Australian car fleet operators are looking to embrace electric vehicles, with half intending to add EVs to their fleet over the next 24 months, and more in following years.
But a new survey also finds that fleet owners want governments to do more to encourage their uptake, such as providing subsidies to reduce the high upfront costs of EVs – still the number one issue for fleet buyers – and to provide more charging infrastructure.
The new and comprehensive research published by the Australasian Fleet Management Association (AFMA) shows that one third of fleet operators – private and government – have dipped their toes into the EV market and own at least one electric vehicle. More than one third have some form of charging infrastructure.
More than 60 per cent are looking to transition sizeable amounts of their fleets to electric cars over the next 12 months to five years.
But the biggest barriers cited in the survey are the higher upfront cost of electric vehicles, the lack of choice of vehicles, particulrly in the light commercial category (which includes utes), and the costs of installing charging infrastructure.
AFMA surveyed 177 organisations involved in vehicle fleets, representing all levels of government, as well as the private sector, and combined are responsible for around 66,500 fleet vehicles in Australia.
The survey found that electric vehicle uptake in fleets had been led by companies operating the largest fleets, and one-third said that they had regularly incorporated all-electric models in their fleets.
But these remained a tiny portion of their overall fleets. The survey found that just 1.7 per cent of vehicle fleets were made up of all-electric models, with a further 4.8 per cent made up of hybrid models.
The majority of vehicle fleets survey are currently diesel-fuelled, reflecting the higher proportion of fleets made up of light and heavy commercial vehicles, and vehicles used in remote operations like mining sites.
Less than 30 per cent of responders said that electric vehicle mileage remained as a key concern, indicating that fleet managers were starting to move away from any ‘range anxiety’, but that economics remained a concern despite the potential for electric vehicles to be a cheaper option over the long term.
“More mature fleets are more focussed on overcoming challenges around vehicle cost and availability, having successfully addressed the complexity of the infrastructure required, and range anxiety,” the report says.
The responses from the fleet managers suggested that government agencies could play a crucial role in helping break down the barriers to electric vehicle uptake, with 45 per cent of fleet managers surveyed saying subsidies to reduce the upfront cost of electric vehicles was their top policy priority, with a further 36 per cent saying they prioritised public charging infrastructure.
Government agencies showed the lowest level of uptake of all-electric models in their fleets, lagging behind the private sector.
The inclusion of electric vehicles within corporate fleets could be key to supporting wider uptake, as the more regular turnover of fleet vehicles can help underpin a second-hand market of more affordable vehicles.
While all fleet managers generally indicated that upfront cost was a concern, local, state and federal governments showed the greatest concern around the need for new infrastructure to support an EV fleet. This also included home charging with nearly half of fleet cars and SUV’s taken home at night.
General enthusiasm amongst workers to use electric vehicles proved to be high, with only 5 per cent of fleet managers saying that an apprehension from staff to use electric vehicles as a barrier to uptake.
The study received support from AGL Energy, which in August became the first Australian company to join the EV100 initiative, commitment to transition its 400-strong company vehicle fleet to all-electric models by 2030.
“We believe that Australia’s energy future will be affordable and smart – delivered from renewable sources that are backed by flexible energy storage technologies which come together to power our homes, businesses and vehicles,” a spokesperson for AGL Energy, said.
“We’re also leading research, policy and practice into the electrification of transport in Australia with the launch of our electric vehicle subscription service and by working with fleet customers to overcome the many challenges of transitioning to electric vehicles.”