07 July 2022

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We’re all becoming used to electric vehicles (EVs) on our roads and understand that EV technology is developing at a rapid rate.

With that comes changes to how we fuel and manage EVs, and that includes the move away from traditional fuel station forecourts to almost anywhere with an electrical outlet. Although the number of public charging stations is growing rapidly (something that we at Allstar Business Solutions are proud to be part of), around 80% of EV charging takes place at home.

In many cases this will be a convenient, low-cost way to fuel vehicles for everyone involved; employees can charge their vehicles overnight, top them up during the day, and claim any expenses incurred.

However, without proper procedures and planning in place this can become a convoluted process with companies having to come up with ad-hoc processes to manage home charging. Whether ad-hoc or planned, policies around home charging must be fair for both the company and employee to avoid unnecessary friction or saddling either with unnecessary expenses or administrative overhead.

So, what are some of the key challenges when businesses that operate fleets utilise home charging, and how can they overcome them?

Home charging that works for everyone

Home charging presents businesses with new challenges, for example, businesses now need to understand the personal circumstances of their drivers – can they charge at home, do they have off-street parking, do they have permission to install a charger on their property. This information could potentially allow companies to save thousands and give them an edge when it comes to electrifying their fleet but getting that information and keeping it up to date could be difficult and, for drivers, might feel invasive.

To charge an EV at home, typically the vehicle would either plug directly into an electrical outlet in the employee’s garage (i.e., a 3-pin plug) or use a specialised charging station installed in their home. The former means that charging is done directly from the mains which should be reserved for occasional use. It can also be slow, in particular for larger vehicles, to the extent that drivers might not be able to fully charge overnight.

Specialised charging stations such as a wall box are therefore preferable, but come with their own challenges: can a company mandate that a wall box must be installed? What happens if the driver rents their property, and their landlord won’t allow them to have a wall box fitted? Where would the charger be installed if the employee lives in a block of flats or a house without a garage or off-street parking? In the case that the equipment is installed and then the driver leaves the company, what then?

These are questions that companies and their drivers will have to work out in collaboration. While many changes to a workplace can be imposed from the top down, when companies are blurring lines between work and home life, they should only do so with the consent of everybody involved.

There are times when arrangements won’t be fair – one employee might be able to have a charger installed quickly and easily while another may not be able to have one at all – but this is something that everyone involved will need to accept. People have very different circumstances, not all of them will be compatible with home charging for EVs, and companies will have to adapt to this.

Issuing EVs to employees who either have or can have home charging units installed and internal combustion engine vehicles to those without may work as a stopgap measure, but eventually EVs will become the norm for many businesses.

Not all chargers are created equal

Even if an employee already has a home charging unit, there is the issue of the chargers themselves. Not all are compatible with every vehicle, meaning that a fleet may find themselves paying to uninstall an incompatible charger, adding to the cost of providing a new one. Currently EVs will have either a Type 1 or Type 2 connection, and adapters can cost upwards of £150.

Many chargers are just that – devices for getting electricity from the grid to a vehicle’s battery – but commercial EVs need more flexible and business-focussed technology, particularly if they are larger and more energy-hungry. Drivers need a way to be reimbursed for the electricity that they use to charge their vehicles, and with skyrocketing energy prices, this is more important than ever. The majority of newer charging points are “connected”, allowing fleets to see how much electricity their drivers are using and reimburse them accordingly. Some energy companies offer ‘type-of-use’ tariffs made specifically for EVs that enable employees to separate their EV charging costs from their household costs.

Solutions for electric fleets

Even these solutions fall short of what’s possible thanks to forward-thinking companies working in commercial EV charging. There are home charging solutions on the market today that coordinate payments between energy companies, drivers and fleet managers much more easily. This is because the cost of charging is paid directly from the business to the driver’s energy company, with no requirement for drivers to submit charges to be repaid. Their solution is hardware agnostic and is compatible with most smart chargers.

The UK government currently offers a number of grants for UK businesses, homeowners and even renters and landlords to install home charging points. These grants can provide up to 75% towards the costs of installing home charge points, though the scheme for individual homeowners has recently closed. There are also companies who can lease and rent home chargers, which may provide extra flexibility and thereby negate many of the problems outlined above.

The day-to-day realities of running fully electric fleets are still being worked out, and the fleets of 2030 will operate in a different way to those today, but we are starting to see workable solutions to home charging that works for drivers and fleets alike.

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