The adoption of electric vehicles has reached a tipping point. Here’s how today’s electric fleets will shape the future of mobility


Think back to the year 2007. It might seem like it was yesterday, but consider everything we took for granted back then: there was probably a hit video nearby, and Nokia and Palm ruled the game. mobile devices space. If you needed a ride, you called a cab.

If you had told most people back then that in a few years these standards would disappear altogether or change drastically, they would probably have laughed at you. Of course, we know what happened: 2007 was the same year Netflix launched its streaming service and Apple introduced the iPhone, forever changing both entertainment and communications.

The same year also saw massive investment in the future of mobility. The company I run, ChargePoint, started in 2007, three years before the first consumer electric vehicle (EV) hit the road. The founders looked beyond the noise of the moment and saw the future – a future in which all people and all property would use electricity to get from point A to point B.

Several of the world’s largest fleets, including Amazon, FedEx, Ingka Group (IKEA), PepsiCo and UPS, have also shared this vision, taking on the role of climate action by implementing zero carbon goals sooner than the most other industries.

Today, the electric vehicle industry could be reaching a tipping point. Last week, PepsiCo announced that it would start using Tesla Semi trucks for deliveries in December.

Where are the electric vehicles?

Unlike other technologies and markets, transportation has been slow to evolve. Entrenched interests and old habits are hard to overcome. For years, automakers have said there would be more electric vehicles as consumer demand increases, but without the cars and the charging infrastructure, buyers were slow to materialize. Of course, that meant the medium and heavy-duty vehicle (MHDV) fleets they depended on would have to wait even longer.

Today, the renewed urgency for the climate, combined with increased incentives (both for vehicles and charging infrastructure), zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandates, fossil fuel bans and the evolution in consumer behavior has finally propelled electric vehicles into the mainstream. This creates momentum for the long-awaited electrification of fleets.

The number of zero emission trucks (ZET) available has increased significantly over the past few years. In 2019, there were 20 Class 2b – Class 8 ZET models available for purchase in the United States. In 2021, this number has increased by 625% to 145 models. It is expected to rise further this year to 165 models by 2023, according to leading clean transport organization CALSTART. From pickup trucks and construction tractors to delivery vans and school buses, fleets are quickly beginning their electrification journey.

The business case for fleet electrification

For fleets, the business case for electrification becomes much clearer. Although the cost of MHDVs is currently higher than that of their comparable diesel counterparts, this is expected to change this decade as battery prices come down and supply chain issues are resolved.

A 2019 ICF study estimated that the purchase price would drop nearly 50% by the end of this decade – a prediction the researchers admitted was “conservative”. However, over time, electric cars, trucks and buses have the potential to deliver lower fuel and maintenance costs and higher driver satisfaction, which translates into a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) inferior. Indeed, already electrified fleets benefited from a 25% lower TCO than their peers.

The other obvious benefit is that electric vehicle fleets reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% or more, helping fleets meet their own ESG initiatives. It is at the same time that consumer demand for fleet services is increasing and consumer concerns about the environment and public health are at unprecedented levels.

The tipping point

A recent Bloomberg analysis reported that in the United States, battery electric vehicles (BEVs) have surpassed 5% of new car sales, a threshold that signals the tipping point for EV adoption.

As fleet vehicles hit the road, look for less tipping and more avalanches. The electrification of the pent-up fleet will gather pace, followed by another wave of consumer interest as more and more people are exposed to electric mobility. Fleets will introduce drivers beyond early adopters to the many benefits of electric vehicles, and the floodgates will open.

For example, workers at a construction site will see the foreman ride in an electric van, allowing them to power their tools without leaving the site. Parents will say goodbye to their children as a quiet, zero-emission bus takes them safely to school. And electric vans will provide billions of online purchases to millions of consumers. All of this is happening now. The fleet world as we know it is changing.

Back in 2007, critics complained that no one would trade in their tiny plastic keyboard for typing text messages and checking email on a glass screen. Of course, Steve Jobs thought differently. Apple wasn’t building a better keyboard for texting: it was putting an app platform in your pocket and all the imagination of the internet with it. Today, critics still say people will never ditch their gas-powered cars for electric vehicles. Now that the fleets are electrifying, the momentum is hard to ignore. The tipping point is here.

Pasquale Romano is CEO of ChargePoint, a leading electric vehicle (EV) charging network.

The opinions expressed in comments are solely the opinions of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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