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Infrastructure | Sustainability | Workplace

How electric cars can be part of your sustainable business strategy

March 21, 2022 | Wesley van Barlingen and Callum Biggins

As climate change becomes a reality, many countries around the world are working to limit its effects on our planet and its inhabitants. Whilst sustainability becomes a focus for governments and society as a whole, many workplaces are, in turn, starting to think about their environmental impact and seeking for new ways to reduce their carbon footprints.

In the UK, transport has been the largest emitting sector of carbon emissions since 2016, responsible for 27% of total emissions. Of this, driving an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle contributes 91% of transport emissions. As such, one of the key solutions for reducing these emissions is electric mobility.

Consumers are already embracing electric cars, and many businesses are electrifying their fleets as well. In response to their trend, more and more workplaces are installing electric car charging points at their facilities. Of course, electric mobility is not a silver bullet for eliminating emissions, however, when implemented along with other actions, it can be a helpful tool in any company's sustainability toolkit.

A corporate employee on a cognac-colored coach in front of a green wall, looking at a contract.

Carbon footprint and the role of businesses

Before exploring the benefits of electric mobility, let’s first take a wider look at a business’s carbon footprint. To understand the impact any given action can have on an organisation’s emissions, it is essential to assess where they are located and how they are measured.

What is a carbon footprint?

A carbon footprint is a commonly used tool to calculate the amount of greenhouse gases generated by an activity. Greenhouse gases are a key contributor to climate change, which has a multitude of negative environmental and social consequences. For example, rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and more frequent and unstable extreme weather events. 

Calculating an organisation’s carbon footprint enables it to identify and quantify where its emissions are sourced from, giving actionable insights for reducing them. Beyond social and ethical considerations, reducing emissions can generate direct economic benefits for businesses. For example, quantifying CO2 emissions can help identify and eliminate inefficient or wasteful processes, reducing energy bills.

Obviously, reducing emissions is not a one-size-fits-all process. Different industries and companies have vastly different sources of emissions, which can be eliminated to different extents. 

Regardless of the setting, however, a good emissions reduction strategy is holistic and addresses different aspects of the organisation. For example, sourcing, resource use, waste management, and transportation. For the latter, electrification is an important asset in reducing the emissions from vehicle use.

The exterior of an office building breaking the sunlight and showing the reflection of lush trees in the windows.

Reducing the carbon footprint of your workplace through electric mobility

Reducing the CO2 emissions of employees

Today, the majority of the global workforce commutes to work by car. Even in environmentally-conscious countries like the Netherlands, more than 60 percent of the workforce drives to their workplace. In fact, in the UK brits drive an average of 20 miles a day, making them a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. 

At the same time, many businesses own fleets of vehicles, ranging from cars for business travel to vans and lorries for distribution. The use of these vehicles by employees significantly adds to the organisation's carbon footprint and can be a visible source of emissions that is easy to tie back to the company.

Already, governments are targeting emissions from fleets. The Netherlands, for example, has announced a new law mandating companies with over 100 employees to report CO2 emissions from business travel. Companies that exceed a certain threshold must reduce their emissions within a four-year period—making decarbonisation an urgent focus. 

Whilst other modes of transport can offer low-emission alternatives, where road transport is necessary, electric vehicles are the most efficient way of reducing carbon footprints. Indeed, most electric cars have more than enough range for the daily commute and emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases, or even none at all, depending on how the electricity was generated.

an aerial shot of cars driving on a busy intersection in a city surrounded by patches of green.

Optimising the energy efficiency of your facility

Another important source of emissions for business is their facilities. In Germany, for example, 30 percent of carbon emissions are generated from buildings, mainly caused by heating and electricity use. An essential—and perhaps the easiest—step in reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint is to increase its facilities’ energy efficiency. 

Using resources as efficiently as possible and minimising waste can not only reduce costs but also limit the emissions of your company. For example, using renewable energy sources or generating it yourself, such as by installing solar panels, can create long-term savings and reduce the carbon footprint as a whole. 

When integrated with electric mobility, renewable energy generation can be an even more powerful tool. By using some of the electricity to charge vehicles used by the business or its employees, a company can leverage cheap and emissions-free transport.

the exterior of a large office building with greenish windows.

Electric car chargers and energy efficiency

Whether you generate your own electricity or rely on the power grid, installing electric car chargers can be a catalyst for electric mobility, helping to reduce your carbon footprint. Today, most modern chargers are equipped with software enabling a number of smart features, ensuring charging can be as efficient as possible.

How does electric car smart charging work?

Smart charging unlocks a range of tools helping intelligently manage the energy used by electric car chargers. For example:

  • Peak shaving ensures chargers maximise the available energy, while never exceeding a set current from the grid.
  • Dynamic load balancing can easily distribute the available capacity between different vehicles, depending on the needs and priorities of the business. 

Looking ahead, developments in technology are enabling electric car charging to also provide redundancy in case of a power outage.

  • Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology will be able to intelligently charge or discharge an EV’s battery based on the capacity of the grid and the electricity needs of the business. Essentially, this will allow electric cars to act as external batteries that can temporarily store green energy and supply power back to the grid.

Addressing climate change is unquestionably one of the greatest challenges society has faced, and all businesses must do their part. One solution for cutting emissions is the electrification of transport, which, when combined with energy generation and leveraging electric car chargers’ smart functionalities, can be a simple, yet effective, tool for moving towards a sustainable future.

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