Custom Fleet has been operating for over 20 years, and they currently operate over 30,000 vehicles and pieces of commercial equipment in New Zealand. We spoke to Michelle Herlihy, Custom Fleet’s Country Manager.

How many EVs do you have in your fleet?

We have just transitioned 33% of our fleet to EVs. Our EVs are deployed across our offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. We have a mix of Hyundai Ioniq Elites and Volkswagen E-Golfs.

What process did you go through to start the transition to EVs?

To assess which vehicles we would transition to EVs we applied the same methodology we use with our customers. Our Strategic Consulting team (experienced fleet and data & analytics specialists) carried out a review of our fleet to identify which vehicles would be the most appropriate to transition to an EV. The team have a suite of tools to assess utilisation, trip and distance data. The team then completed the whole of life costings to make recommendations of vehicles based on price, range and fit for purpose. We then did a thorough analysis of appropriate charging solutions for each of our sites to ensure we had appropriate charging solutions in place for our staff.

What approach did you take to accommodate the charging infrastructure at your sites?

We don’t own our premises so we had to negotiate with our landlords to install charging solutions at each of our sites. We were due to renew our lease in our Auckland office so the timing worked to enable us to negotiate to have the landlord install charging units in our building as part of our new lease arrangements. For our Wellington and Christchurch offices we have installed a mix of at work and at home charging solutions using Schneider Electric charging solutions.

How many more EVs to come?

We anticipate having at least 50% EVs in our fleet by the end of 2021.

Is there anything making the transition difficult?

We set up a project team and wrapped a rigorous process around our transition to ensure everything went smoothly. We held weekly meetings with Executive oversight and multiple stakeholder support. This was critical to ensure we covered every component of the transition from the fleet and whole of life cost analysis to managing charging solutions and landlord discussions through to branding of the vehicles.

How is staff buy-in, was training/education provided?

Staff buy-in was extremely positive, in fact, we were oversubscribed for our first batch of vehicles. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the positive feedback as the team have been managing EVs within our customers’ fleets for the last 5 years and over that time have built up significant expertise about EVs and charging solutions so this probably didn’t feel “groundbreaking”. Having said that you never know how the conversation will go when you make a change to staff vehicles, it can be a very emotive topic.

Custom Fleet has built training and education packs for our customers to help guide them, particularly through the first few months, as they get used to using their EVs. We had one customer come back to us very soon after we had deployed EVs into their fleet to say that there was a significant issue with the vehicles as the batteries were going flat after driving short distances. We had installed telematics in the vehicles so we fretted that the telematics devices might be draining the battery of the vehicles. It turned out the drivers, who were not used to driving such quiet vehicles, were forgetting to turn the vehicles when they got home at night as they didn’t have the noise of the engine as their cue to switch off the ignition! Needless to say, this is now built into our communication and training packs.

What are fleet vehicles used for?

Our vehicles are a tool of trade vehicles so the team use the vehicles for their day to day requirements visiting our customers all around the country. Outside of business hours, the EVs become family vehicles and will be used to for everything from driving the kids to sports to supermarket shopping to weekend excursions.

Do you have any tips for those thinking of starting the transition to EVs?

If you lease your fleet bring your lease company in early, they should have the expertise and resource to help support you at every stage of the transition. Custom Fleet has a full wing to wing solution for customers looking to either dip their toe in the water or to undertake a significant EV transition. We cover every element of the transition from initial fleet analysis through to charging solutions (we have partnered with local and global companies offering both hardware and software) through to reporting and driver education.

The other tip I would give is to engage property owners early and help educate them around what you are doing and getting comfort around the charging solutions you will require. Ensure you are very specific about the charging capacity you require.

Fleet News has published some interesting EV stats from the UK:
One in five company car drivers are ready to switch to an EV
Almost two in five (39%) are considering an EV for their next private-use
Concerns about the cost, range and charging time have decreased compared to last year
The article provides a good overview of the EU’s emissions penalties and incentives applicable to car manufactures from 2021.

Read the article

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