By Alexandre Ibka, Business Development Manager, Geotab

The Business of Mobility is a new Urban Mobility Company series highlighting some of the most successful new businesses in the mobility sector. Featuring a closer look at the way in which companies stand out, CEOs, Directors and other c-level executives elaborate on what it takes to turn a great idea into a great company.

Geotab is – by some estimates – the largest telematics company on the planet, providing connected solutions for 40 000 customers and their 2.2 million vehicles, producing 40 billion data points in the process. As one of the world’s leading fleet management companies, it’s incumbent on Geotab to play a leading role in helping to protect the environment by promoting the green economy. Through various tools and initiatives, Geotab is laying the data/telematics foundations for large-scale EV adoption.

A spirit of engineering

Company folklore has it that Geotab founder Neil Cawse began his entrepreneurial career by winning the contract to provide data verification for South Africa’s first democratic elections. A few years after selling that business he began another one from his garage in Ontario…Geotab. I’ve worked in the industry some 15 years, joining Geotab’s European Sales team as a Business Development Manager in France in April 2019. Having worked with some great companies, I can say there is a spirit of drive and engineering innovation here that’s on another level.

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Transitioning to EVs

Currently, the vast majority of the world’s fleets consist of ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. Geotab is dedicated to reducing costs and emissions for these fleets, offering a Green Fleet Dashboard to monitor factors that affect emissions. The idea is to drive positive change in four key areas: fuel efficiency, vehicle utilization, route planning, and driver behaviour.

While we have achieved significant success in helping clients cut costs and emissions with their ICEs, the truly sustainable solution is to get fleets to switch to electric. To that end we’ve paired the Green Fleet Dashboard with an Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment (EVSA). This tool provides invaluable data for the business case behind a transition, answering such questions as: what will we save by switching to EVs; which vehicles should we choose; what is a reasonable timeline for the transition; and how much will we reduce our emissions?

Helping EV fleets operate at peak

EVs are on the rise – particularly in Europe where legislation is encouraging the mass adoption of electric fleets. Automakers are piling in with investments, with Bloomberg predicting that in 2022 there will be 500 EV models available globally. From a telematics perspective, the proliferation of models is a challenge. EV manufacturers are not obliged to follow the same standardized communication protocols. This makes it tricky to connect up different models, each with their unique Controller Area Network (CAN) bus. The CAN bus is like the spinal cord of a car, collecting electronic signals from the various components (motor, batteries, airbags, windows, brakes, doors, etc.) The telematics box sits on-top of the CAN bus, translating the data and relaying it – through a cellular network – to a web server in the cloud from where it can be accessed and interpreted by a user interface. One of the risks to the EV industry is non-standardization of CAN bus protocols, making it harder to connect mixed OEM fleets, and making life difficult for fleet operators.

Geotab supports industry efforts to promote conformance of standards, and in the meanwhile – to mitigate the issue – has built systems and specialized tooling to make it faster and easier to decode various EV makes and models.

Battery degradation

With so many models (we recently hit the 100 mark), using our telematics we’ve been able to run some interesting studies, including the EV battery degradation tool. This project tracked 6 000 EVs to discover how their state of health (SOH) degrades with time and use. There were some interesting and encouraging take-aways. The vast majority of the EVs on the road today have not experienced significant battery decline, and frequent use does not significantly increase degradation. In mild climates and favourable charging conditions, the capacity loss averages 1.6% per year, rising to 2.3% for all vehicles. Now that we’re getting a handle on how batteries operate in real-world conditions, we’re able to help fleets get the most out of their vehicles.

Gnewt feeds back to the grid

Geotab recently teamed up with Gnewt (Green New Transport), the UK’s largest fully electric commercial fleet, who specialise in ‘last-mile’ delivery. It’s a complex operation, with up to 70 vans each making 50-60 drops a day and with finite power on the premises to recharge them. Our vehicle-agnostic open platform meant we could get Gnewt’s fleet of mixed OEM vehicles onto one API to give them a single sight of charging status on all vehicles and chargers. The upshot is that Gnewt is reducing downtime of vehicles and optimizing every watt of electricity it draws, making it thoroughly competitive with ICE last-mile fleets. It’s also helping the grid to optimize. Ten of Gnewt’s chargers are vehicle-to-grid (V2G), feeding excess battery energy to power their building during peak demand, and then recovering this energy during off-peak in the early hours of the morning.

The future

Geotab offers a very wide range of products and services around vehicle telematics, and will continue to drive innovation in new offerings for fleets. However, the really exciting development in our business is in EVs and helping fleets with smart solutions that reduce energy usage and drive emissions to zero, in the process stabilizing the grid. Batteries are also a big factor. Our next intention with Gnewt is to help them with systems and behaviour that maintains battery SOH. It’s an exciting future all around, and I feel fortunate to be part of it.

Interested in hearing more about Geotab’s work in electrifying fleets? Join them as an Industry Partner at Autonomy Digital 2.0, May 19-20 2021!