– By Caroline Falls –
Local governments are taking up electric vehicles as part of their shift to a more sustainable environment, and that has led to a pickup in inquiries to organisations like Intelematics and Chargefox who provide services to help in the transition.
“We’re all independently receiving requests from LGAs around the different facets of EVs that we can provide,” said Paul Sinclair, business development manager at Intelematics, adding they figured they could alleviate a lot of the work for people chasing up different companies for different aspects of EVs if they ran a webinar.
So they did run one — titled How Local Governments Can Drive an Environmentally Sustainable Fleet Management Strategy — and about 100 people from local government organisations all over Australia joined in. A couple of polls run during the hour-long session revealed more than half the participants didn’t have an EV in their fleet as yet. Their outlook showed a few believing their fleet would be more than 50 percent electric in five years time.
Sinclair talked about how his company’s telematics product Connect is being developed to accommodate any vehicle agnostic of fuel type in order to make the transition to EVs seamless.
“What we intend to do is ensure that you have one platform for your ICE, your yellow equipment, and your EVs, so that when EVs become everyday, run of the mill vehicles in your fleet, you’re not having to deal with different sets of technology.”
Chargefox’s Nick Franco, manager of the group’s charging network and fleet service, talked about how his company’s software platform can help organisations manage different aspects of their charging hardware, whether it’s for public use or limited private use. Chargefox is Australia’s biggest network of chargers, with 900 plugs around the country for public use. It owns only 22 of those. The rest are owned by other entities, including shopping centres, councils, tourist destinations and state governments
“Over 80 percent of all EV drivers in Australia have the Chargefox app on their phone. And what that does is allow drivers to find a station that’s near to them. They can click on there and see who owns the station, what kind of charger is there, and, is there a price on it or not,” said Franco, adding “Sometimes they’re free, for instance, all of the chargers on the Moreland network are free, but other sites will put a price on there.”
RACV Solar’s Pat Tale talked about how his organisation is installing solar and battery facilities across Victoria and beyond as communities convert to renewable power to charge not only EVs, but to replace the need for diesel generators in the event of catastrophic fires.
“Perhaps an organisation is wanting to get to net zero. We can assess their emissions from vehicles, from natural gas, from electricity, and so forth. And then put in place a cost effective and practical plan for them to achieve their goals. We work across a really wide range of sectors — schools and government, hospitals, aged care, agriculture, manufacturing and so on,” said Tale, who is head of business development at RACV Solar.
Another of the key presenters was Paul Swift from Moreland City Council, an inner Melbourne council. Moreland is a leader in the take-up of electric vehicles, having been part of a Victorian state government trial as early as 2012. Moreland installed its first EV charger in 2013, a 50-kilowatt unit. Today some 36 percent of its fleet of vans, cars and wagons are electric. It has 16 chargers, sufficient to charge 23 vehicles simultaneously.
Swift’s advice to those starting their EV journey is to get going with a trial. “My advice would be to start small. Bring in your mayor, or CEO to have a go. I think really that that personal experience is key. And, getting that senior support is absolutely vital,” said Swift whose job title is zero-carbon technical lead.
Sinclair’s parting advice to participants was to determine the vehicle use and ensure you get the right EV for the job. He referred participants to the consultancy Fleet Advisory, run by Paul Oliver, who specialises in helping clients rightsize.
“It’s crucial that you actually step off in the right direction, and choose the right vehicles for the job in the first place,” said Sinclair. Fleet Advisory belongs to an EV Expert Advisory Group established by Intelematics to help fleets transition.
The takeaway from Chargefox’s Franco was that people have conversations about the number of vehicles and typical use of those vehicles to ascertain the type and number of chargers.
“Anyone who is started on this journey just needs to look at how many vehicles they are going to have and what would be the typical use of those vehicles — do the vehicles operate within a very small radius around the council buildings, or do they go quite far afield?”
The webinar’s host, Catherine Pepper, environment and sustainability manager at Maitland City Council (NSW), told participants to reach out to their counterparts in neighboring councils and share their experiences, and learnings.
Meanwhile you can feel the acceleration towards EVs in the air.
State government incentives announced in recent months have hit the right notes. The latest new car sales data is showing exponential growth in EV sales.
As Pepper pointed out, “There are currently 31 electric vehicle models for sale in Australia, and 14 of those and are priced under $65,000. So that’s a really significant change in terms of where we are compared to where we were a few years ago, when some of us commenced our journey into electric vehicles.”
And then, as Sinclair passed on, “OEMs are telling us that price parity is just over the horizon for EVs versus ICE.”
— Caroline Falls has been writing for Fleet Auto News since 2015. She is a freelancer. She can be contacted at email@example.com.