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Duty cycle and whole life cost modelling

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22% of UK domestic carbon emissions are from transport and more than half of all new cars in the UK are bought by fleets. Therefore, it is essential that businesses start to take-up ultra-low emission vehicles in order to achieve the strict Government targets of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

With the new and emerging generation of low-carbon vehicles, fleet decision makers have an alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles that can suit a wide range of applications. However, given the range and recharging requirements of electric vehicles, duty cycle based whole life cost modelling is essential for their successful economic and operational integration into day-to-day operations. Although the trend of using a common range of vehicle technologies is increasing, it is recognised that different vehicle technologies will deliver different performances across a range of vehicle types and duty cycles. It is for this reason that the ‘one size fits all’ solution no longer applies and greater care needs to be taken in matching the right vehicle to the right application.

A significant number of fleet vehicles operate within well-defined parameters, with only a small variance in operation. By analysing the duty cycles of fleet vehicles and the activity of each vehicle over a period of time, it is possible to cluster vehicles together and define a selection of duty cycles for a typical fleet. Combining whole life costs and a duty cycle approach therefore enables a fleet manager to determine whether a certain technology application meets the financial and operational performance required for the fleet.

Analysing the duty cycle of a fleet can be a complicated process, especially when it comes to assessing the best mix of vehicles to deliver operational and function benefits. Electric Vehicles (EVs) alone come in various forms such as pure battery electric, hybrid EVs with internal combustion engines and fuel cell hybrid EVs. Then there is conventional vehicles and low carbon alternatives such as gas vehicles running on natural gas or bio-methane.

Standard whole life cost modelling already indicates that there is a vast difference in the distribution of costs between conventionally fuelled, low carbon and electric vehicles, making a like-for-like comparison difficult. However, a duty cycle based whole life costing approach will take into account the large number of variables beyond simply the purchase price of the vehicle, including some costs that will alter over time such as vehicle taxes, subsidies, fuel and electricity use, battery lifetime, fuel and energy costs and refuelling infrastructure costs.

Due to the issues associated with introducing new low carbon vehicles and supporting infrastructure into fleet operations, Cenex, the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for low carbon vehicle technologies – has developed their unique Fleet Carbon Reduction Tool (FCRT). This tool is able to provide the performance and economic data needed for business case development and is able to contrast electric vehicle investments with those for conventional vehicles and low carbon alternatives. The results therefore provide the intelligence that fleet decision makers need to determine which combination of vehicles will prove most practical.

The FCRT allows for the accurate estimation of the carbon reduction performance of different transport fuels and technology options in real-world fleet applications. It is a computer simulation tool that can calculate the fuel usage, carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) generated and operating costs incurred by the operation of a fleet of vehicles (see figure 1). The tool is designed to be flexible in operation and employs duty cycle based whole life cost modelling so that the evaluation of a variety of differing powertrain technologies within a fleet can be compared on equal terms. In addition, the FCRT can be used to ascertain the exact criteria required to cover a specified duty cycle in order to identify the lowest cost vehicle capable of achieving the task.

Our analysis, using the FCRT, reveals there are a number of sweet spots already available to fleet decision makers looking to deploy low carbon vehicles to reduce carbon and energy consumption, while at the same time saving money. With fuel prices continuing to rise many fleet decision makers are already prioritising carbon and fuel reduction strategies. While carbon reduction may not be the only driver for change within fleets, it is worth keeping in mind that the continuing evolution of low carbon technologies will require fleet decision makers to assess their operational and economic suitability to ascertain whether any new technology is worth adopting.

Cenex has an established track record of working with fleet operations on the planning and implementation of the latest generation of EVs and low emission vehicles. Our FCRT can help fleet managers identify which mix of transport fuels and technology options makes operational and financial sense.

A number of fleet operators, including Coca Cola Enterprises, have already used Cenex’s expertise to assess the best mix of vehicles to be introduced into fleet operations. Following a successful trial to assess the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs, Coca Cola Enterprises has invested in 14 Biomethane powered vehicles.

The Cenex FCRT was also used during the development of the recently launched Climate Group “Plugged-in Fleets” report to analyse the potential ownership cost and environmental impact of operating electric cars and vans in a range of different operational scenarios. The results of the analyses have helped prove that electric vehicles can provide financial as well as environmental benefits when they are deployed in the right situation.GRAPH

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