A fleet without fuel costs: What may sound utopian to the ears of many fleet operators is getting tantalisingly closer thanks to electric mobility according to Elke Temme. Since the beginning of 2021, she has been heading the new “Charging & Energy” division within Volkswagen Group Components to which the Group brand Elli has also belonged since recently.
Interview with Elke Temme
The e-mobility expert explains in this interview how Volkswagen Group Charging GmbH provides an all-round service package to support fleet electrification – and how vitally important the topic of charging management is in this respect.
Ms Temme, your “Charging & Energy” division is still relatively new. To aid understanding: Which tasks have you been assigned?
Basically, all existing Group activities in relation to the topics of energy, charging services, charging equipment and infrastructure across all brands have been bundled and managed in our division since 1 January 2021. The Elli brand has also been located here since April of this year; Elli is a provider of natural power and charging solutions. Put simply, we look after all disciplines that relate to electric mobility.
And what does that mean for our readers who may be considering electrifying their fleet right now?
This means that we can offer them a complete package thanks to our know-how and experience – and not just in Germany but throughout Europe. After all, one thing is certain: Stand-alone solutions are not the answer for electric mobility. When it comes to this very exciting but also extremely complex matter, you need to think far beyond the car. This is precisely what we do in close collaboration with the brands, relevant Group interfaces and, where appropriate, specialised partner companies.
How exactly do you “think beyond the car”?
By not just considering an electric car on its own merits. In contrast to conventionally powered cars, many more variables enter the equation. Topics that are just as important for us as the car include charging solutions at home for user choosers – naturally with a separate billing option –, the charging infrastructure at the company location, possibly even in-house energy production, uncomplicated authentication possibilities at the charging stations and – absolutely essential – smart energy management. All of these details need to be coordinated before the equation can be solved. And only then does electric mobility become a viable business case for the company. At the end of the day, the Total Costs of Ownership (TCO) are also critical in this respect.
Does that mean that a battery electric fleet vehicle is more attractive than a conventional model in terms of TCO?
By taking a comprehensive and structured approach, this can already become a reality. The more closely the previously mentioned aspects can be coordinated and the smarter energy management is organised, in particular, the lower the “fuel costs”, which have a significant impact on the TCO. Our goal is quite clear: to offers customers the prospect of even cost-neutral charging. This goal will get tantalisingly closer as soon as the first vehicles with bi-directional charging technology arrive on the market and all regulatory matters have been resolved. Besides this, we will be able to buffer the available green electricity to a large extent using vehicles that can supply electricity back into the grid.
This means that the vehicles act to a certain extent like “rolling powerbanks”?
Quite correct. I always say: electric mobility and green electricity are two sides of the same coin. The more green electricity that is fed into the grid from wind power or photovoltaic systems, for example, the greater the fluctuation in supply, and the more storage capacity that is therefore needed – which we can generate with electric vehicles. Let me quote you a few figures: Around 6,500 gigawatt hours – note gigawatt – of green electricity produced in Germany every year goes unused at present. This is easily enough to power 2.7 million vehicles for an entire year. But this way of thinking is still too one-dimensional. Let’s take a company with 50 electrified pool vehicles and an in-house photovoltaic system. This system supplies green electricity for the offices and charges the vehicles at the same time. Because all vehicles are never on the road at the same time, the parked vehicles are used as interim storage and could do their part in supplying energy to the offices in bad weather, with the result then that less electricity has to be bought in from outside. What this means is that bi-directional charging further increases the attractiveness of electric mobility for fleets significantly – both from a cost perspective and in terms of sustainability.
The question of public charging possibilities is something that occupies the minds of many (potential) electric car users, whether private or business. What is the current situation in this regard?
Enormous progress is being made here. Some 2,400 fast-charging stations are already available along the main transportation corridors in Europe as part of the IONITY network. Our intention is to extend this number to around 18,000 by 2025 together with strong partners. Since the start of May, we have also been working through our Group subsidiary Elli with the Volkswagen Financial Services subsidiary LogPay, which issues the Charge&Fuel cards. This cooperation allows our customers to purchase electricity conveniently at more than 230,000 charging points throughout Europe. As to where we stand at present concerning charging: The first vehicles to source energy with Plug&Charge are expected as early as next year. This means that the car authenticates itself independently at the respective charging station without the need to present a card. This will make life noticeably more convenient for frequent business drivers in particular.
Ms Temme, a personal question to conclude our interview: What about you: Do you drive an electric car – and if so, what is your experience to date?
I have actually been driving an electric car for many years in my free time too and it has always worked out perfectly for me. Interestingly, I was at a filling station perhaps twice or three times during this period – in order to wash my car. In the days when I drove a car with a combustion engine, filling up was always more on my mind; with electric mobility, however, this is almost in passing – you hardly think about it any more. A little like with the smartphone.
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