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Electric Vehicles and Their Potential Impact on Field Sales

Thursday 5 December 2019 Field Force Planning

David Jones's picture
By David Jones

Technology is evolving fast, but can you afford to adopt EV's...or afford not  to?

Responsible and socially aware businesses know that operating a vehicle fleet is becoming a controversial topic in these times of climate change enlightenment.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a hot topic. We’ve come a long way since 2001 when wealthy celebrities started flaunting their eco-credentials in the then new Toyota Prius… despite in most cases continuing to use their private jets for international transport! Token gestures towards a green conscience are rightly identified and seized on by the media and public. Climate change responsibility is now a mainstream topic that affects the purchasing decisions of your customers.

Following on from our last blog that quantified the carbon footprint of a field sales rep we thought it relevant to look at the potential role for EVs (electric vehicles) in reducing the environmental impact of your field sales team.

 

Making the case for EV investment

A greener vehicle fleet is the obvious response. But how do you evaluate existing or future EV technology to make sure it’s financially viable and supports your operational needs?

Sales reps and merchandisers are known as being ‘road warriors’, clocking up tens of thousands of kilometres every year, and pumping out loads of emissions with their internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Businesses have set themselves laudable targets for sustainability and environmental impact, so surely the impact of the field team, and the nature of their fleet, must surely come under scrutiny soon.

So, what is the likelihood of companies moving from an ICE fleet to one fuelled by electricity in the near future?

For now, EV’s are more expensive than fossil-fuel equivalents. A recent report from Deloitte highlighted key milestones on the horizon that will make EV fleets increasingly likely. With global sales of EV’s doubling from 2017 to 2018, Deloitte identify 2022 as the year when cost of ownership of ICE and EV vehicles become comparable. There will be a lag in this resulting in actual sales, but, even by 2030, EV vehicles are expected to command 20% of the total market for new sales.

These figures will be impacted, according to Deloitte, by 2 main factors – policy and consumer demand. In terms of policy, financial incentives will always encourage the adoption of new technology. You should investigate what incentives are available, and The Energy Saving Trust provides a fleet briefing that may be useful for keeping up to date with the latest incentives and developments. A growing number of large cities suggesting they will ban ICE cars from city centres will also force a few hands.

In terms of consumer demand, there are three practical areas that need addressing to encourage the shift to EV’s; EV range, charging infrastructure, speed of charge.

 

Range comes at a premium cost

Range is a critical issue for field sales. EV technology to increase range is improving all the time – but is it enough yet? Car Magazine’s August 2019 feature lists four vehicles on sale in the UK which have a manufacturer stated range of over 300 miles – but the cheapest of these is the Tesla Model 3 at £45,000+ and the other three are priced at £60-80,000+. By 2020, there will be a number of models available where battery range matches range provided by a tank of fuel, but these will be astronomically priced compared to a lower spec EV.

 

It would hit your bottom line if a rep’s route needs to be flexed just to fit in a charge

Linked to range are issues around charging, notably where to charge and how long it takes. Charging infrastructure needs to mirror that which is available to ICE drivers. Well, at first glance, with news that E.ON is going to create an ‘electric highway’ infrastructure of ultra-fast charging stations across Europe, this is becoming more of a possibility, though you should take the hype of such flagship projects with a pinch of salt.

Statistics can seem encouraging. Autocar’s August 2019 report tell us that there are now more EV charging stations (over 9,000) in the UK than conventional fuel stations (8,500). But the small print tells us that only about 1,600 of the EV charging stations offer rapid charging and many contain only a single charger. Resources like Zap-Map and Open Charge Map show charge point locations near you and make it clear that infrastructure development need to be ramped up significantly. It would hit your daily call rate if a rep’s route needs to be flexed just to fit in a charge.

And when the rep arrives at the charging point, what then? Speed of charging needs addressing – with a tank of fuel taking two or three minutes to pump, charging times are uncompetitive. The aspiration of a 30-minute charge by 2025 still seems unattractive, although if retailers help provide the infrastructure, which we suspect they will (and supported by Tesco starting to roll out retail charging points in partnership with VW), you can easily imagine a field sales rep zapping their battery whilst completing their in-store activity.

The impact of infrastructure is felt the least in our largest cities, where concentrations of customers and charging points are the highest. Most sector-leading organisations should be investing in EV trials in these urban environments where the reputation benefit of testing the water could positively affect the bottom line for some companies.

 

In Conclusion

So, there is much to do before companies will be rushing to put an EV fleet out on the road – however, with advances in charging technology and infrastructure, and an increasing emphasis on supporting greener road transport, coupled with decisions such as the UK Government deciding that drivers of fully-electric cars will pay no benefit-in-kind in 2020/21, younger drivers being more interested in car emissions than brand, and an increasing army of employees opting out of company car schemes, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that this situation may look very different by 2030.

If you don’t already have a policy for reducing carbon footprint that includes your field workforce, we recommend that you develop one as a top priority. Identify options, short-term tactics and a longer-term EV adoption plan in the coming months and years.

If you want to hear more about how CACI's Field Force expertise can help you, get in touch now.

 

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Electric Vehicles and Their Potential Impact on Field Sales