What is fleet decarbonisation?
Fleet decarbonisation is the process of reducing the volume of greenhouse gas emissions from an organisation's fleet of vehicles. There are a number of ways that companies can achieve this; replacing fossil-fuel powered vehicles with more fuel efficient models such as electric or hybrid, or by using alternative fuels such as natural gas or hydrogen. So, why is this becoming such a hot topic now?
The growing need to reduce carbon emissions from fleets
There are a number of pressures both regulatory, financially and morally on businesses to decarbonise their fleet. One of the most pressing comes from the British government who have set ambitious targets for organisations in order to meet the legally binding requirement to reduce emissions by 68% by 2030, and achieve net zero emissions by 2050 as part of the Paris Agreement.
Another pressure comes from customers. Many consumers are now choosing to purchase products and services from businesses that are committed to sustainability. A 2023 survey by the Better Business Act found that 77% of respondents agreed that businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people alongside profits.
Finally, employees are increasingly demanding that their employers take action on climate change with 25% of respondents in an ongoing YouGov survey stating that environmental sustainability affects their choices around their career.
The challenges of fleet decarbonisation
While swapping over to electric vehicles may sound like a straightforward solution to improving your businesses green credentials, there are some significant challenges when it comes to decarbonising fleets; cost, infrastructure and the long term effect of the production of alternative vehicles.
The cost of replacing traditional fleet vehicles with electric or hybrid ones may be prohibitive for some organisations. More economically-friendly vehicles are typically more expensive than petrol or diesel ones due to the still developing nature of the technology. It would take a significant amount of time and financial investment to change an entire fleet, so many businesses are choosing to do it gradually as vehicles approach retirement. Even if a company can afford to update their entire fleet, charging infrastructure may cause an issue.
According to ZapMap, there are 42,000 charging points in the UK spread over 24,900 charging locations. While this is a +37% increase year-on-year, it still falls drastically short of the 2.3million recommended by The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) that will be needed to keep pace with demand. Businesses would need to invest in their own charging infrastructure, or support their employees with the installation of at-home charging points to ensure that their fleet is fully operational. Finally, concerns have been raised over the environmental impact of the production of EVs. The batteries used contain rare earth metals that are mined in environmentally destructive ways, including deep sea mining which could cause irreversible damage to our oceans.
Despite the challenges, there are a number of things that organisations can do to decarbonise their fleets. Firstly, assessing your current fleet emissions and then setting a target to reduce these. Once you understand the size of the project, organisations can develop a plan to achieve this which may not necessarily be a full overhaul of your existing fleet.
Some businesses might identify opportunities to encourage public transport and carpooling. It’s possible to incentivise lower-emission transport options through part or fully-funding bus and train passes or other perks. Combining this with switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles, or alternative fuels, for those who travel the most and investing in a charging infrastructure should start to see improvements in emissions in the short term.
Decarbonising fleets is a complex challenge, but one that businesses must address if they want to play a role in combating climate change and doing right by the planet and people. By taking action now, even if it’s small steps, you can help to create a more sustainable future.
Achieving competitive advantage by reducing fleet emissions
Decarbonising a fleet not only has environmental benefits, but it can also give a business a competitive advantage in the market. By undertaking the decarbonisation process, you can reduce your operating costs, improve your brand value, open access to new markets, and even reduce employee attrition rates.
As electric and hybrid vehicles are more fuel-efficient than traditional gasoline-driven cars and vans your operating, fuel and maintenance costs are likely to decrease, improving profit margins. We have already discussed the emphasis placed by consumers on climate-positive businesses; committing to a decarbonisation programme showcases the organisations desire to have positive impact on the planet which can attract new customers, and confirm brand loyalists. In addition to this, some governments are incentivising businesses that decarbonise their fleets. These incentives can include tax breaks, grants, and access to government contracts. These incentives can range from tax breaks to grants; in the UK the Workplace Charging Scheme covers 75% of the upfront purchase and installation costs, up to £350 per socket for charge points.
The reason so much support is available for businesses is due to the government committing to switching over 700,000 vehicles to zero emissions by 2030. Considering that over 75% of fleet owners have already implemented at least one fleet decarbonisation solution, if you’re yet to start planning for the future, the time to act is now so you don’t get left behind!
No matter what point you are at in your decarbonisation journey, The Barcode Warehouse can work with you to identify low-cost, high-impact, ways to make a difference.
Effective routes to fleet decarbonisation
A crucial first step in any decarbonisation plan is to first understand and assess your current situation and future needs. Upgrading your fleet to include low-carbon vehicles requires you to make well-informed decisions that will successfully drive the transformation of your fleet. The typical roadmap from evaluation often then flows through reviewing and implementing new infrastructure, refining your operational processes, ensuring your management team and stakeholders have the right information and finally continually testing, monitoring and adapting using fleet decarbonisation technology. There are a handful of key milestones during the process.
Evaluating low-carbon vehicle options
In order to make your transition to low or zero-carbon vehicles a success, you’ll need to conduct comprehensive research on the range of low carbon options that are available. Not every alternative fuel or vehicle type will be suitable for your organisation - if you have a delivery team who are covering 500+ miles per day, then a fully electric vehicle with a range of 100 miles and a charging time of 45 minutes will dramatically impact productivity.
