The Business of Mobility: Why telematics is crucial for fleet electrification

In dialogue with Ross Douglas, François Denis, Geotab France's Director General, discusses aiding fleet managers in decarbonizing road traffic with driver behavior monitoring and electrification.

The Business of Mobility is a series of articles featuring business leaders in sustainable mobility.

Q&A with François Denis (Director General of Geotab, France) and Ross Douglas (Founder at Autonomy). Geotab is a privately held company that provides vehicle telematics (In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems) to 3.8 million units across the globe. Their service for fleet managers includes a software platform, providing insight into and automation of operations.

Ross: Decarbonization of fleets is something Autonomy is very interested in; in fact we recently made it our tagline: ‘Autonomy: decarbonizing mobility’.

François: Congratulations on your new tagline; decarbonization is also one of our key messages, and fleets are at the heart of the conversation, noting that B2B fleets account for more than 50% of France’s vehicle traffic. Thanks to LOM (France’s Mobility Orientation Law) which mandates for low-emission zones (LEZs) decarbonization is a number one issue for fleet managers.

Ross: We’re seeing sharing, flexible renting and so on replacing car ownership, in which case fleets are the main frontier in decarbonizing road traffic. How are you helping them do so?

François: We are focused on three axes: driver behavior, electrification, and sharing. Our digital platform, backed by data analytics, enhances this for fleet managers. E.g., in terms of driver behavior, we can tell you that ‘good’ drivers use 35% less fuel than ‘bad’ ones. Our IOX-GOTALK system ‘talks’ to the driver in real-time, helping them drive more safely and more efficiently.

Ross: How does this relate to EVs; is driver behaviour as important for making your battery Last?

François: Yes, with smoother driving you can increase range, which is a big factor for EVs.

Ross: Is range anxiety the main reason fleets are not switching to EVs quicker?

François: It’s a big factor; but  range anxiety is not necessarily justified. Our EV suitability assessment (EVSA) shows fleet managers how they can swap their current ICEs for EVs, without compromising usage, while reducing costs and emissions.

Ross: What percentage of fleet vehicles can be replaced with EVs?

François: Last September we published a paper Profitable sustainability: The potential of European fleet electrification, which analyzed data from across 1,300 fleets in 17 countries. We estimate that 50% of all fleet vehicles could be switched to EVs and that this figure is as high as 60% for light commercial vehicles. Of the 46,000 vehicles we analyzed, 86% could be replaced by an EV, with appropriate range capability.

Ross: Batteries – and by extensions EVs – have certain sustainability issues attached; bigger batteries mean increased scope 3 emissions in terms of mining critical metals?

François: This is a transition, it’s not a wholesale switch. That’s why we offer clients a wide perspective of ways to decarbonize their fleet while improving performance. Which, among other things, entails using 4IRR tools (IoT, data analysis, and machine learning) to give fleet managers a handle on the decarbonization opportunities. For example, EVs combine well with sharing, given that the vehicles must be returned to a central point for charging. Our telematics provides the platform for digital interaction (through smart phone) that makes for seamless carsharing.

Ross: And the fleet manager can see who is using which car, when.

François: Exactly. Our system gives fleet managers better control of their operations, and better oversight for assurance purposes. For example, delivery companies are  being asked to report on emissions, for sake of RFPs, or for tender purposes. Our system, together with increasing electrification, will improve assurance on emissions. We have our own version of Chat GPT (Project G), where the fleet manager can ask any question they like about their fleet and get an intelligible answer. They might ask, ‘what is the overall consumption of our Renault Megane’s?’ Or, ‘Switching to EVs, what did we save last month?’ And out comes the answer.

Ross: That’s impressive. The public sector is obviously important for decarbonization; how are they responding to the transition?

François: In terms of the decarbonization of fleets, the LOM sets a higher standard for public sector fleets than for private sector ones. Unfortunately, bureaucracies tend to move slower than business and so the public sector is lagging somewhat. But we are having good discussions with public sector agencies here in France, and political will for decarbonization is strong. So, there are great opportunities for us in helping the public sector decarbonize.

Ross: Autonomy is most delighted to partner with companies like yours on this decarbonization journey. Thanks so much for your time.

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