How rising demand for electric corporate fleets is influencing real estate planning
The sales figures for electric vehicles (EVs) have been rising steadily for years. Since 2019, new registrations have increased more than fivefold per year. And this year will probably exceed last year’s record again. All forecasts see this trend continuing. After all, the mobility revolution is now an integral part of the long-term climate protection plans of many countries. It is therefore no wonder that companies are also increasingly thinking about the partial or complete electrification of their own fleets in view of the emission targets they have set themselves. And they have to. After all, last year commercial vehicles accounted for 76 percent of CO2 emissions from new cars.
Nevertheless, the electrification of commercial vehicles lags far behind private cars. Last year while 22 percent of private cars were fully electric, only 11 precent of new company cars were. Why is this? What are the hurdles? What course should politicians and legislators still set? How can the transformation be achieved - not only with regard to the fleet itself, but also with regard to the corporate infrastructure such as buildings and parking spaces? Is electrifying company fleets worthwhile? And what impact does this have on real estate planning?
Tenant or landlord - who provides the charging infrastructure in and around the building?
"In addition to optimised supply chains and reduced resource consumption, many companies, especially the larger ones that mostly operate globally, see e-mobility as an integral part of a more sustainable future. Many of them have already adapted and converted their fleet accordingly or are currently doing so," says Claudia Jurek, Teamlead Project & Development Services C&W Frankfurt. And the biggest hurdle is not the vehicles themselves - there are many providers offering leasing models at good conditions. It’s much more about suitable, smart and well-functioning infrastructure around them. How many parking spaces need to be equipped accordingly? How exactly do they have to be equipped? Who will take care of this and pay for the acquisition and installation costs? Which components should lie with the occupier, which with the owner of the property and parking spaces?
Since March 2021, the Act on the Development of Building-Integrated Charging and Power Infrastructure (GEIG) has provided the first legal reference point for clarifying and regulating such questions. The aim of the freshly-minted law is to accelerate the expansion of cabling and charging infrastructure for electromobility in the building sector and at the same time to maintain the affordability of building and property development.
"In principle, it is very positive and also necessary that laws like GEIG take on these issues and try to set up appropriate regulations." says Claudia Jurek. "However, many of the points are still too vague and many discussions and assumptions are required in order to be able to plan and (re)build in practical terms. Currently, the law stipulates that every third parking space has to be equipped for e-car use. "Beyond that, however, GEIG does not make any more detailed specifications, for example on determining the required charging capacity," Jurek continues. "While those who pre-equip often tend to set rather low to medium charging capacity of 3.7 to a maximum of 11 kW, occupiers usually want a higher charging capacity of 11 to 22 kW so that their employees do not require several hours for a single charge."
"Owners and occupiers should both take more responsibility."
Whatever charging capacity is ultimately shown on the display - the required power must be supplied to the charging station and thus also to the e-car. Where do the cables run? Where are the transformers located? How many square metres are required? All of this must be considered at an early stage in the property development project and checked against the existing building to see whether it can be implemented. Claudia Jurek: "In general, owners and occupiers should both be held to greater and, above all, clearer obligations than in the past, while at the same time being supported via state subsidies. If company fleets are to become more sustainable across the board in the medium term, owners must be obliged to pre-equip their properties vehicles and occupiers must be obliged to convert their fleets." adding: "Currently, it is often the case that companies that require suitable e-mobility infrastructure in their buildings receive only around 5 per cent of the required pre-fitting and installation - although most companies estimate their requirements as being closer to 50 per cent.
"Where there is no precise legal basis and also no-to-hardly-any precedents regarding what tenants are allowed to do and landlords must do, both parties must primarily rely on constructive talks," says Jurek. "A good relationship, a willingness to talk, if necessary a mediating and advisory body and the goodwill to take a stand for sustainability currently form the basis for implementing such projects satisfactorily for both sides. And for setting a positive example for other projects of this kind."
Thinking beyond the building boundaries and "making advance provisions".
Anyone who has overcome the hurdle of "electrical equipment in and on the building" is immediately faced with another one: the adequate supply of green electricity. Claudia Jurek: "The electrical power required for the building’s general requirements and for the e-fleet in particular must be discussed and negotiated at an early stage with the grid operator responsible for the property's location. This is especially true for development projects, where the future demand already has to be estimated in the planning phase - often years before the actual move-in. And it is precisely this topic that makes looking into the future is extremely difficult. Because the entire alternative energy sector is constantly changing. Will companies still rely on e-mobility tomorrow as they do today? Or will alternatives, such as hydrogen, gain in importance? All these considerations must be taken into account from the beginning of any planning and discussions."
In any case, the electricity purchased from the supplier must be green, otherwise the sustainability concept of the e-car is negated. This is helped by the current climate protection agreement, which stipulates the switch to green electricity by 2050. However, the corresponding expansion must then be consistently pursued - otherwise the limits of green electricity generating capacity will quickly be reached and the e-mobility concept as a whole will have failed.
"Here, too, the energy suppliers should be held more accountable," says Claudia Jurek. "And not only that: in order to really set up e-mobility for the future - commercially and privately - everyone has to pull together. Above all, the real estate and infrastructure sectors should work together and 'think together'. Both sectors must be planned and designed together. Because for functioning and worthwhile company fleets, it is not enough to be equipped with charging points and good load management in and at the property alone - sufficient charging opportunities must also be available via the public road network."
"Sustainability must be worth something to each individual.”
Couldn't it be done the other way round - along the lines of the sharing economy? In this way, private individuals or smaller companies in the vicinity could also use the infrastructure of larger companies and thus achieve synergy effects. "As sustainable as the idea is - for example, also with regard to the fact that with more e-infrastructure sharing you also avoid further sealing of land - it is difficult in practice," says Jurek. "Companies usually have security concerns here when it comes to access to their spaces - the tendency is more to keep your spaces purely for yourself." He adds: "For both public and non-public parking spaces, at least the parking garage ordinance contains the requirement that 5 per cent of the parking spaces must be equipped with e-charging stations. Here - in order to further strengthen the e-infrastructure - an expansion could be considered."
Claudia Jurek concludes: "Against the backdrop of the last climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, which unfortunately once again failed to come up with a concrete, tight and globally supported roadmap for achieving the 1.5 degree target, it has become all the more clear what responsibility companies and the public have in this regard. We must work hand-in-hand to advance this issue. Open to discussion, but also supported by subsidies and a clearer set of rules than up to now. Sustainability must be worth something to everyone. In concrete terms: a willingness to invest and compromise. And the will to move forward."