To learn more, we spoke with Paul Pudney who is a sales executive with Addex Urban in the UK. Addex Urban supplies electric street cleaning equipment, offering many of the same models as EcoTeq do in Australia. Because local authorities throughout the UK represent a significant portion of Addex Urban’s customers, Paul has gained a strong understanding of their transitional challenges, too.
“Local authorities are being pushed to go on EV routes by 2030. Our challenge is the infrastructure, how boroughs are set out and their geographic locations. How far are they traveling to their location? Charge points need to be installed at the depot and where the machines are being operated,” says Paul.
The City of Westminster in London has built lamp post charge points throughout its borough to help residents who don’t have access to private off-street parking and charging. Electric machinery operators can use these charge points to top up batteries, too, if required.
The lamp posts are attractive and fit with the traditional aesthetic of the local area – despite their more modern purpose.
Charging infrastructure for EVs and equipment may also be perceived as a challenge for Australian local governments , but one easily overcome to enable transition to an EV fleet. However, what some may not realise, is that many electric outdoor maintenance machines – such as EcoTeq’s Mean Green mowers – do not actually require a 3-phase charge point. Plugging the mower into a regular power point overnight will fully-charge the battery by morning. For most EcoTeq’s range, that will deliver sufficient run time to power you through a full work shift, without recharging or changing over the batteries.
Year in and year out, Paul points out that some councils don’t change their funding allocation. However, fleet managers and the heads of maintenance departments are expected to do more with the same budget each year, or even less in real terms.
Some Australian local councils have successfully applied for state government grants to fund the installation of charge points throughout their municipality. In Victoria, 26 Victorian councils have received EV Charging for Council Fleets grants. Right across Australia, similar grants packages have been rolled out over the past few years.
“Many local authorities aren’t aware they can apply for grants,” says Paul. “They come up now and then. They might just be open for two months. Recently, Southampton got money for four EVs.”
Being proactive about seeking and applying for government grants as they become available, can ease the impact of new infrastructure investment on a council’s maintenance budget, or free up previously ear-marked funds to further expand their electric mower or street sweeper fleet.
Looking beyond the initial outlay is also an excellent way to assess and compare the longer-term costs against non-electric machines.
“We use a matrix, a (TCO) total life cost calculation that compares the cost of diesel to petrol to electricity. Those savings can spark a conversation internally,” says Paul. Rapidly increasing costs of fuel and spare parts is only making TCO a more compelling argument for maintenance departments seeking to take control of their ongoing expenses.
Setting KPIs for sweeper operators has also been difficult in the past, as it requires heavy monitoring to measure performance. Many of today’s electric machines calculate the brush working time and report data on employees’ working time, allowing KPIs to be set, which can help councils achieve more with the same resource allocation.
For some councils, hiring the machines is a less-obstructive means to start expanding their electric fleet, while testing the equipment in-situ. Gathering evidence and data on productivity metrics while using the electric machines can help build a case study for future investment and full-fleet transition.
Paul’s advice is simple: “Start with a small portfolio rather than going large.”
Some stakeholders, such as fleet managers, are quite comfortable and well-entrenched in their beliefs. So there is no hurry to make the switch to a fleet of EVs. This can be challenging for proactive sustainability, procurement or operations professionals who seek to steer the council towards net-zero emissions.
With the deadline for diesel and petrol EV sales not until 2035, and carbon neutral targets even beyond that, some stakeholders find it easier to continue with the status quo. Even in the UK where the deadline is 5 years sooner, Paul is sometimes greeted with that reluctance to transition to an electric fleet.
With battery technology rapidly improving year-on-year, battery performance in a machine purchased today will be surpassed in even just a year. This rapid change sees fleet managers wanting to press pause on buying electric. However, the standard of performance today rivals that of diesel or petrol-powered machines.
For those more-proactive staff seeking to overcome internal reluctance, Paul suggests taking them to an open day or demonstration, away from the office.
“Get the procurement managers involved at the point of a demonstration. Get them in for the demo. Set expectations at a pre- and post-demo meeting. Find out who else should be there, like an environmental officer or the EV officers who understand charge stations. Get those people involved,” says Paul.
Paul has seen open days such as these stimulate fresh conversations that would otherwise not have taken place. There is nothing like a live demonstration to prove the performance capability of EVs and encourage people to think about how it could work for their council. It can definitely help build momentum.
In the EV and electric maintenance equipment world, people face a multitude of myths and misconceptions.
Whether it’s electric street sweeping and cleaning equipment, or electric mowers, many are not aware that the best performing machines are built as electric from the ground-up. Combustion machines that are converted to electric are heavier, slower, less efficient by design. But electric-born machines, like those in the EcoTeq range, are powerful, robust and at least as efficient as their petrol or diesel equivalents.
“Our machines are built as electric from the ground-up, rather than replacing the engine with a battery one and expecting it to do the same job. This means fewer issues,” says Paul, who shares common manufacturing supply partners with EcoTeq.
“Some fleet managers or procurement managers don’t care about climate change or the benefits of zero emissions, EVs and equipment. For these people, buying electric is a ‘box-ticking’ exercise. They might just be asking, ‘What can we do to fill our quota?’” says Paul.
This is the optimal time for councils to transition a machine in their maintenance fleet to electric. The proof will be in the performance and savings in ongoing running and maintenance costs. Comparing the fuel and maintenance costs of electric machines to their fossil-fuelled rivals over the life of the machines will easily demonstrate their true value.
The City of Westminster encompasses most of London’s central area and has some of the worst air quality in the UK. This local authority is responsible for cleaning London’s West End and is at the forefront of EV transition.
“By 2025 or 2026, they will have a complete EV fleet ahead of the 2030 deadline,” says Paul.
Veolia, a water, waste and energy management company, operates Westminster’s street-cleaning machinery, which is now all electric.
Salisbury City Council near Stonehenge used to outsource their refuse and street cleaning contracts. But now they’re bringing that work back in-house. After seeing the electric machines perform at an Addex open day, they could immediately see the operational value. Salisbury bought several machines, which have set them on their way to meeting the 2030 targets.
For leaders within Australian councils seeking to build momentum within their organisation to transition to electric outdoor maintenance equipment, keep Paul Pudney’s advice in mind. Start small. Manage expectations. Go with the ‘tick the box’ mentality first. Use the performance and cost metrics to build a case study for further investment in green technology. Apply for grants when they become available and be persistent. Transitioning to electric vehicles will not only help the councils and other organisations “tick the boxes”, but is also a step towards cleaner, greener, smarter communities.
Download the Guide to transitioning maintenance vehicle fleets to electric