Electric switch

Electric switch

As part of its 2030 sustainability strategy, ABB is replacing its over 10,000 mainly petrol- or diesel-driven automobiles, vans and trucks with electric vehicles (EVs).

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Ricardo Koevoet ABB Fleet Global Rotterdam, The Nether­lands, ricardo.koevoet@nl.abb.com        

As a globally recognized leader in power and automation technologies that enable businesses to improve their energy efficiency and productivity, ABB is committed to sustainable development and has been working to reduce its environmental footprint for many years.  

Replacing the ABB vehicle fleet
As part of this commitment to sustainability, ABB has embarked on a massive project to replace its existing global fleet of conventionally powered vehicles with EVs →01. The company’s fleet comprises over 10,000 vehicles in 62 countries, with an associated annual expenditure of approximately $100 million. ABB has begun implementing this initiative with a special focus on the 24 countries that represent more than 80 percent of its fleet.  

01 ABB is replacing its global fleet of petrol- and diesel-driven vehicles with electric alternatives.
01 ABB is replacing its global fleet of petrol- and diesel-driven vehicles with electric alternatives.

ABB’s fleet conversion project is part of its 2030 sustainability strategy, which seeks to enable a low-carbon society while working with customers and suppliers to implement sustainable practices across the entire ABB value chain and the lifecycle of its products and solutions. The company is also committed to driving social progress in its communities and with its suppliers.  

The decision to convert the fleet to EVs is a significant step towards achieving ABB’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. These targets have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative [1] as being in line with the 1.5 oC scenario of the Paris Agreement. ABB has committed to achieving carbon neutrality across its operations by reducing its emissions by at least 80 percent by 2030. Moving to an EV fleet is essential if ABB’s emission reduction objectives are to be achieved.  

In ABB, vehicles using an internal combustion engine (ICE) are, for the next few years, allowed only as an exception. This approach means that ABB is moving away almost entirely from traditional petroleum-powered vehicles and toward a more sustainable future. By making this transition, the company is not only reducing its own carbon footprint but also setting an example for other companies to follow. By 2030, the whole ABB global vehicle fleet will be electrified.  

At-home charging
ABB’s fleet conversion project includes the installation of ABB AC Terra chargers and charging infrastructure at ABB locations →02. In many cases, a battery charger is installed at ABB drivers’ homes. This measure makes it easy for them to charge their vehicles overnight and ensures they always have a full battery when leaving for work in the morning.  

02 ABB’s Terra charger.
02 ABB’s Terra charger.

EV uphills and downhills
One of the project’s challenges is that ABB can sometimes move faster than EV acceptance among drivers, leading to EV range anxiety in some cases. Further challenges include:
• Potential semiconductor shortages.
• The reluctance of governments to offer incentives such as subsidies.
• The immaturity of public charging infrastructure in some regions.  

Given the rapidly increasing popularity of EVs in all segments of transportation, vehicle availability can also be an issue.  

The project presents opportunities in addition to those mentioned above. For example, the encouragement of new product developments in supplier organizations.  

Pilots and policy
The fleet pilot project started in 2019 and three pilot countries launched in 2020. Careful total cost of ownership analysis was carried out and supplier management and procurement strategy elements were carefully considered.  

The company launched an EV policy document in September 2020. The policy makes allowances for ICE-based vehicles, but only in exceptional cases. A detailed stakeholder communication plan was implemented in late 2020 to support the policy launch, transition and go-live. Priority locations for EV infrastructure investment were identified and an agile implementation plan was developed to adapt to the potential impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the consequent supply chain disruption, on availability of both ABB products and EVs. The UK was chosen to host the first pilot project not only due to the high CO₂ footprint of ABB’s UK fleet but also the ready availability of vehicles and growing charging infrastructure in the country. Currently, for the UK, 383 EVs have been ordered – and only 26 ICE vehicles.  

ABB continuously develops new procedures and guidance based on the experience gained from the UK and other pilot EV projects.  

Sweden and Spain
EV charging infrastructure varies by country, so strategies for switching to an EV fleet must be adapted accordingly →03.  

  • 3a Slow charging infrastructure.
  • 3b Fast-charging infrastructure.  

03 EV charging infrastructure is expanding rapidly, but not at the same rate in all regions. Data courtesy of the International Energy Organization [2].

In Sweden, ABB is making significant strides toward a more sustainable future by converting its local fleet to electric vehicles. Although Sweden was not one of the original pilot countries for this initiative, the local policy for company cars was changed in March 2021. Since then, ABB has ordered 427 EVs and 11 plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) for its Swedish fleet – and only 5 ICE vehicles.  

This transition to electric vehicles is a significant step forward for ABB’s sustainability efforts in Sweden. By reducing the number of petroleum-powered vehicles on the road, the company is not only helping to reduce carbon emissions but is also improving air quality in the country, especially in urban areas.  

In Spain, ABB is taking a different approach due to still developing charging infrastructure. In December 2020, ABB decided to replace the Spanish service and sales fleet with PHEVs. By transitioning to PHEVs in Spain, ABB is still making a significant contribution to reducing its carbon footprint. While PHEVs still rely on petroleum for part of their power, they offer significant improvements over traditional petroleum-powered vehicles in terms of carbon emissions and fuel efficiency. Unfortunately, the shortage of semiconductors upset the transition plans: After taking delivery of just over 90 PHEVs in 2021, ABB had to make the decision to take an intermediate step in which the planned PHEVs are replaced by mild hybrid vehicles in the short term. A mild hybrid has a small electric generator that replaces the traditional starter motor and alternator plus a small lithium-ion battery. This variant reduces the fuel consumption and CO₂ emissions of ICE vehicles. Full vehicle electrification in Spain will still be completed by 2030, though. In neighboring Portugal, ABB aims to have an all-electric fleet by the end of 2023.  

04 ABB is title partner of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.  
04 ABB is title partner of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.  

EV experience from Formula E
ABB is no stranger to the world of EVs: the company’s association with Formula E motor racing is well-known and ABB has been title partner of the series since 2018, and is also official charging partner →04-05. Formula E is a competitive racing series that features electric race cars. The series demonstrates the potential of EVs and promotes sustainable mobility. Fur­thermore, Formula E provides an ideal testbed for innovation that positions ABB at the forefront of sustainable technology development and, ultimately, contribute to a cleaner environment for all.  

05 A custom-made compact Terra DC fast-charger was used in the ABB Formula E-supporting Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy from 2018-2020. ABB’s experience in EV technology facilitates the move to an all--electric fleet.
05 A custom-made compact Terra DC fast-charger was used in the ABB Formula E-supporting Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy from 2018-2020. ABB’s experience in EV technology facilitates the move to an all--electric fleet.

Driving sustainability
Overall, ABB’s efforts to convert its global vehicle fleet to electric vehicles and PHEVs are an important step forward for its sustainability efforts. By reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and moving toward a more sustainable future, ABB is setting an example for other companies to follow.  

As the world continues to grapple with the impact of climate change, it is essential that companies take proactive steps to reduce their carbon footprints and transition to more sustainable practices. ABB’s EV fleet replacement program is one step in this direction.

[1] SBTi, “Ambitious corporate climate action – Science Based Targets.” Available: https://sciencebasedtargets.org/ [Accessed 28 February, 2023.]  
[2] IEA, “Global EV Outlook 2022: Trends in charging infrastructure.” Available: https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2022/trends-in-charging-infrastructure [Accessed 28 February, 2023.]


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