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Neil Cawse Headshot
Neil Cawse
CEO and Founder - Geotab

Real World Data Insights are Critical to Electrification Progress

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The Government of Canada has made strong efforts over the past decade to help transition the country’s transportation network to clean electric power. Thanks to programs such as Incentives for Zero-Emission Vehicles and the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, the number of Canadians looking to purchase electric vehicles (EV) has increased

EV uptake rates in the consumer sector are encouraging, but I believe real progress in lowering global emissions will only happen when EVs are embraced by the entire transportation sector, which is responsible for the lion’s share (27%) of emissions in Canada.

As part of its efforts to meet its Paris Agreement obligations, Canada has mandated that 20%of all new light-duty vehicles in Canada must be zero-emission by 2026, 60% by 2030, and 100%  by 2035. For medium-to-heavy duty vehicles, the goal is to have 35% of all sales be zero emissions by 2030, with a long-term goal of 100% zero emissions for trucks and buses where possible by 2040. 

Canada’s mandates are instrumental in driving EV fleet adoption, but in order for electrification to make business sense while making a meaningful environmental impact, we must provide organizations of all sizes with critical tools that support decision-making in the best interests of their organization and the broader community. 

“Data builds robust business cases, addresses cost and performance issues and helps to overcome resistance and skepticism.”

I am a firm believer in management by measurement. For Canada to be a leader in electrification, we must build the confidence of decision-makers through data-driven insights. This empowers fleets to measure, act upon and scale their efforts in reducing their emissions. Data builds robust business cases, addresses cost and performance issues and helps to overcome resistance and skepticism. 

One challenge to broad EV fleet adoption is associated with ensuring that electric vehicles can do the job to the same extent as their internal combustion engine equivalents. Currently, the greatest commercial EV conversion opportunities lie with vehicles that support fixed-route, local or regional service, last-mile delivery and drayage operations. as an example of leveraging data intelligence, Geotab recently conducted an Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment of pickup trucks and found that 76% of fleet pickup trucks on the road today drive distances that can be satisfied by EV pickup trucks currently on the market.

For medium-and heavy-duty fleet vehicles, options today are limited, although increasing each year. With range limitations magnified by the weight of the load they may carry, fleet operators must consider the unique operating conditions of their vehicles to determine whether EVs are the right fit. Real-world experiences and insights, such as those from the thirteen participants in NACFE’s Run on Less Electric initiative, build confidence in the technology by sharing EV performance data, proving which applications these EVs can be successful at and revealing how operators can overcome challenges. 

Another major obstacle to EV adoption – one all too familiar to fleet owners and operators – is the upfront cost of EV adoption.

Although electric pickup trucks currently have a higher price tag compared to their gas equivalents, our assessment found that over the lifespan of the vehicle, 45% of fleet pickup trucks could present significant savings if transitioned to EVs. In fact, the data insights from our study found that by electrifying trucks deemed economically viable, fleets could realize an average total cost-of-ownership savings of $4,000 per vehicle. With the recent increase in gas prices, the value can be felt almost immediately upon transition. 

Though the total cost-of-ownership value is real and attractive, EV adopters will still have to take on high upfront costs. These costs are not limited to the vehicle itself. Fleet operators must invest in adequate charging infrastructure, which may require significant facility upgrades for fleets looking to transition at scale. Government incentives and rebates can provide some relief, both for the procurement of EVs as well as depot charging infrastructure. 

“Incentives to make electric vehicles more affordable are imperative as they increase adoption,”

The Government of Canada’s recent launch of the Incentives for Medium-and-Heavy-Duty Zero-Emission Vehicles (iMHZEV) Program can help Canadian fleets navigate high upfront costs associated with making the transition to electric. The program offers subsidies of approximately 50% of the price difference between an electric vehicle and a traditional vehicle. Incentives to make electric vehicles more affordable are imperative as they increase adoption and ultimately create a cleaner transportation ecosystem.

While it is clear that the government plays a key role in accelerating EV adoption through policies and investment, industry players also have a responsibility to do their part. Canadian bus and truck manufacturers such as Lion Electric, Nova Bus, Green Power Motor Company and New Flyer are doing just that by offering a wide range of commercial EV vehicle classes, delivering more choices to the market each day. On the consumer side, the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association’s Project Arrow aims to launch Canada’s first original zero-emissions and autonomous vehicle, bringing the best of Canada’s electric vehicle, alternative-fuel, connected, autonomous and light-weight technology companies to market.  

Government and industry advancements to influence EV adoption sets the stage for fleets to make the transition, but vehicle availability and cost management support only scratches the surface of transition planning. This process can be daunting for fleet owners, operators and executives setting out on their respective electrification journeys, uncovering a third significant barrier: a universal gap of shareable information and data to inform scaled fleet electrification planning.

“Data can help businesses identify vehicles ready for conversion to EVs or to more fuel-efficient legacy vehicles.”

But the truth is, you don’t have to set out on your journey alone. The industry can make significant fleet electrification progress by working more closely together toward our common sustainability goals. This realization influenced our team at Geotab to provide open access to resources, data and information for fleets looking to electrify. Comprehensive, data-driven insights into the benefits of EVs along with tools that better support fleet leaders in their electrification journey can create seamless, sustainable transition plans. This kind of data can help businesses identify vehicles ready for conversion to EVs or to more fuel-efficient legacy vehicles. Connected vehicle data and insights can also be used to monitor and inform ongoing operational optimization. 

Electrification is a long process. Government and industry alignment invites closer collaboration and partnership across the fleet business sector. The earlier we start, the better. I’m proud of the progress Canada and the fleet business sector has made in the journey to a clean, electric future. Together, we’re proving to the world that a policy framework, incentives and industry investment, coupled with the right knowledge and data sources, can influence adoption of electric transportation and effectively overcome barriers. Without real-world data to inform and guide scaled adoption, fleet businesses risk missing out on the true value of electrification and contributing to the fight against climate change.

In other words, for fleet electrification, knowledge is power – electric power. 

Neil Cawse Headshot
Neil Cawse
CEO and Founder - Geotab

Bio: Neil Cawse founded Geotab in 2000 with a singular purpose: to create technology for organizations to unlock the fleet vehicle data needed to empower critical business decisions.  Since then, the organization has grown to employ more than 2200 team members in 13 countries across the globe. A true engineer-at-heart, Neil is responsible for setting the mission, values and strategy that have propelled Geotab into the position of global leader in telematics.  

Organization Profile: Geotab is advancing security, connecting commercial vehicles to the cloud and providing data-driven analytics to help customers better manage their fleets. Processing billions of data points daily, Geotab helps businesses improve and optimize fleet productivity, enhance safety, focus on sustainability and achieve stronger compliance.