In this instance, you might want to explore electric vehicles (EVs), plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, bio-fuel powered vehicles or other opportunities. Each option should be assessed on its suitability for your specific fleet requirement, both now and in the future. Make sure to assess factors such as range, payload capacity, infrastructure requirements and the availability of fuelling stations.
You should also consider the total cost of ownership from upfront purchase costs, on-going maintenance and fuel and charging expenses. It may also be worthwhile engaging with vehicle manufacturers and fleet management specialisation to understand the latest low-carbon technologies coming to the market.
Evaluating low-carbon vehicle options for the decarbonisation of your fleet requires a systematic approach including an assessment of your current fleet, establishing objectives, thorough research, and piloting before implementation. By following these steps, you will be equipped to make informed decisions, reduce your carbon emissions, and lead your organisation towards a greener and more sustainable future. Regularly reviewing and updating your fleet decarbonisation strategy will ensure alignment with emerging technologies, market trends, and environmental regulations.
Levelling up your infrastructure
Switching to EVs or hybrid vehicles doesn't just happen overnight. There are a number of infrastructure improvements that would need to happen for any organisation looking to explore low and zero carbon options for their fleets. Key considerations include charging stations, optimising routes, and potentially investing in telematics.
Electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) require charging stations, and the availability of these stations is often a barrier to their adoption. You should assess the cost and disruption required to install a suitable number of charging points for your new fleet and plan carefully for growth if this is part of your strategy.
Refining operational processes
Decarbonisation doesn’t solely rely on the vehicles to do the heavy lifting. A comprehensive strategy will also consider the operational opportunities to be more environmentally conscious. By proactively refining key operational processes, businesses can reduce the impact of their fleets and help combat climate change. The first processes to examine include your fleet management systems.
Fleet management systems can help businesses track fuel usage and driver behaviour, with the information used to identify areas where significant fuel savings could be made. Where applicable, route optimisation may be the first and most impactful port of call, alongside driver driver training as an identified solution. In tandem, these can help drivers to improve their fuel efficiency, ensuring that everyone in your fleet has the same base level of knowledge when it comes to best practice on the roads.
Operations managers could also review their vehicle maintenance schedules. Regularly maintained vehicles can help to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and also reduce the risk of accidents. Oil changes, tire rotations and brake repairs should be logged and carried out regularly.
Some organisations may also wish to offer incentives to employees who use more sustainable transport operations such as walking, cycling, or public transport. These could include discounts or subsidised travel costs, or even cash rewards. The Norfolk Community and Healthcare NHS Trust wanted to explore ways to encourage their staff to make greener travel choices, as can be seen in our case studies below.
Equipping fleet managers with the right data
- Fleet size and composition data; how many vehicles are in the fleet and what type
Vehicle usage; how are the vehicles being used
Fuel consumption and emissions; how much fuel is each vehicle using and what are the associated emissions?
What routes are your drivers taking; could they be more efficient to reduce fuel consumption and make deliveries more efficient?
Driver behaviour; how are your fleet drivers behaving behind the wheel. Are there any dangerous or excessive journeys happening?
Cost of ownership; how much does it cost to own and operate each vehicle, including maintenance costs.
Fleet decarbonisation technology: route optimisation
Fleet decarbonisation case studies
As we have hopefully imparted, fleet decarbonisation is a growing trend as businesses look to reduce their environmental impact. If you are still unsure of the impact that decarbonisation could have towards your sustainability goals, this series of case studies explores how different businesses have implemented steps towards a low or zero-carbon fleet strategy. We’ll explore the challenges they have faced, the solutions they have implemented and the results achieved.
Fareshare reduces CO2 emissions
Fareshare wanted to reduce fuel costs and administration with a more streamlined process. The leading food distribution charity implemented My Transport Planner Route Optimisation software, initially rolled out across three sites, including a driver’s app, with vehicle checks, barcode scanning capabilities and EPOD functionality.
The implementation of the route optimisation solution has resulted in a number of benefits for the Fareshare, including:
Reduced CO2 emissions and fuel costs: Fareshare has seen lower emissions of 20% since implementing the route optimisation software solution, helping the food distribution charity meet their sustainability objectives.
Reduced time spent on administration: The implementation of the driver’s app has removed paper run sheets and has automated the job allocation and delivery process.
Norfolk Community and Healthcare NHS Trust reduces fuel consumption by 25%
Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust (NCH&C) wanted to reduce the environmental impact of its fleet of vehicles. The trust decided to implement a travel policy to encourage staff to use more sustainable transport options, such as walking, cycling, or public transportation. The trust also implemented a car sharing scheme and a fleet management system to track the usage of its vehicles.
The implementation of the travel policy has resulted in a number of benefits for NCH&C, including:
Reduced fuel consumption: The trust has seen a 25% reduction in fuel consumption since implementing the travel policy. This has resulted in cost savings of £500,000.
