At the Fleet Forward Experience Day 3, panelists discussed challenges to corporate fleet electrification, how embedded modem data can be used effectively, and the straightforward paths to sharing fleet vehicles.
Here are the key takeaways:
For large corporate fleet electrification, today the challenges are less about the cost premium and range anxiety. So what are they?
In the electric vehicle dark ages — oh, about six years ago — the pushback to electrification was more on how much extra they’d cost and whether a driver would get stranded. Those are still factors, but the equation has changed.
In the seminar on planning for corporate fleet electrification, Adam Berger of Doering Fleet Management said, “The discussions today are much more around the benefits of less downtime, being an early adopter, and telegraphing to staff and customers that your company is protecting the environment and making the right decisions for the future. A positive TCO solves the fear of cost in almost all cases.”
For Jordan Baynard of Ecolab, who is about to dive into testing EVs in his fleet, the initial challenge is understanding the numerous variables his large fleet will face. These include the impact of cold weather on battery performance, deploying in areas with less infrastructure or for employees who don’t own a home.
Baynard said Ecolab’s district territory leaders for the company’s service teams, which comprise roughly half of the company’s 12,000 vehicles, have a level of skepticism. “They want to make sure EVs will not impact drivers’ uptime in any significant way,” he said.
“Would we have been ready to do this three years ago? No,” said Ryan Richards of Genentech, whose fleet has evolved from internal combustion engines to hybrids and plug-in hybrids and now to EVs. “Because we've brought this along with baby steps, our salespeople are ready.”
For Richards, the major issues are installing chargers in salespeoples’ homes, figuring out how to reimburse for the electricity, and making sure that the electricity is as green as possible.
Richards is running a pilot with 100 units. “We’re taking the most eager 100 where the infrastructure and everything else fits,” he said. “And we're going to go from there and learn.”
Because optics is important, especially in biotech, Richards is testing in states with greater EV penetration. In some areas, “It may send the wrong image to pull up to the customer's office in an EV,” Richards said.
Seeing EVs on the road and owned by friends has normalized them into greater acceptance, said Berger and Richards. “Proof of concept goes a long way,” said Richards. “If they see that it's working for one of their coworkers, that spreads like wildfire.”
“Because there is no formal education program, we need to share the success stories with other clients, which helps with the comfort level associated with change,” Berger said.
Baynard agreed that this goes a long way, but the proof is behind the wheel. “We’ve got to get some of these vehicles in our drivers’ hands to manage Ecolab’s specific challenges,” he said.
What can data straight from the vehicle’s embedded modem do for you? Think small.
“Yes, I want to go through the hassle of installing aftermarket hardware and take my vehicle off the road and not generate revenue, and I want to pay for that hardware and pay someone to install it and then uninstall it.”
Said no fleet manager, ever.
These were Kristie Mitchell of GM’s OnStar Business Solutions opening remarks in the discussion on the promise of OEM-embedded modems. In this growing scenario, in which 75% of new vehicles have OEM modems, data is sent to a cloud where it's normalized and sent back through an API into a variety of fleet systems, either the fleet’s own IT infrastructure or to telematics service providers for their fleet clients.
The benefits to fleets are obvious; they alleviate the pain points addressed in Mitchell’s comments. “But just because a vehicle is generating data, doesn't mean the value is realized and the pain point is solved,” said Arun Rajagopalan of Motorq. “There are a lot of things that must happen in the middle for that value to be realized.”
Yes, data from OEM modems will deliver the same deep insights as aftermarket telematics modems, and some new ones. But the real efficiencies could come in the flexibility of use cases.
Jon Leicester of Element said his company’s clients are at 20% penetration of telematics overall. Element serves a high percentage of sales fleets that don’t want the hassle or the optics of physically installing a device into the cars of highly paid, income-generating sales reps. “You don't need to track whether they're actually out there selling or they're at the golf course, because their performance indicates that,” Leicester said.
However, the fleet manager might still want to monitor their driving characteristics to enhance overall fleet safety. “Maybe that's the only element that you pull,” he said, “and an embedded modem allows that much more easily.”
Similarly, Rajagopalan said that an embedded modem could solve pain points “surgically” across the lifecycle of a vehicle. This includes tracking the vehicle through the ordering or remarketing process, turning on telematics capabilities for a temporary assignment, pinpointed geofencing, or in a dealer’s workflow before a sale.
“There'll be more and more customers that will say, maybe I wasn't using it in the past, but now, it's already built into my vehicle, I really do need that,” Leicester said. “We’re making the move from telematics to calling it a connected solution.”
These panelists agreed that a new, exciting area developing for embedded modem integrations is with EV fleets. In a later seminar on harnessing Ford’s OEM-grade data, Travis Hunt concurred.
“On the mind of every one of our fleet customers, and across the industry, is how do I adopt electric vehicles?” Hunt said.
From monitoring battery life and kWh consumption to managing charging, OEM data through embedded modems will be central to understanding how to optimize electric vehicle fleets, he said.
In analyzing how and where to share vehicles, find where it alleviates costs and creates a perk.
In the final concurrent seminar, Melika Jahangiri of Wunder Mobility and Dan Belknap of Wheels outlined where corporate carsharing is poised to grow.
One easy path is to extend personal use in a traditional company car scenario to other employees in that company. Using carsharing technology, the car can be reserved and accessed off hours by other employees for a reasonable fee.
Another straightforward path to sharing is where pools of vehicles already exist in government or corporate fleets. Those vehicles could be leveraged by employees starting only business hours to grab a car for a lunch meeting or an errand. With experience, usage could be extended beyond business hours.
The scheme is location dependent, with various transportation options such as buses and micro mobility. “We've even seen some organizations look at it as a perk and will subsidize that cost. Others will charge a per-mile or per-hour fee,” Belknap said.
Sharing also factors into changing mindsets with newer employees.
“While not the norm, we’re definitely seeing more edge cases where drivers do not necessarily value the company-provided vehicle,” Belknap said. “What typically would be viewed as a benefit to the employee isn’t anymore.”
Belknap brings up scenarios in which employees get a driver's license because driving is a job requirement, yet they live in Manhattan and the cost of parking per year is more than the actual vehicle is worth. “There are options that can be put together on an individual level, rather than a broad-brush fleet policy that we’ve had in the past,” he said. “This is where a ‘mobility budget’ comes in, giving the employee more power to choose what makes the most sense for them versus dictating that in a fleet policy.”
Jahangiri said corporate fleets could create a privatized carsharing service, in which the company is paying a fixed amount to have a number of vehicles available at a site. The company can offer it as a perk or a revenue-share model with employees.
While the company could control the user-facing app, typically the company itself is not operating the vehicles or the technology. “They're contracting the service from a third party that manages that, because that’s a lot of work,” Jahangari said. “But they of course want to think about how they can better optimize their fleet as an operator.”
Belknap said this makes sense because utilization of corporate passenger car fleets is usually less than 20% overall. However, he cautioned that fleets need to analyze the true cost associated with that vehicle. “Maintenance, fuel, and added miles can add up to the point that the extra utilization isn’t worth it,” he said.
With two more days of webinars scheduled, there's still time to join the Fleet Forward Experience.
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