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The moment of truth for transportation electrification

Corporate fleets: cost of ownership issues dominate

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Participant perspectives

  • "There's a chasm between the CEO chasing green credentials and the fleet manager managing that on the ground. It’s a slow process. We need to work with them to make sure their vehicles do what they need to do." –Bonn participant

  • "One fleet manager buys 6,000 vehicles every two years. But no OEM is prepared to sell him EVs, not even 2,000 vehicles. The market's not ready."—Bonn participant

  • "We need to ask Washington for effective business incentives. Tax credits are unattractive because they’re hard to monetize at the operating level. They're wrapped up in corporate taxes. Breaking out a couple hundred thousand dollars to reapply to project economics is very uninteresting at the corporate tax level."—Detroit participant

  • "A lot of these fleets are extraordinarily understaffed. It's just daunting. Many are sitting on vehicle fleets of between 10,000 and 20,000 vehicles with one person running the fleet. So if we as an industry don't give them an ‘easy button,' it's going to be tough."—Detroit participant

  • "To customers, energy-efficient solutions in manufacturing don't translate as well as seeing an electric vehicle on the road. Sustainability will become a more important currency of exchange among corporations and their customers."—Beijing participant

Corporate fleet developments intransportation electrification in Europe

Corporate fleet developments intransportation electrification in Europe

Corporate fleet developments in transportation electrification in the US

Corporate fleet developments intransportation electrification in US

Corporate fleet developments in transportation electrification in China

Corporate fleet developments intransportation electrification in China

The total cost of owning and operating a vehicle over its usable lifetime is the key metric for corporate fleet managers.

Can corporate fleets serve as an accelerator for wider EV adoption?

Vehicle fleets at large logistics companies, government agencies and corporations are ideal early-adopter customers for EV makers because they are volume buyers who are highly visible and boast an ideal daytime driving and overnight charging schedule.

Developments in Europe

Across the world many participants said that justifying an uncertain and potentially higher total cost of ownership (TCO) for commercial EVs was difficult.This shift from last year’s upbeat outlook on fleet TCOs reflects the discussion moving from the theoretical to practical.

The viability of a secondary market for spent batteries however remains an open question. This is key for fleets because the future value of used batteries helps determine both a vehicle’s current worth and lease financing options and amounts.

Developments in US

Bonn attendees worried less about this than their Detroit peers, who generally believed the battery's afterlife value did matter but disagreed over the value of, applications for, and the size of the market for battery reuse because they are not yet 'plug and play'.

The compelling need for more uniform and attractive fleet EV incentives at purchase, and an 'easy button' – a seamless solution to manage time-consuming purchasing, financing, incentives, charge installation and rollout tasks – also dominated Detroit fleet discussions.

Developments in China

The Chinese fleet discussion focused less on these topics and more on government-backed buses and cabs, because the government drives and approves EV purchases and often influences prices and policy.

Key Points


  • Total cost of ownership remains a barrier: new business models / vehicles are needed to address the range anxiety-cost trade-off.
  • High infrastructure costs increase the price gap of EVs vs. ICEs.
  • Fleets lack government incentive support due to a focus on consumer adoption.
  • Residual battery values/secondary market question is not an obstacle.
  • There is a lack of EVs in the volumes needed for fleet purchases.
  • Middle-management commitment to doing the hard work of EV adoption is key—right vehicle solution for a given application.

  • Total cost of ownership is an issue—how to make an effective business case for EVs?
  • Secondary battery market does matter; has impact on TCO and financing.
  • Current fleet incentives are ineffective due to complexity and their focus on corporate taxes rather than purchase price; the tax impact is small, but price discounts can tip the business case for the fleet manager.
  • Need for “easy button” to enable understaffed fleet managers to purchase EVs.

  • The industry should focus on government-controlled fleets: buses, trucks and taxis.
  • Transportation fleets purchases would provide scale more quickly—there is a small population of high volume buyers.
  • Showcase model e-bus projects in cities; share best practices.

 Participant perspectives

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