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How Fuel Cards Hold Fleets Back From EV Adoption

The adoption of fleet cards and electronic payment technologies in the fleet industry supports the sector’s push toward digitization and innovation. However, a new report from Cornwall Insight has suggested that payment technology companies catering to the fleet market may actually be hampering digitization progress for the market, too, particularly when it comes to companies’ adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

Reports in Fleet World on Monday (April 29) said Cornwall Insight’s latest report, “Charged Up: Future Fleet,” assessed the relationship between the adoption of fleet cards and the migration of fleet vehicles to electric instead of gas, and how payment technologies are impacting that shift. According to the report, not a single fleet card provider is able to support transactions at EV charging stations across multiple charging networks.

Analysts noted that the fleet card space has faced some anxieties that the phasing out of gas vehicles will also mean the phasing out of fuel cards. However, that need to fuel up and pay for that fuel at gas stations will be replaced by the need among fleet drivers to pay for electricity and recharge.

Today, fleet card providers have not deployed a way for their corporate users to pay for that recharge with their fleet cards, though some providers are exploring this trend. The report pointed to Shell, which is currently exploring the inclusion of Shell EV charging stations in its fleet card offering, while other industry companies like Allstar are also in the exploratory phase of this trend.

A major issue with their support of EV charging payments, though, is the lack of standardization in the charging port industry, and the wide array of subscription services that suppliers offer. Many charging station suppliers also require the use of proprietary apps to use their services, the report noted.

According to Cornwall Insight Analyst Tom Lusher, the report isn’t the first time this issue has been raised.

“The issue of [a] lack of standard payment methods for EV charging was recognized in the Electric Vehicle (Standardized Recharging) Bill, and without a universal payment method for EVs, this will quickly become an administrative headache for fleet managers,” he said, “especially those with a broad geographical range, who will end up having to manage multiple different memberships and fees to operate as they do today.”

The legislation, which recently had its second reading in the House of Commons, aims to standardize EV charging points in an effort to introduce simplicity and efficiency in the EV charging process for vehicle makers and customers. Lusher and Cornwall Insight have called on legislators to introduce a provision to the Electric Vehicle Bill to boost the fuel card industry’s ability to support transactions at charge points across the country.

“This provision would ensure that fuel cards, as well as other types of credit/debit card[s], can pay at a charge point without the need for a subscription or an app associated with any charge point network in the country,” he added.

The fleet card’s ability to service EV fleets would promote the adoption of EVs overall, the report concluded, but that cannot occur until the EV charging industry can accept cards and payments without unique subscriptions. To do that, legislators’ efforts to standardize EV charging stations must include the standardization of payments for those charges, Cornwall Insight argued.

The administrative burden of managing apps and subscriptions for each EV charging station supplier might significantly hamper companies’ electrification of their fleets. However, researchers noted that the adoption of EVs would not only reduce reliance on gasoline and diesel fuel, but could save users money on those fuel costs.

Furthermore, while electric vehicles are typically more expensive than gas vehicles today, separate analysis from BloombergNEF, released in 2017, predicted that EVs could become less expensive than conventional vehicles as early as 2026.

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