Plug-in electric vehicles haven't been selling at the high rates hoped for in the past two years as the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and other competitive models made their way to dealer lots. President Obama's lofty goal of one million electric vehicles sold in the US by 2015 appears to be unattainable. By the end of this year, it looks like there will have been around 65,000 to 70,000 plug-in EVs sold in the US market.
To increase sales, what about fleet sales? Some companies with large fleets have been champions of electric vehicles, which is obviously good for sales numbers. Ian Hobday, chief executive officer of UK-based GoinGreen, thinks that utility and delivery company fleets offer more significant growth potential than the private, consumer car market.
The main reason for this is that utility and delivery fleets need less charging infrastructure. Fleet vehicles that drive shorter, regular journeys and return to a work garage every night offer the biggest potential gain by going electric. If the focus moved to these types of fleets, the sales increase could be substantial, Hobday said.
GoinGreen markets the G-Wiz, Tazzari and Mia small electric cars. The company started up in 2002. Since then, it has sold 1,400 EVs and also offers customers an extensive range of electric mobility solutions – from bikes and scooters to electric cars and vans.
Hobday would agree with what many EV supporters are asking for: support from local and federal government, financial incentives and ways to demonstrate the true cost of vehicle ownership. After all, it can make a lot of financial success for a plumber or electrician traveling 70 a day to choose an EV. The great thing about EVs is that they require very little SMR – service, maintenance and repair – Hobday said.
Hobday thinks range anxiety will diminish in the next three years as battery technology continues to improve, with EVs able to travel 400 to 500 miles on a charge. Couple that with fast charging, and range anxiety disappears, he said. Another big advantage of marketing to fleets will be that sales volume increases, which can drive down purchase prices.
Hobday is not an uninterested party, since GoinGreen hopes to see more fleet business. The company is looking to expand its customer base in the UK in conjunction with support from local authorities actively investing in EV infrastructure.
"I think the focus needs to shift for faster success," he told Fleet News. "Manufacturers haven't enjoyed the volume they expected because they are trying to sell an expensive product without the infrastructure in place, the sector to focus on is fleet."