• >
  • Opinion
  • >
  • Five steps to decarbonising and digitising your fleet
Read time: 3 minutes

Five steps to decarbonising and digitising your fleet

By , CEO, GoMetro.
10 Jul 2024
Justin Coetzee, CEO of GoMetro.
Justin Coetzee, CEO of GoMetro.

To anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the global climate change crisis, the decline of the fossil fuel era will come as no surprise. Not only is the supply slowly drying up, but the processes to collect and produce electricity, petrol, diesel, LP gas, and other forms of fossil fuel energy are taking a heavy toll on the environment.

Thankfully, access to clean, renewable energy — wind, water, and solar power — is becoming ever easier. And things that rely on fossil fuels — cars, trucks, and aeroplanes — are being developed to run on renewable fuel sources.

Says Justin Coetzee, CEO of fleet management company GoMetro, “Electric vehicle (EV) technology is moving fast, and the world is delivering great products at more affordable prices as technology and demand rise. A fully electric delivery fleet isn’t feasible just yet, but now is the time to plan and prepare for this future. What can you do today that will allow you to hit the ground running in the future?”

Coetzee shares five steps that will help to set you up for a smooth transition to an EV fleet.

1. Analyse your existing data

Start by examining your company’s existing operations. Gather your fleet telematics for information on current routes, vehicle load capacity, usual cargo, and available drivers. Then, examine the grid quality near your business premises and your vehicle replacement schedule. In-house telematics data will have months of very rich operational insights to drive a transition strategy.

“It can take some effort to pull all of this information together, but once it has been compiled and analysed, you will have a detailed overview of your operation, which will significantly assist you in the remaining steps of the process,” Coetzee says.

Although it is possible to complete this analysis in-house, getting help from experts will produce far more accurate results and an in-depth plan of action for the next steps.

2. Invest in solar

For years, South Africans have suffered from problematic electricity supply, prompting many businesses and private homes to invest in solar. A reliable source of electricity is a crucial component of a successful business, and barring the occasional reprieve, the South African government is struggling to meet the country’s demand.

“The tax incentives for installing solar power are fantastic, so take full advantage. But act quickly – the incentives are only available until 28 February 2025. Instead of investing in just enough roof panels to see you through load shedding, cover your factory’s entire roof. Yes, it will produce more power than you can use right now, but that won’t be the case for long. In a few years, you’ll replace your fossil fuel costs with green, renewable ‘fuel’ to operate your fleet,” advises Coetzee.

The Section 12BA tax benefit lets companies claim an upfront 125% of renewable energy asset costs. This rebate applies to inverters and power storage batteries as well, if they form an integral part of the renewable energy system.

Your solar investment will pay off in the long run, when highway electrification becomes more feasible for toll companies and you can invest in larger trucks that can travel longer distances with more cargo, Coetzee says.

3. Invest in your first electric vehicles

With the fleet telematics gathered in Step 1, investigate which electric trucks will best suit your business. There are affordable entry-level EVs for most categories of commercial vehicle.

Coetzee comments that the initial analysis will identify what balance of internal combustion engine (ICE) and EV vehicles in your fleet will produce optimal results for an initial step towards transition. Then you need to decide which EVs are the most suitable replacements for the trucks scheduled for imminent retirement.

“Look at battery size, range, and charging times. Analyse how much solar power you are producing and compare those numbers to the energy requirements of various EVs. Match up your supply with potential demand for the best investment,” Coetzee continues. ”Your EV fleet may look a little different from your ICE fleet, but it should ultimately produce the same results.”

The EVs currently available in South Africa might not fill you with confidence that this is the right direction. However, by the time you’re ready to start replacing your ICE fleet, most likely with smaller delivery vehicles in the one- to four-tonne range, the market will be full of great options.

He notes that EV manufacturers are regularly launching new models and producing increasingly superior vehicles. Import tariffs and duties are anticipated to be adjusted in future government budget announcements, which will go a long way to the affordability of these eco-friendly vehicles.

4. Identify suitable routes

With a good understanding of your new vehicle’s capabilities, it’s time to look at the most suitable routes to send them on. The first routes to be serviced by EVs will likely be loops of around 120 kilometres from the depot, Coetzee says. This will allow for two passes a day, with a fast charge after the first loop, while the vehicle is being reloaded, and a full charge overnight on low-power charging.

Longer, interprovincial routes, won’t be viable for some time, Coetzee adds, as they will require charging infrastructure along major national routes, which will undoubtedly take a while to complete. But, he says, shorter routes can reduce your fuel spend from the outset.

“When the first tranche of your routes have gone electric and you’ve got new data to analyse — what routes work best, what’s the best charging schedule for your business, your largest expenses and biggest savings, and so on — you can revisit your initial plan and make improvements for the next wave of EVs to your fleet,” Coetzee states.

5. Data management

He notes that data management and analytics are even more important for EV fleets than ICE fleets.

“EV fleets require careful management of resources since you won’t be able to pop into a nearby fuelling station if a vehicle runs out of power,” he explains. “Thankfully, electric vehicles generate vast amounts of data that, with the assistance of a reliable electric vehicle fleet management system, will set your company up for a successful future in the EV era.”

Anticipate emissions regulations

Coetzee says companies should remember that South Africa currently lags the European Union in its emissions regulations, but it’s only a matter of time before the government tightens these regulations in line with the EU and other world powers.

“An EV fleet is a neat solution to complying with the developing standards of emissions control. Not only does it show commitment to a greener planet, but you can take advantage of economic benefits, such as reduced fuel and maintenance costs, improved efficiency, and vehicle longevity — all of which are good for your business,” he concludes.

Daily newsletter