ABB is switching its global fleet to electric vehicles – how are they doing?
August 29, 2023 By Anthony Capkun
August 29, 2023 – As part of its 2030 sustainability strategy, ABB has embarked on a mission to replace its existing global fleet of conventionally powered vehicles with electric vehicles.
That’s over 10,000 vehicles spread across 62 countries, with an associated annual expenditure of about $100 million.
ABB has already begun working on this initiative, with a focus on the 24 countries that represent more than 80% of its fleet. The goal is have the entire ABB global vehicle fleet electrified by 2030.
The fleet conversion project includes the installation of AC Terra chargers and charging infrastructure at ABB locations. In many cases, a battery charger is also installed at the drivers’ homes.
Obstacles to full electrification
One of the challenges that ABB has come across was discovering that—as a company—it can sometimes move faster than conventional drivers (who experience range anxiety, in some cases) when it comes to EV acceptance. Further challenges include:
• Potential semiconductor shortages
• The reluctance of governments to offer incentives
• The immaturity of public charging infrastructure in some regions
And, given that EV popularity is rising in all transportation segments, vehicle availability can also be an issue.
That said, ABB sees all these known and potential challenges as opportunities.
The United Kingdom experience
The fleet conversion project started in 2019, with three pilot countries launching in 2020. Total cost of ownership analysis was carried out, and supplier management and procurement strategy elements were considered.
The company published an EV policy document in September 2020, followed by a stakeholder communication plan to support the policy launch, transition, and go-live.
Priority locations for EV infrastructure investment were identified, and an implementation plan was developed to adapt to the potential impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on the availability of both ABB products and electric vehicles.
The United Kingdom was selected to host the first pilot project, not only because of the high CO2 footprint of ABB’s UK fleet, but also because of the growing availability of vehicles and charging infrastructure in the country. Currently, 383 EVs have been ordered, and only 26 ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles for this market.
Lessons from Sweden and Spain
EV charging infrastructure varies by country, and strategies for switching to an electric fleet must be adapted accordingly.
In Sweden, ABB says it is making significant strides in converting its fleet to EVs. Although Sweden was not one of the original pilot countries for this initiative, the local policy for company cars was changed in March 2021. Since then, ABB has ordered 427 EVs and 11 plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) and only 5 ICE vehicles.
The company is taking a different approach in Spain, where charging infrastructure is still developing. In December 2020, ABB decided to replace the Spanish service and sales fleet with PHEVs. While not fully electric, PHEVs nonetheless offer improvements over ICE vehicles in terms of emissions and fuel efficiency.
Unfortunately, the semiconductors shortage upset the transition plans. After taking delivery of just over 90 PHEVs in 2021, ABB had to make the decision to take an intermediate step in which the planned PHEVs are replaced by “mild hybrid vehicles in the short term”.
A mild hybrid has a small electric generator that replaces the traditional starter motor and alternator, explains ABB, plus a small lithium-ion battery. This variant reduces the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of ICE vehicles.
That said, the company still aims to have a fully electric fleet in Spain by 2030.
(Incidentally, the company aims to have an all-electric fleet in neighbouring Portugal by the end of this year.)
ABB says its efforts to convert its global vehicle fleet to EVs and PHEVs are an important step toward achieving its sustainability efforts, and feels it is “setting an example for other companies to follow”.
— With files from Ricardo Koevoet, ABB Fleet Global (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
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