queenstown Lakes District Council with each site accommodating between 5 to 15 chargers.
There are a few important lessons we can learn from these projects:
- Property considerations are as just as important as the vehicle – this extends to both the workplace as well as the home of the driver. In the workplace, leasing arrangements may complicate the installation of infrastructure and at home the lack of off-street parking may mean the driver has no place to charge the car.
- Balancing charging speed and infrastructure investment – installing more than a few chargers in a building may likely impact the energy capacity of that building, particularly if all the vehicles charge at full power at the same time. Switchboard and transformer upgrades can be expensive. We can help clients assess their current load requirements and develop a detailed plan on how to balance the additional load, without any negative impact to the building operations.
- Accounting for cost of fuel in a decentralised eco-system – Accurately attributing energy costs to EVs can be a challenge as your EV fleet grows. Integration with the appropriate platforms and smart chargers will become increasingly important to reduce administration and accurately account for running costs whether this is incurred in front or behind the meter.
Q. A lot of organizations are excited about the prospect of converting to electric vehicles but don’t know where to start or how to approach the transition. Do you have any advice for them?
This is a very common question. Lots of organizations want to make the transition to electric but it can be difficult to determine where and when to start. We have been providing strategic fleet conversion consulting for a number of years now to do just that - help clients take the first step towards conversion and map out a detailed strategy on how to get there. We recently worked alongside a client in the energy sector to develop an electric vehicle transition strategy. We provided a strategy that included benchmarking the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles vs internal combustion vehicles, and a residual value analysis. This helped our client successfully implement their electric vehicle pilot program with confidence. The process began with them, as it does with all clients, with a phone call to our team, which was then followed by an in-depth analysis of fleet suitability and eligibility for EVs, and then working with them step by step from pilot to broader implementation.
To learn more about Custom Fleet and its EV+ Program, visit https://www.customfleet.co.nz/electric-vehicles/