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Legacy ICE vehicles could mean fleets need to learn new SMR skills

There are fleet operational roles for which it appears there will be few viable electric vehicle (EV) replacements in the medium and potentially even the longer term. These could include everything from cars, vans and 4x4s used for towing long distances to anything that uses a diesel generator to power heavy equipment.
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Peter Golding

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31 May 2023

LEGACY petrol and diesel vehicles that might need to be operated well beyond 2030 could mean fleets have to learn a new range of service, maintenance and repair (SMR) management skills, says FleetCheck.

Peter Golding, managing director at the fleet software specialist, said it appeared fleets would potentially need to carry on operating some units, especially some specialist light commercial vehicles, for which there were no obvious electric replacements.

“There are fleet operational roles for which it appears there will be few viable electric vehicle (EV) replacements in the medium and potentially even the longer term. These could include everything from cars, vans and 4x4s used for towing long distances to anything that uses a diesel generator to power heavy equipment.

“Unless there is a step change in technology, any available electric alternates for these are likely to be limited in operational terms while no new internal combustion engine (ICE) options will be available because production will have ended. Fleets could be left in a position where legacy ICE vehicles might be operated for much longer than is now the case.

“As it currently appears, that means that we are likely to see these vehicles operated for very long fleet lives, perhaps well beyond a decade, until the limitations of the EV technology are overcome. That will present new challenges in terms of learning new, long-term SMR skills.

“In a sense, this is a continuation of a trend that we have seen following the pandemic, with many fleets being forced to extend their extension cycles thanks to new vehicle production shortages but will be even more acute. You might find that the diesel pick-up you use for towing a trailer long distances is operated over hundreds of thousands of miles, requiring several timing belts and gearboxes on the way. This is unchartered territory when it comes to SMR for most operators, and will require the learning of new skillsets to ensure vehicles are safe and efficient.”

These vehicles would not be numerous in overall fleet terms but were likely to fulfil roles that were not easily replaced, Peter explained.

“Our view is that as far as electrification is concerned, the adoption of company cars presents no real issue, especially for drivers with home charging, but light commercial vehicles are proving more of a challenge, as many van fleets are finding. Light loads on local routes are fine but anything else is potentially more problematic and the more complex the vehicle application, the bigger the potential problems.

“Over time, these issues will undoubtedly be resolved but whether all of them are tackled in an efficient and cost-effective manner within say, a decade, is open to question. We’re certainly not talking about a Cuba situation for fleets, with the roads filled with old ICE vans that are operated in perpetuity – but it would not be surprising if a handful of specialist diesel vehicles were still operated by many fleets into the 2040s.

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Chris Wright

Chris Wright

Chris Wright has been covering the automotive industry nationally and internationally for 30 years. Following spells with consumer titles he became News Editor of Automotive Management (AM), Editor of Automotive International, International Editor for Detroit-based Automotive News, and Editor of Dealer Update. He has also co-authored several FT Management Reports and contributes regularly to Justauto.com

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