The value of performance, flexibility and confidence for commercial e-mobility fleets

As we approach 2022 World EV Day on September 9, we take stock of the business case for commercial e-fleets and the inevitable role they will play in the future of transport.

This article is the first in a series about the importance and value of performance, flexibility and confidence for commercial e-mobility decision-makers – and ABB’s contribution to driving fleet excellence through advanced electric vehicle solutions.

Fleet owners and managers rightly prize fleet performance above all else. It is the anchor for organisational success, from making the right investment decisions to delivering ongoing logistics certainty and more. As e-fleets rapidly reach their coming of age, they are starting to eclipse internal combustion engine fleets for offering a total lifetime performance advantage for enduring success.

The sustainability edge

Headlines around the world are highlighting the push toward net zero by governments and industries alike. The shift to electric vehicle fleets is well recognised as a key part of the solution, and a tangible, achievable and increasingly accessible one at that. The Grattan Institute’s policy research[1] shows that zero-emissions vehicles are the best option for cutting transport emissions. Considering it takes time to replace a nation’s vehicle fleet – for example, it’s a 20-year cycle in Australia – the transition starting line needs to be now. Australia’s National Transport Commission has found that if buyers of new vehicles in 2020 had focused on ‘best-in-class’ emissions performance, the country’s average carbon emissions intensity would have dropped dramatically – 93 per cent for passenger cars and light SUVs, and 50 per cent for heavy SUVs and light commercial vehicles[2]. This is the domain of immediate wins. As targets grow closer in our windscreens – and, for some, even zoom past their rear-view mirrors – the sustainability value of e-fleets will increasingly be part of how performance is measured.

In a country like Thailand, environmental value becomes even more personal, with the booming economy resulting in more cars and a burdened public transport system. There the government is fast-tracking infrastructure to support electric vehicles in a bid to reduce harmful PM2.5 particles largely caused by internal combustion engines. Thailand’s average concentration of PM2.5 has been around 24mg/m³ for some years, when the World Health Organization suggests an average maximum of 10mg/m³. ABB’s fast-charging solutions are helping to change that, with Thailand’s Provincial Electricity Authority commissioning the installation of more than 120 Terra 54 fast chargers across the country last year as part of promoting electric vehicles. With these, a vehicle’s battery can be charged up to 80 per cent of its average capacity in 15 to 30 minutes and they are compatible with all electric vehicles currently in the market.

Urgency will be compounded as demand picks up. Even in the Australian market, where electric vehicle uptake lags behind most developed economies globally, the Electric Vehicle Council has confirmed that 8,688 electric vehicles were sold in the first half of 2021[3] – more than any previous full year. New models are entering the market, albeit at a slower rate than other countries. And we are finally seeing greater leadership by governments via incentives for electric vehicles which will give manufacturers greater confidence to offer a wider range of vehicles. As fleet emissions standards are introduced, with the likelihood that future internal combustion sales will be blocked at some point, the impetus for transitioning to e-fleets will become even more essential…and influential to performance.

Impressive efficiency, productivity and reliability

Sustainability credentials are just part of the business case for e-fleets. They sit alongside other performance qualities, with impressive results being realised by operators. A well-designed and planned approach to e-fleets streamlines daily operations and maintenance requirements. Factors such as optimal fleet efficiency and productivity are enabled, in part, through reliable, advanced charging and energy solutions. Here, ABB is driving continual improvement. We have delivered more than 680,000 chargers across more than 85 markets, including 30,000 DC fast chargers, for which we provide services that enable 98% uptime. Those results speak volumes. In addition, around 90 per cent of our chargers can be diagnosed remotely, with approximately 75 per cent of cases solved without any on-site intervention, further delivering the reliability that underpins efficiency and productivity.

We are also developing new solutions that extract greater value from e-fleets. Last year we launched our Terra 360 charger, which is now available in the Asia Pacific market. It is capable of fully charging an EV in 15 minutes or less – or adding 100km of range in less than 3 minutes. It is also the only charger designed to charge multiple vehicles at once using dynamic power distribution. We are also shortly launching a new vehicle-to-grid charging product that marks the next step in the electric vehicle revolution. Vehicles will become both a transport device and a power source, with expanded flexibility to balance charging between peak and non-peak times.

Particularly for light vehicle e-fleets, former concerns around issues such as range anxiety and grid stability are being rapidly removed in favour of solutions that improve fleet performance. Advantages such as around-the-clock remote support, diagnosing and troubleshooting, further the reliability and uptime commitments from ABB. Servicing may seem like something of an afterthought, but it has proven to be a differentiator with manufacturers who value our active service ability in the regions in which we operate.

Furthermore, ABB in collaboration with Amazon Web Services is developing a cloud-based digital solution for the real-time fleet management of EVs to optimise the efficient use of EVs and speed up the electrification of transport fleets. Using machine learning and analytics, it will include a compelling set of features including charge planning and real-time monitoring with insight and actions for vehicle health and servicing, along with EV route optimization based on time of day, weather and use patterns.

