Rocky Mountain Institute finds organizational planning required to begin electrification

Published on January 26, 2021 by Chris Galford

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In a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) — Steep Climb Ahead — researchers determined that most fleet managers operating large fleets expect to electrify within the next decade, but due to the sheer scale required, organizational planning will be critical to success.

Further, this planning has become necessary. RMI researchers note that electrification is no longer optional. With the growing restrictions on vehicle emissions, increased pushes in the global vehicle manufacturing industry to produce electric vehicles, and the fact that electrification is largely worth the cost and effort required, electrification is on its way. Fleet managers can either get on board and reduce their carbon footprints and bolster energy efficiency while saving money or scramble and find themselves facing costly errors.

Even for those considering electrification, the latter is possible, though, as RMI warns that many underestimate the sheer complexity involved in transitioning to electric vehicles at scale.

“Electrifying fleets represents the biggest near-term opportunity to drive EV adoption with large buyers and cut transportation emissions,” Britta Gross, managing director of RMI’s Carbon Free Mobility program, said. “And the sheer size of these fleets can be leveraged to remove market barriers and drive down costs that are hampering electrification across all transportation sectors. In Steep Climb Ahead, our aim is to prepare these fleets for the challenges ahead, because their success is key to the widespread adoption of EVs.”

RMI based its findings on a survey of 91 fleet managers and 18 interviews with fleet managers from a cross-section of fleet types. In its survey, the organization found that most fleets will be electrifying light-duty cars, trucks, and SUVs shortly. This has been coupled with most organizations pledging to reduce carbon emissions by choosing EVs over alternatives. In fact, light-duty passenger vehicles are already prepared for electrification.

The problem is not lack of desire, but according to RMI, few organizations are equipped to grasp the real costs of owning and operating EVs, particularly in comparison to their existing fleets. Restructuring of internal business processes, from procurement to budgeting and operations, and strengthened relationships with local utilities are necessary to make things work. Procurement is step one, but scaling infrastructure to meet higher rates of charge and more expensive charges will become the most significant organizational challenge.