Expert Interview – E-Mobility in Fleets

Expert Interview – February 22, 2022

Heiko Luft, Head of Fleet Management at EnBW, reveals how electric vehicles can be successfully integrated into the company fleet.

Not every one of the 24,000 employees at EnBW owns a fleet vehicle. How many vehicles exactly are we talking about?

There are currently around 5,500 objects in the Group. Objects because this also includes trailers or special units. The pure passenger car fleet consists of around 4,500 - 5,000 passenger cars, company vehicles and vans.

What proportion of these are electric vehicles?

Around 35% of the passenger cars are now electric, and a total of 1,200 electric vehicles are currently in use.

When did EnBW start converting the vehicle fleet?

In mid-2017, we set the topic of electromobility as a clear strategy point. The big question at the beginning was the initial procurement: electric vehicles or charging infrastructure? The decision was quickly made in favor of charging infrastructure, and by the end of 2017, the installation of around 750 charging stations had been realized within the Group.

How were you able to convince your employees to switch to electric mobility?

In 2018/2019, a lot of convincing still had to be done. Since this year, that has already been significantly less. The more electric vehicles are seen on the roads, the more movement and momentum there is in the communication and discussion around the topic of electromobility. Especially in the beginning, the most common arguments and discussion points were those of the charging infrastructure outside the corporation or trips on vacation. In the meantime, there are virtually no more restrictions in these areas.

At the beginning of 2017, there was not yet much talk about electric vehicles. So what prompted EnBW to take this step?

In recent years, EnBW has undergone a transformation from a traditional energy supplier to an infrastructure partner. The company's focus is on sustainability, and the switch to electromobility is a contribution to this issue. This path will continue to be followed stringently so that EnBW will be THE pioneer in terms of electromobility in the corporate fleet.

As a pioneer, you can share your experience with other companies that also want to electrify their corporate fleet. What can others learn from your experience? What were the biggest challenges and where did you encounter the most difficulties during the conversion?

One very important point was that we put the infrastructure in place relatively quickly. I would also recommend that to any company: Create internal charging infrastructure as much as possible, as quickly as possible. Only by doing this, combined with parking spaces and charging options, can you motivate employees to buy an electric vehicle that they can also charge on the company premises.

That was a very decisive point. We have installed 57 charging points at over 100 locations. This means that colleagues can charge their vehicles no matter where they are at EnBW. The second point from my point of view is to create multipliers. The fleet manager must approach employees and make them the offer to drive an electric vehicle on a test basis for a set period of time. In return, the test driver reports on his driving experience on the intranet, in the internal media. That way, this topic will always be in the conversation. Those are the two key points that you have to create.

Range anxiety was also even greater in 2017 than it is today. Basically, things have changed there. Is that an issue that needs to be overcome with people?

I have this discussion every week at least twice with company car users, but also with users of company or employee vehicles. The most common questions are about range and about charging points. If there are concerns about stopping or not finding a charging point, I send the employees to colleagues who already drive an e-car. I can also tell them about my experience. You have to take away that fear. It also helps to make the employee an offer to test an e-car for 5 days at EnBW's expense. The majority of those who have used the vehicle do not want to leave an e-vehicle. The quiet driving even on highways, the relaxed driving and the struggle for every kilometer in the car decelerates the whole.

EnBW has Germany's largest fast-charging network. In this respect, there were certainly synergies and advantages that other companies don't have. Can you see it that way, or do you think that this is a model that large companies could and should implement in this way in principle?

The EnBW Group has the orientation of building large charging parks externally. This creates a certain momentum internally to also want to drive an e-vehicle that can be charged at the company's own external and internal charging points. No matter which company discusses the topic of electromobility as corporate mobility, it is possible to go the distance. Because the infrastructure is there, it is being created by us. Every company should actually have an EnBW mobility+ card in its company car.

One of the main aspects of this operation is, of course, climate protection. Can the climate benefit of a vehicle fleet really be measured? How much CO2 does EnBW already save annually with the new fleet?

Comparing a Passat Diesel with 150 grams of CO2 and an ID4 with 0 grams of CO2 emissions, we save around 36 grams of CO2 per year per vehicle. Extrapolated to EnBW's entire vehicle fleet, including company cars, company vehicles and pool vehicles, this amounts to a value of over 100 tons of CO2 per year that could be saved with a short-term conversion to fully electric.

How long will the replacement process take you?

Due to the early start of the changeover to fully electric and hybrid, we expect all passenger car areas to be fully electric by January 1, 2024 at the latest. First, the existing leases will have to expire. By 2024, the passenger car fleet will be fully electric.

Of course, companies are also interested in climate protection for image reasons. Above all, the interest is on the economic side. However, e-vehicles are often more expensive. Is it still economically viable to convert a fleet and can everyone afford to do so?

There are various portals that make the comparison taking into account, for example, the Total Cost of Ownership between e-vehicles and gasoline-only vehicles. I maintain that an e-vehicle is currently no more expensive than a combustion engine from a business perspective with the various premiums such as the purchase premium, the financial incentive, taxation, motor vehicle tax, etc.

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