Growing options for heavy vehicles

Buses form the largest heavy vehicle market for e-fleets. However, we’re starting to see other heavy vehicle options emerge to service freight operations, such as Volvo’s work with Linfox, including larger vans and trucks. In Australia, a solution like the Grattan Institute’s recommendation to increase the truck width limit to 2.6m will enable heavy vehicles from major markets like Europe and the United States to be used here. It’s supported by the Australian Trucking Association[4] as one strategy to avoid productivity losses and extra costs in redesigning trucks for the Australian market. Until then, work will continue in converting models to keep up with demand. Globally, the International Energy Agency[5] reports positive commitments by top vehicle manufacturers to widen their portfolios, including electric heavy-duty vehicles, with four major truck manufacturers pointing to an all-electric future.

The next level for large fleets is megawatt charging, which is set to deliver four times the output of today’s charging levels. ABB is a founding partner of the development consortium and is in a unique position to offer a wider range of solutions to help customers meet the distribution requirements for megawatt charging. What’s exciting is the diversity of stakeholders tackling these challenges to enable the use of electric heavy vehicles, including in long-haul contexts.

Electrifying the mining sector

One sector leading the charge in e-fleets is mining. Reduction of scope 1 and 2 emissions is of increasing concern to mining companies. 22 of the world’s largest miners have come together in the ChargeOn Innovation Challenge to work collectively to develop technologies that can be applied to decarbonise their heaviest loads and their most demanding applications.

The mining sector, in its pursuit of carbon neutrality, highlights the dual performance benefits of sustainability and operational excellence that only electric vehicles can deliver. ABB is again proud to be innovating in this space, such as our work with miners to develop underground mining solutions using our charging and wider electrification products.

For example, we worked with CSA copper mine in New South Wales to install ABB’s heavy vehicle charger, and a kiosk and switchboard arrangement, to power electric loaders amid the mine’s tough underground conditions. The solution will eventually replace the mine’s diesel loaders for rock excavation. It creates environmental and operational advantages by reducing the ventilation requirements needed to offset the heat, noise, moisture and toxic particulates generated by diesel vehicles. ABB’s HVC-150C delivers 150kW of charging power. It runs on the ABB Ability™ Connected Services Platform to enhance uptime, scalability and operational efficiency, with real-time remote support. The electric solution has already improved energy efficiency and created better environments for workers and the local community.

A total business case

EY[6] recently reported in Australia that electric vehicles provide an $8,763 average net benefit to government and society for replacing an internal combustion engine vehicle with an electric one – and a $40,051 average net benefit for replacing a diesel bus with an electric one. And that’s not counting the health benefits. At the organisational level, a shift to e-fleets offers capital and operational savings when it’s delivered using a clear and considered strategy. The Electric Vehicle Council[7] suggests electric vehicles are 70 per cent cheaper to refuel and offer maintenance savings due to having fewer moving parts. Partnering with experienced providers is one way to extract the most value from the transition while ensuring a holistic, smart approach via connected solutions, such as load management, energy monitoring and remote support. In all, the combination of sustainability, efficiency, productivity and reliability benefits – scaled from light to heavy vehicles – delivers a total business case for e-fleets that cannot be matched by internal combustion alternatives. With the race now on, and competition for hardware growing, fleet owners and managers not already looking into e-fleets are well served to start exploring their options today.

Visit our website to view ABB’s full charging portfolio and request to speak with an ABB expert to discuss e-mobility options tailored to your operations.

[1] Grattan Institute, Towards net zero: Practical policies to reduce transport emissions, July 2021

[2] National Transport Commission, Carbon Dioxide Emissions Intensity for New Australian Light Vehicles 2020, August 2021

[3] Electric Vehicle Council, State of Electric Vehicles, August 2021

[4] Australian Trucking Association, Safer Freight Vehicles Discussion Paper, June 2021

[5] International Energy Agency (IEA), Global EV Outlook 2021: Accelerating ambitions despite the pandemic

[6] EY, Uncovering the hidden costs and benefits from Electric Vehicles, Final Report for the Electric Vehicle Council, September 2020

[7] Electric Vehicle Council,

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About the author

Sean Stove

Sean Stove is the head of ABB Australia’s E-Mobility Division. In this role he is responsible for driving strategic direction and growth in the electric vehicle (EV) and sustainable transport sector across ABB’s EV charging and infrastructure portfolio for electric cars, and buses and heavy vehicles. Joining ABB in 1997, Sean has held numerous senior roles in sales, operations and business development across Asia Pacific and Europe. Most recently he led ABB Australia’s transportation and rail segments, having been involved in the rail sector since 2003. After completing his Electrical Certificate from Christchurch Polytechnic, Sean became a graduate of the University of Queensland’s Mt Eliza MBA Program, and completed the Senior Leadership Development program at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.
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