Sustainability—or rather ESG, environmental, social, and corporate governance—is a concept that is on everyone’s mind, especially after the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, that was held in Glasgow, Scotland, earlier this year. This year’s summit’s mutual objectives are to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, allow ecosystems to adapt naturally, and enable sustainable development. Growing public pressure on businesses regarding environmental sustainability and corporate ESG are the types of fuel that birth innovation throughout the U.K.
ESG Is More Than Talking Points
One industry that has emerged from the growing environmental concerns is the development of electric vehicles. Initially, electric vehicle manufacturers started out making private cars, but they have now turned their attention to the commercial fleet vehicle sector. However, the manufacturers have not resolved the physical limitations around charging a commercial fleet of electric cars.
I sat down with Olly Craughan, Head of Sustainability at DPD group—an international logistics company—to discuss its goal of a rapid transition to an electric vehicle fleet.
Within minutes of speaking with Olly, it was clear that environmental initiatives weren’t merely sound bites used in DPD’s marketing materials. In an industry known for its heavy carbon footprint, this shipping company is working hard to offset that reputation by heavily investing in sustainability initiatives, such as having 1,700 electric vehicles within its fleet by the end of 2021.
Sustainability at Scale
DPD group is also implementing an industry-leading sustainability initiative called the 25-25-25 Vision Strategy, aiming to deliver zero emissions to 25 cities, covering 25% of the U.K. population by 2025. By that time, the strategy will deliver 100 million parcels on an all-electric vehicle fleet, compared with only 1.3 million in 2019.
DPD’s Bicester site in Oxford, England, is a beacon of this vision, becoming its first location to deliver a fully electric service in the U.K. DPD Bicester uses 40 electric vehicles to deliver parcels throughout the city; these vehicles are part of a larger fleet of 200 electric vehicles used for the region.
One of the strategies that DPD uses to combat the lack of charging-point infrastructure is to install charging points at the homes of their self-employed drivers, given they have off-road parking, in part because those drivers lease their vehicles from DPD. However, capacity is a big consideration since DPD does not want to turn its depots into charging stations due to operational efficiency.
While DPD currently does have some charging points at its depots, capacity will become an issue as the fleet becomes fully electric in the future. Moving forward, this will be an issue for all companies that operate an electric fleet.
How Do We Get There From Here?
This begs the question: In the future, where will companies charge their vehicles? When 2040 arrives and vehicle manufacturers cannot produce petrol or diesel cars anymore, we must have a network of practical charging solutions for commercial fleets.
During my conversation with Olly, I posed the idea of the development of smart commercial charging stations. For illustrative purposes, imagine a traditional service station on any motorway in the U.K. Instead of petroleum-based fuel pumps, smart charging points are wide enough to accommodate commercial vehicles. Those points feed real-time data to the driver, their company, and their end-users.
Connecting the Dots
Simply sticking a bunch of charging points on a piece of unused land would not be difficult, but creating a smart charging station that can relay important logistic information is another story. Since data is key, there has to be a layer of robust, real-time analytics available to drivers, their employers, and the end-users that they are delivering to.
Via a phone or tablet, a driver must be able to very quickly find the nearest charging station and have access to information regarding:
- How much capacity is available
- How long it will take to charge their vehicle
- What impact, if any, that stop will have on their delivery times
A Need for Real-Time Data
I have spoken with logistics companies and their customers. The one thing repeatedly mentioned is the lack of real-time data and visibility into the entire delivery process. Therefore, all of the information relayed to the driver via the smart charging point must also be available to the driver’s company, and ultimately the end-user.
This data is paramount. A fully connected smart service station can provide a layer of real-time analytics, bespoke to commercial organizations, and will smooth out the transition to an electric fleet on a macro level. When companies assemble environmental legislation, industry requirements, and technological capabilities, the traditional service station evolves into something much more impactful.
What Does a Software Solution for This Look Like?
Who Will Own and Run Charging Stations?
A natural and important consideration in developing commercial electric fleet vehicles is who develops, owns, and maintains the SmartCharge Service Stations? There are many possibilities:
- A coalition of the largest fleet operators combine to create a national network of SmartCharge Service Stations
- An investor backs a startup to design and deploy a national infrastructure
- An established private vehicle charging point manufacturer expands their offerings
Where Does TheoremOne Come In?
While there are many ownership options, the need for software with a user-friendly, insightful interface is a fixed constant. At TheoremOne, we don’t limit our thinking to what our people say; we seek out and speak with experts in relevant industries to understand the key emerging issues. Until a viable solution is designed, charging commercial electric vehicles will be a continuing problem. We see smart commercial charging service stations as one viable solution to the infrastructure problems, and we are near to building the software that pieces all of the parts together.
If you’d like to talk about building a platform or dashboard for your own charging points and the unique challenges your organization faces, or if you’d like to discuss how your company can be part of the commercial electric fleet vehicle charging solution, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1 (888) 969-2983.