EV cars are on the rise, but what about commercial fleets?

6 Nov 2023

Image: © supamotion/Stock.adobe.com

We speak to David Savage of Geotab, a telematics company celebrating one year of operations in Ireland, about the state of EV adoption in commercial fleets.

Last month, figures released by the Central Statistics Office showed that there has been a 52pc increase in the number of new electric cars licensed in Ireland in the first nine months of this year, indicating a rapid rise in demand for electric vehicles (EVs) in the consumer space.

While this is good news for the environment and a boost to our flailing efforts to meet climate targets, does this surge in EV interest also spill over to the business side of things? Private car usage may be on the rise, but so is the usage of fleet vehicles for enterprises.

“Within the fleet space, there are two components that are driving the EV adoption: those that operate cars for their sales teams and other departments, and to a greater extent, last mile delivery – such as courier services,” said David Savage, vice-president of Geotab UK and Ireland.

“It’s the commercial vehicles that are really driving the adoption. And the companies that are pushing forward at a more advanced state than others are those medium to large scale operators, so anything from about a hundred vehicles in the Irish market, all the way up.”

Based in Ontario, Canada, Geotab is a fleet telematics company. Using IoT technologies, it helps businesses keep track of their vehicles by installing devices and giving them data across metrics such as performance, location and driver behaviour to improve fleet efficiency.

Earlier this year, Edward Kulperger, senior VP of Geotab EMEA, told SiliconRepublic.com at an interview in MWC Barcelona that the company was doing particularly well in Europe given the interest and growth in electric vehicles.

According to Kulperger, the company has grown 600pc in the continent over the past five years and now is on a mission to be the leading telematics provider here – including in Ireland.

Founded in 2000 by CEO Neil Cawse, Geotab now sees approximately 3.25m connected vehicles across all inhabited continents sending data up to their cloud, with around 55bn data points being sent to its environment every day.

Geotab recently celebrated its first fully operational year in the Irish market, an entry that was initially delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Savage, a TechStars mentor who has previously worked at RyanAir and FreeNow, joined Geotab in 2020.

There has been great international interest in bringing EV services to Ireland. Earlier this year, Tesla, the world’s largest electric car maker, opened its second Irish sales and service centre in Cork. But the Irish market also poses some challenges, particularly vehicle availability.

“If you think about most of the world’s vehicle manufacturers, for the most part, they are focused on left-hand drive vehicles. There’s actually very few countries that are right-hand drive other than Ireland, the UK, Australia, India and a couple of others,” Savage explained.

“And that means that vehicle manufacturers are prioritising where to allocate their vehicles based on where the most demand is and how much people are prepared to pay for them. And that’s where we’ve seen a bit of a challenge, particularly in the Irish market.”

To exacerbate the situation, Savage said there’s also been a general slowdown in the speed of adoption of EV fleets because of a “pullback on incentives to support the EV transition”.

“This is not just a challenge that’s faced in the Irish market, we’re seeing it more broadly across Europe. There has been a pullback on that switch of incentives towards infrastructure rather than vehicle adoption, which is slowing things quite a bit because upfront cost is now higher.”

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic