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Under the spotlight is transport, not least because transportation remains the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions .

At this year’s ITT Hub event, held at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, it was evident how seriously this challenge is being taken, with many of the innovations on display focused on the transition to cleaner vehicles.

Start decarbonising and phase in your changes

Speaking at a panel discussion on “Financing the transition to commercial EV charging”,

Jon Hanson, Climate Lead - Mobility at Lombard, explained that such a phased approach to solving the transition was appropriate, not just at this economy-wide macro level, but also for individual businesses.

“One of the key considerations for businesses when they’re starting on this process is identifying which vehicles and journeys are going to be the easiest to transition. It makes sense to start the transition with these vehicles, but it is also vital to bring drivers on the journey too.”

He added that:

  • businesses need to assess which vehicles to transition first and capitalise on quick wins
  • they should use any lessons to accelerate the wider vehicle transition, including how to future-proof charging infrastructure  

Innovation can be expensive, but collaboration is key

This prompted a discussion of how the transition to EVs has come at a time when asset funders are changing the products they offer.

Jon explained that the uncertainty and unfamiliarity with new technologies and how they would develop was why finance companies such as Lombard are working hard to enable business investment and to offer extra support

Focus on the infrastructure as well as the vehicles

Part of the challenge with the switch to greener fleets, regardless of the size of vehicles involved, is that it needs new infrastructure, and potentially a new approach to how the business operates. A fleet of delivery vans, for example, may need to be more rigorous in route planning if drivers can’t simply stop along the way to fill up.

This is a particularly acute problem that EV fleet and battery storage specialist Zenobē and its clients’ fleets of buses are looking at. “You can’t operate anything without the right charging infrastructure,” said Ian Allder, director of business development at Zenobē. “The problem is the efficiency required to be competitive in this market. Ensuring the charging infrastructure is committed to early on is vital. You need to know the best routes to take and the way the vehicle is driven. There are lots of things to factor in, from distances travelled to dwell times and passenger numbers. There’s a danger that, without the right charging infrastructure, the operational efficiency of the operator reduces and ultimately it impacts business viability.”

Jon explained that many businesses are taking an even wider view than simply their short-term charging infrastructure needs. “They are also thinking about things like longer term grid connection capacity, the availability of and amount of power they are going to require as the fleet transitions. Being able to ensure you have the right power available in the right locations is vital, and increasingly customers are thinking about these charging requirements in addition to their overall energy needs. They are thinking about whether they can generate and store their own energy, and ultimately deploy it into the fleet or elsewhere within the business – helping to remove the reliance on the power grid and even provide greater confidence of their future energy costs.”

When it comes to reaching net zero and fleet decarbonisation, it seems, the immediate goals may present challenges. But some of the solutions may also be thought of as opportunities. Early adoption of decarbonised technologies that support business learning and help to reduce total business emissions are clear examples.

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