The Fleet Vision International trade event provided a unique opportunity to learn about the latest trends and developments in the fleet and transport industry. During my visit to the conference sessions, I gained some valuable insights from the experts in the industry.
In this article, I will share with you my key takeaways from three interesting sessions.
1. Right size then Electrify – Gregg Spotts
The push towards electrification and decarbonization has been gaining momentum in recent years, and the Seattle Department of Transportation is at the forefront of this movement. Greg Spotts, the department's director, shared valuable insights during his session.
Bigger is not always better
One of the main takeaways was that bigger is not always better. Greg and his team have been able to drive many new initiatives by questioning conventional thinking and challenging the status quo.
The city is on a mission to electrify all sorts of vehicles in its fleet, including fire trucks, e-bikes for city inspections, and small electric street sweepers. The department also uses a fully electric "Broom Bear" to collect refuse and other light electric vehicles to plant new trees to improve air quality.
By downsizing the street sweeper trucks to a smaller electric variant, the city is able to reach areas previously inaccessible, such as curb sides and bike lanes.
Small changes make a big difference
Furthermore, by replacing the hydraulic system used to operate the sweeper arms with an electric motor, the department was able to greatly improve fuel efficiency. This demonstrates that even seemingly small changes can make a significant difference to efficiency and sustainability. But you would never find out, unless somebody asks questions like: “how much do the sweeper arms actually impact the efficiency of the vehicle?”
The insights shared by Greg showcase the importance of taking a holistic approach to sustainability. By considering the entire lifecycle of a vehicle, we can make more informed decisions about how to reduce emissions and improve efficiency. Seattle’s approach to downsizing and electrification demonstrates that sustainability doesn’t always have to come from big, disruptive innovations.
Sometimes, it’s the small changes that can make the biggest difference.
This is particularly relevant for fleet managers who may be hesitant to overhaul their entire fleet with new, electric vehicles. Instead, they can start by making incremental changes, such as investing in smaller, more nimble electric vehicles to supplement larger, traditional vehicles.
Challenge the status quo
Moreover, important to note that electrification is also about making smart choices when it comes to real estate and infrastructure.
Large heavy-duty electric vehicles require a lot of space to charge and house, and it may not always be feasible to accommodate them. By prioritizing the right size first and then electrifying, cities can ensure that they are making the most efficient use of their resources.
The insights shared by Greg showcase how small changes can make a big difference in achieving sustainability goals. By challenging the status quo, asking the right questions, and making small changes, we can achieve significant efficiencies and make a positive impact on the environment.
Seattle's initiatives in the realm of electrification and decarbonization serve as a model for other cities around the world.
Thanks Greg for your insights and efforts to drive sustainability in our cities.
2. Planning for a Diverse Energy Mix - Adrian Brabazon
This session was led by Adrian Brabazon, Head of BP Fleet Solutions in the UK, where he discussed the future of energy in the transportation sector.
Adrian highlighted the decline of fossil fuels in transport as the world shifts to lower carbon alternatives and emphasized the importance of adopting a strategic approach to the transition to a low-carbon energy mix.
Low carbon fuels
Electrification is currently the main driving force in the road transport sector, with the number of electric cars and light-duty trucks expected to increase from 20 million in 2021 to 2 billion by 2050.
However, hydrogen-fuelled trucks also play a growing role, particularly for heavy-duty, long-distance use cases. The choice between electrification and hydrogen will vary across countries and depend on price, regulations, subsidies, and infrastructure development.
Legislation in particular, will play a crucial role in driving the adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs), penalizing fossil-fuelled vehicles while requiring and favouring ZEVs. The EU has already introduced several regulatory pillars to mitigate the environmental impacts of heavy-duty vehicles.
While electricity and hydrogen will be the main low-carbon fuel solutions in the mid to long-term, other renewable and low carbon fuel options, like Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) and Bio-Gas will have a transition role to play in the short term. Diesel will still have a part to play during this transition.
Future mobility hub
Adrian also shared his vision of a future mobility hub, which will feature a single digital payment for various fuel sources, convenience stores for food and drink, facilities to support driver welfare and health, fast EV charging aimed at trucks, renewable diesel and renewable gas, hydrogen refuelling, and secure vehicle parking on-site.
Challenges in meeting the diverse energy mix
However, transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix comes with its challenges. Real estate access is one such challenge, with truck sites expected to grow both in numbers and plot sizes, depending on the range of energy options required.
Securing power supply and significant digital eco-system integration will be vital to optimize the total cost of ownership. Supporting driver welfare is also essential for the industry to minimize downtime, and a frictionless experience for drivers will be key.
Adrian’s insights highlight the importance of adopting a strategic approach to the transition to a low-carbon energy mix. Fleet managers will need to be prepared to make real changes in fleet operations and work in partnership with expert solution providers to navigate their way through the energy transition.
3. Decarbonizing Islington’s fleet - Chris Demetriou
The final session I’d like to share with you is one by Chris Demetriou, Head of Corporate Fleet -Transport & Accessible Community Transport, Islington Council.
Demetriou presented Islington's goal to build a Net Zero Carbon Islington by 2030, which includes electrifying the council's entire fleet over a ten-year period, with a £38m 10-year capital fleet replacement investment and £6m Electric Vehicle Chare Point (EVCP) infrastructure investment.
With over 70 AC/DC chargers installed across eight council sites, Islington's current 90 battery electric fleet (20% of its fleet) has reduced CO2 emissions by around 460 tonnes in the last 12 months. And the council plans to have over 75 fast chargers at its main depot, potentially charging 200+ vehicles at any given time in the future.
The council is also exploring innovative solutions like the 'Sun to Wheel' project, which aims to capture energy from solar PVs, energy storage systems, and vehicles to turn its depot into a Micro-grid. Additionally, Islington Council completed a successful 18-month vehicle-to-grid (V2G/V2B) trial with Lunar Energy, offsetting its carbon footprint and potentially achieving energy cost savings.
Of course, there are still challenges to overcome, such as long lead times for vehicles, DNO works (Distribution Network Operator), and EVCP infrastructure.
There is also range/charge anxiety for fleet vehicles that live outside the borough. Moreover, energy prices make the case for EVs slightly more difficult with cost-saving margins narrowing, and sustainably sourced batteries are a growing concern.
Overall, the council’s initiatives will undoubtedly inspire other boroughs and councils to explore similar projects. It’s crucial that the government supports such initiatives and addresses the challenges ahead.
I would like to thank Chris Demetriou for sharing Islington Council's initiatives and wish him and his team all the best in their efforts to achieve a Net Zero Carbon Islington by 2030.
The journey towards a low-carbon energy mix may be long and challenging, but the end results will be worth it: a cleaner, more sustainable, and resilient transport system. To succeed, fleet managers must challenge conventional thinking, and adapt to changing market conditions and regulation. And remember, small changes can have a big impact, so take a holistic approach to sustainability and efficiency to achieve your goals.
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