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Hitachi Sustainability

4 August 2021
Alistair Dormer, Chief Environmental Officer, Hitachi, Ltd.

Leading the Charge: How Fleet Operators Can Drive Us Forward on the Road to Electrification

We’re at a crucial point on the road to electrification and fleet operators have a defining role to play as an enabler to a successful energy transition.

At Hitachi, our message to fleet operators and managers is simple: Come and work with us. Through our fleet services business we can act as a catalyst for the transition to electric vehicles efficiently and at scale. And the more we work together, the closer we get to our desired destination.

If you’re looking for evidence of what we can achieve together, you only need to consider our new partnership with Shenzhen Bus Group (SZBG), one of the largest new energy public transportation groups in the world, where we have joined forces to help European Bus operators and municipalities electrify their bus fleets. SZBG brings a wealth of operational expertise to the partnership having electrified its own fleet of over 10,000 vehicles. This experience, combined with Hitachi’s own knowledge of charging infrastructure, delivering mobility as a service, and managing commercial fleets, will help customers accelerate electrification of their fleets.

In the UK we’re right at the heart of the world’s largest commercial electric vehicle trial to date though a project called Optimise Prime. We’re collaborating with Royal Mail, Uber, UK Power Networks, Centrica and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks in a three-year trial that will inform the UK government on how best to develop its EV infrastructure. This project is delivering vital data which we can share with fleet operators to help inform their decisions about the size of fleet, the size of charging network, when to charge, and how to manage the battery in your vehicle so that it lasts for the maximum amount of time.

Quite simply, we need more of these projects if we are to accelerate the road to electrification. At Hitachi we absolutely understand that these important business decisions come with a cost, but the reality is that investment can quickly become a saving – let’s face it, energy saving technology and CO2 reduction technology are the same thing.

Electrification involves a very complicated set of optimisation challenges, and we can help procurement teams make the right decisions as we understand this full systems integration play from wind to wheel. It’s crucial that collectively we embrace a joined up approach to procurement where people, whether they’re buying, leasing or financing, fully understand the constraints which can be anything from the range of the vehicle and battery life, to understanding your optimum charging strategy: How many chargers do I need to buy? When should I charge? What's the cheapest price of renewable or green electricity from the grid?

From an energy point of view, we are very engaged in the connectivity of renewable energies – we’re a big player in connecting Norway to Germany, Dogger Bank to the UK, and we’re developing solar farms in Angola. We’re aware that industry has a finite capacity but there is more capacity that can be brought to bear so that we can handle more and more of these schemes.

When I consider the future of public transport, there are two key areas – firstly, social mobility and the social inclusion of communities to be able to move around, but secondly, doing this is in a green and efficient way. We need to find the right blend of different modes of transport to keep people mobile, particularly bearing in mind we’re now living in a delivery society which has a massive impact on our CO2 emissions. We’re going to see a real explosion in commercial electric vehicles, from electric rail and hydrogen lorries to smaller electric delivery vehicles.

At Hitachi we want to help fleet operators act as an enabler for the energy transition by bringing best-in-class electrification technology to remote and rural areas in all corners of the globe. But it’s only by pooling our expertise and our resources that we can deliver electrification for everyone. The first world may often lead on technology, but the developing nations have a critical role to play, particularly when it comes to solar power. Their challenge will be how to distribute that and support rural communities where the grid is not currently in place. I’m expecting to see innovation from the local generation of energy, more micro grids and more localised energy production sites to support this community colonisation and transport in much of the developing world. We’re moving closer to a successful energy transition but to get there intelligent fleet decarbonisation needs to be right at the heart of our strategy.

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