Reduced CO2 emissions: The trust has also seen a 25% reduction in CO2 emissions since implementing the travel policy. This has helped the trust to meet its environmental targets.
Improved employee health: The trust has found that employees who use more sustainable transport options are healthier and have lower rates of absenteeism.
Improved public image: The trust has received positive feedback from the public for its commitment to sustainability.
How to calculate the carbon emissions of your vehicles
To understand how much you have reduced your emissions, you first need a benchmark of your current emissions. Calculating this can be challenging but it’s a critical step in planning for your low or zero-carbon fleet. Fortunately, the Energy Saving Trust has put together a helpful resource to help you calculate the current carbon footprint of your fleet.
There are five different methods for calculating your fleet carbon footprint. The first method is the most accurate but also requires the most data while the fifth relies most heavily on assumptions and estimates.
If you already keep records of actual quantity of fuel used by each vehicle in your fleet as well as the distance travelled then your carbon footprint is relatively easy to calculate using the following formula:
The carbon dioxide emissions factor (CEDF) refers to the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that is emitted per unit of energy produced. It’s a figure expressed in grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour (gCO2/kWh). Typically the CEDF for gasoline is 2.32 gCO2/kWh, and the CEDF for diesel is 2.64 gCO2/kWh. This means that when you drive a gasoline-powered car you emit 2.32 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt-hour of energy that the car uses.
The CEDF for different fuels can vary depending on a number of factors, including the fuel's source, the way it is processed, and the efficiency of the vehicle that uses it. For example, the CEDF for electricity can vary depending on the source of the electricity, such as coal, natural gas, or renewable energy sources.
The CEDF is an important tool for understanding the environmental impact of different transportation choices. By taking the time to understand the CEDF for different fuels, you can make more informed decisions about how to reduce your carbon emissions.
If you aren’t currently keeping accurate records of your quantities of fuel and mileage, then now may be the time to invest in fleet management technology and implement software to help you reduce your carbon footprint. Route optimisation software is one of our most popular options, especially with businesses of all sizes operating in industries such as couriers, logistics, road haulage and last-mile delivery.
Powered by My Transport Planner, this PAYG or Pro software can optimise every type of vehicle within your fleet using powerful algorithms and data-based analysis. From switching to an electric fleet to achieving net zero and making huge financial savings, route optimisation is one of the most effective ways to lower your mileage, emissions and increase productivity. With your low-carbon strategy, knowledge really is power so it’s never too late (or too soon!) to start tracking this data and using it to set your benchmarks and objectives.
Start developing you strategy
In order to transition successfully to green transport, forward-thinking companies are placing huge importance on the strategy behind their decarbonisation. These companies understand the significance of laying out their plans for the vehicles, infrastructure and fleet management before they take the leap and invest. The most successful implementations of eco-friendlier fleets are built on four fundamental pillars; diagnostics and evaluation, strategy development, testing and piloting, and execution.
Diagnostics and evaluation
The process starts with a comprehensive diagnostic assessment of the current operational state, taking into consideration factors such as fleet size, vehicle requirements, route lengths and mileage, and business priorities.
Business leaders and key decision makers undertake the development of a holistic strategy that aims to achieve not only the decarbonisation goals, but also the wider sustainability goals of the business.
This involves determining the priority vehicles and use cases, the environmental factors of your choices as well as their financial viability, operational requirements and identifying the technology worth investing in. Trade-offs between the economic gains and emissions reductions will need to be carefully managed and any goals or objectives set should follow the SMART framework.
Ensuring that your goals meet each of these expectations will ensure that you take into consideration external factors such as regulatory deadlines and incentives which may have a time limit attached to them. Finally, tying your decarbonisation efforts to your wider sustainability goals will help to ensure that every stakeholder sees the value in what you are doing.
Testing and piloting
The safest way to ensure a successful integration is by piloting a small number of proposed solutions before making a full-scale transition. This allows you to fully understand and experience the practicalities, challenges and benefits of adopting low-carbon vehicles within your organisation while also leaving room for flexibility and potential disruptions.
Use the pilot to gather feedback and evaluate the impact of your test and make any necessary adjustments before implementing the change across your fleet. During this time you should also look to create clear documentation on vehicle usage including charging and fuelling, driver training and ongoing monitoring and maintenance.
Following the evaluation of the pilot projects, decision-makers should define the criteria that the tests need to meet in order to be rolled out fully. This includes what the sourcing strategy looks like, construction plan and the establishment of partnerships, training, and maintenance.
By following these four pillars, companies can navigate the risks associated with the shift to green transport and establish a solid foundation for a successful decarbonisation journey. This proactive approach enables businesses to make informed decisions, optimise operations, and effectively capture the value that comes with embracing sustainable transport solutions.
At The Barcode Warehouse, we recognize the importance of developing a comprehensive decarbonisation plan tailored to your business needs. Our team of experts is ready to provide guidance, solutions, and cutting-edge technologies to support your journey towards a greener future. Together, we can drive positive change and create a sustainable and efficient transport ecosystem.
For more information on how to assess your current situation and how to evaluate, plan and invest in the right technology to achieve a low or zero-carbon fleet, download our comprehensive guide.