Controlling the costs of recharging and managing kW per kilometre will remain vital in a world of zero-emission vehicles.
The need for fleet managers to closely manage ‘fuel’ costs will not disappear with the transition to electric vehicles. While recharging batteries is considerably cheaper across Europe than filling a fuel tank with diesel, the chargepoints that drivers select and the individual driving styles of employees both have a significant impact on electricity bills.
This means that the same disciplines that fleet managers have used to control their fuel expenditure will need to be applied to battery-powered vehicles. Data on business miles driven, driver fuel consumption and the chargepoint price of power will be critically important for cost-conscious businesses.
As a result, charging network cards that simply give drivers access to recharging networks, but without the additional management information and ease of invoicing to which fleet managers are accustomed will not be sufficient to manage recharging expenditure.
Mixed charging profile
The issue is further complicated by the blended mix of charging that most EV drivers are expected to use, plugging in their vehices overnight at home, topping up batteries at the workplace and relying on high-speed public chargers on longer journeys.
These public chargers often belong to different chargepoint operators, creating a headache for fleet managers whose vehicles cover a wide geographical range. Energy company Total estimates that there are almost 1,000 chargepoint operators (CPO) in Europe and 600 e-Mobility Service Providers (eMSP) offering an electric mobility card.
“Information systems of each mobility card provider and chargepoint operator do not automatically communicate, adding complexity to accessibility,” warned Total in August 2020 as it highlighted the need for industry-wide interoperability and eRoaming.
Multiple subscriptions required
Until this happens, fleet managers will have to negotiate multiple subscription fees with CPOs and eMSPs and process multiple invoices to keep their EVs mobile. The universal ‘tap-and-go’ payment solutions that allows drivers to use Visa or Mastercard cards to pay at public chargepoints may solve range anxiety and keep EVs moving but do not deliver the management information required to monitor, analyse and control spend.
This information is particularly important for fleets operating plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) as a stepping stone to full electrification. If PHEVs are not recharged and driven wherever possible in electric mode their fuel consumption and cost, as well as their CO2 footprint are worse than an equivalent diesel model.
Fossil fuel-card companies offer EV solution
The good news is that established fuel-card companies are rapidly developing products and services that deliver this data and that can work in a mixed fleet environment of both EVs and vehicles with internal combustion engines.
Paul Holland, managing director for UK Fuel at Fleetcor, said: “Those managing fleets that combine petrol, diesel and electric vehicles are faced with many challenges, needing to manage multiple accounts and payment methods to ensure their fleet has access to a convenient network for all its refuelling needs. On top of this, they are met by varying account structures, different pricing, separate invoicing and reporting, leading to a lot of administration that leaves fleet managers and owners without the necessary controls to run their business.”
Fleetcor’s Allstar One Electric card provides a charging payment solution for electric and hybrid company vehicles across a multi-branded electric charging network as well as access to the UK’s largest fossil fuel network, alongside management reports that deliver full visibility of spend and tax-compliant invoicing.
eRoaming services develop
Moreover, recharging networks are gradually linking up to offer e-roaming services similar to banks, letting the customers of their rivals use their ATMs to withdraw cash. In France, for example, Hubject has forged at least 18 partnerships with charging companies and public bodies, such as Chargemap, Freshmile, Electric 55 Charging and Ionity to link 15% of the country’s charging stations into a single network, although as Hubject’s Yan Garnier said: “Only 15% of the charging stations in France are open to roaming with our local and international partners. This is not enough for EV drivers to easily charge their vehicles in France and across Europe.”
Leasing company answers
And in a bid to deliver a complete EV solution, major leasing companies such as Arval, Athlon and LeasePlan are working with EV chargecard providers like Xximo to deliver fleet-specific cards that provide open access to an ever-growing public charging network.
Why fuel cards remain essential
- Consolidate fuel and electricity purchases into a single invoice and management report during the transition to electric vehicles.
- Monitor where drivers recharge their electric vehicles – high-speed public chargers are much more expensive than slower domestic or workplace chargers.
- Use EV recharging and fuel data to ensure drivers of plug-in hybrid vehicles are actually plugging in their cars and making maximum use of battery power.
- Compare real-life electricity costs against real life diesel expenditure to calculate the actual TCO of both power trains.
- Analyse kilometres driven per kWh of charge. Drivers achieving the lowest average range may be driving aggressively, increasing fleet risk.
- Increase access to charging nationwide and international charging networks. The major card operators are working to establish eRoaming.
- Use card apps to record journeys as either ‘business’ or ‘private’ for tax and expenses.