On a recent morning run, I noticed something was different. There were more cars on the road than usual. Strike that, there were more trucks and vans. Since the shelter-in-place orders came down in March, like most of us I’d become used to the conspicuous lack of traffic. I also realized I’d gotten used to the corresponding silence and clearer skies. Suddenly, I was being jarred from the rhythm of my breathing by the once-familiar rumblings of trucks and the smell of diesel. I was taken aback. Almost overnight, delivery vehicles have begun replacing the scores of commuters that once clogged the streets in my community. It got me thinking. Prior to the lockdowns, fleets were eagerly exploring the transition to electric mobility. Could it be that the current crisis might actually accelerate that shift? There are already some signs that just might be the case.
When Conventional Wisdom Isn’t
While conventional wisdom suggests low oil prices will slow the switch to EVs, the facts on the ground belie that. Analysts don’t see any indication that the pandemic is affecting the long-term global trend toward electrification. In fact, many governments around the world are doubling down on EVs and more still view the crisis as an opportunity “to speed up a change which is already viewed as inevitable.” A recent UK survey found that 45% of people say that “the radical improvement on air pollution” since the pandemic began has caused them to consider an EV as their next vehicle. New numbers back that up: while overall vehicle registrations in the UK are predictably down (31% YoY in 2020), battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations have leapt more than 204%! Led by the Tesla Model 3, Germany even recorded a record month for EV sales in March.
Where Amazon Goes, So Goes the World
Prior to the pandemic, the world’s largest delivery fleets were making massive investments in e-mobility and, with demand up, they’re unlikely to reverse course. In January, UPS announced plans to add 10,000 BEV trucks for a fleet pilot beginning this year after purchasing a minority stake in EV-maker Arrival. In its quest to be carbon neutral by 2040, online retailer Amazon recently announced plans to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans from electric startup Rivian. Delivery fleets are experiencing several challenges during the current crisis that a move to more reliable, affordable and cleaner electric vehicles would help address. Consumer demand is driving the need for more frequent deliveries and shorter delivery times, which means large orders are sometimes split up, necessitating the need for even more vehicles and more trips.
Why Delivery Fleet Electrification Will Continue Apace
Without clean options, delivery fleets are increasingly at odds with government mandates for emission reductions; rules that, as I mentioned earlier, may become more stringent going forward. In Europe, by leveraging a combination of regulations and incentives, 24 cities with a combined population of over 62 million people plan to eliminate internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles from metro areas entirely by 2030. Here at home, restrictions have been less profound, but many delivery fleets are making the shift anyway—for more pragmatic reasons. Electric trucks, vans and buses are far less expensive to fuel and maintain than their ICE counterparts and, with battery prices falling, will reach cost parity with traditional vehicles by mid-decade. With the many federal, state and local incentives available, many EVs are already less expensive today. Planning an electric motor pool for your fleet? A recently reinstated U.S. federal tax credit can make that far more affordable than ever as well.
What Do You Want the Future To Look Like?
To be honest, nobody knows what the world will look like once this terrible tragedy is over and life begins to return to some semblance of normalcy. My guess is that people, businesses and state and local governments will hasten the push for lower greenhouse gases (GHGs) and harmful emissions from transportation (which, in addition to accelerating climate change, are linked to a wide array of illnesses and conditions such as respiratory illnesses, some cancers and cardiovascular disease, among many others). As we’ve seen again and again throughout this crisis, once people identify a need, they’ll do whatever it takes to address it. Now that we can all picture a world without air and noise pollution, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a reality. In fact, in a word I’m hearing more and more these days, it’s “inevitable.”
Charging an EV fleet requires more than simply plugging in. You need an affordable charging solution that integrates with your current operations, so your vehicles are ready to go when your drivers need them.
To find out how to simplify the transition to an electric fleet, join us for our Future Fleet Webinar: Electrifying Your Motor Pool on May 13.