Opinion - 22/October/2021

Companies could tip the scales for a green mobility boost

To give electromobility a real boost and make the Green Deal a reality, we have to look beyond public charging, says Jean-Christoph Heyne from Siemens Smart Infrastructure

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy


 

Enterprise and fleet charging holds significant potential to decarbonise transport and create additional revenues

Transportation still accounts for more than one-fourth of the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions. The European Green Deal aims to transform the EU economy and society with measures designed to meet climate goals—including scaling up a carbon-neutral mobility solution.

Announced in July 2021, the plans aim to phase out combustion engines in new cars by 2035, underscoring the EU’s commitment to a fully decarbonised mobility sector. At the same time, proposed legislation would require member states to create the necessary infrastructure along major highways by 2025, with publicly accessible charging points placed no more than 60 kilometres apart.

To reach the EU Green Deal target of one million publicly accessible charging points by 2025, 3000 new charging stations would be needed every week.

However, we have to look beyond public charging, especially since the substantial majority of EV drivers charge at home or at work. This is where the private sector comes in. It can complement this public system and play a key role in decarbonising the transportation sector.

At any typical company location you will find a lot of cars—including the company fleet, vehicles of employees, as well as those of customers. Imagine how much CO2 could be saved if they were all electric. The contribution of companies could be significant if they introduced “enterprise charging”—offering charging options for employees as well as customers and switching to an all-electric company fleet.

 

SCALING UP

Switching entire corporate fleets to electric vehicles (EVs) will be crucial, since company cars account for more than half of the new vehicles sold in the EU, with the vast majority still powered by internal combustion engines. In addition, company cars travel disproportionately large distances compared to private vehicles – 2.25 times further on average.

For companies to begin switching their fleets to electric, it might make sense to start small and then scale up quickly with growing demand. The first step is to roll out charging options on premises. The second step is to expand overall charging opportunities. This means offering easy access to existing public charging options for fleet drivers. With such a service, drivers of company-owned electric vehicles can charge the same way wherever they are, using just one company charging card and app.

The shift to EVs in the private sector will especially affect companies operating large corporate fleets. With their own charging infrastructure, they can take control and optimise their energy consumption and efficiency through economies of scale. They can save on maintenance costs and integrate the charging points with their overall building and energy management systems in a way that is tailored to their specific business operations.

Companies that generate renewable energy—through rooftop solar PV panels, for instance—can use it to power their charging infrastructure, further saving costs and avoiding emissions.

 

EMPOWERING EMPLOYEES

While cost savings and emissions avoidance are valid reasons for setting up an enterprise charging infrastructure, companies with sufficiently large workforces can also offer their employees the benefit of being able to charge their EVs they use for daily commutes.

Many large corporations are located in urban settings, with employees travelling between their workplace and home on the periphery where the charging infrastructure is still much less dense. Half of all drivers in Europe do not have access to off-street charging. By providing charging options, companies can support and encourage the use of EVs, positioning themselves as attractive employers and showcasing their brand’s commitment to sustainability.

As a courtesy or service, they can extend the same convenience to customers who wish to plug in their cars while visiting the company’s premises for business. This may soon become a standard option.

 

SUSTAINABLE INCENTIVES

With the European Green Deal, the EU member states have committed to cutting emissions by at least 55% by the end of this decade and incentivising measures to achieve the long-term net-zero goal by 2050. This explicitly includes the charging infrastructure for both short- and long-haul travel. In addition to cost savings and more sustainable operations, companies can also benefit from incentive measures for charging infrastructures, depending on country regulations.

In Germany, for example, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure is providing €300 million in financial support for local charging infrastructures specifically intended to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to invest in e-mobility.

However, the EU still lacks an integrated strategy for the deployment of charging infrastructure, according to a May 2021 report by the European Court of Auditors. Such a strategy should ensure equitable access to charging options in accordance with the demand of a growing EV market.

Incentivising the rollout of charging stations, including for enterprise fleets, must be a coordinated effort that also includes interoperability between all charging points and payment methods—and, as a result, simplicity for all EV drivers. Only then will we be able to harness this technology’s full potential for achieving the targets of the Paris Agreement and the European Green Deal, which should be the shared goal of all public authorities, OEMs, corporate operators of electric vehicle fleets, and private citizens. •

 


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