In just a short period of time, CarBon Leasing & Rentals has worked with the likes of Kings Transport, All Purpose Transport and ANC.
The Perth-based business is determined to carve out a niche as an electric vehicle leasing and rental provider in a market that might not be niche for much longer judging by recent sales. Market share for the combined passenger car, SUV and light-commercial vehicles hit 7.7 per cent at the end of July.
Having reached a crucial tipping point of 5 per cent, it moves past a common milestone associated with the threshold of mass adoption for new technology.
Australian first half year sales of electric vehicles have already eclipsed those in 2022.
Part of that upward curve comes from businesses starting to transition their fleet to battery electric technology as new products are made available.
For those looking to reduce emissions on their transport network this is where CarBon comes in. In addition to the supply of electric commercial and passenger vehicles, CarBon helps manage EV transition and implementation according to Chief Executive Officer Scott Gillespie, who spearheads the company.
“In transport, as we all know, if you’re going to replace a diesel with an electric vehicle you want to make sure you can do your job because time is money and if you’re sitting on the side of the road charging and you’re not delivering then it’s not good,” he says
“So understanding what is fit-for-purpose and being able to guide operators on infrastructure and what they will need that’s what I wanted to do with the business.”
Scott is well familiar with logistics and last mile delivery having founded a transport and logistics company 15 years ago.
As a long-time distributor of Goodman Fielder around the Perth metropolitan area, the company delivers household bread brands like Helgas, Wonder White and others into Woolworths, Coles and IGA stores and performs a similar task for Western Milling, delivering its bagged flour in Western Australia and New South Wales.
Truck emissions have been on his mind for some time.
“That’s how the idea for CarBon was formed, using my transport and logistics background to be able to guide people on what they can and can’t do and making sure it was a successful deployment,” says Scott.
“I was looking at why businesses weren’t adopting those sorts of vehicles. It was mainly understanding whether they were fit-for-purpose.”
That specialist approach to EV transition has been refined by CarBon which offers tailored strategies that guide and manage every facet of fleet electrification from fleet analysis to vehicle choice and implementation, charging options, utilisation to change management and even CO2 reporting.
Around nine years ago Scott was already hellbent on adopting alternative energy sources for use in commercial road transportation. To reduce diesel emissions, he looked at compressed natural gas.
The task of aligning CNG supply and bowser installation to produce what he needed proved complicated and costs soon became prohibitive, leaving the project short-lived. Since then, he hasn’t stopped looking at ways to decarbonise his fleet. This inevitably led to CarBon.
“We offer a flexible leasing solution where our minimum term is 12 months on a truck or van and then we will tailor it to suit the customer,” he says. “For us, having that flexible leasing solution gets the products in, it gets customers operating them, it proves our success and most of them are heading into five-year-terms now.”
People in transport understandably get nervous about new technology. Being cautious they approach the first vehicle with a short-term mindset, usually with an exit clause at the ready.
CarBon, according to Scott, uses modelling that ensures the transition, no matter how tentative, will work.
“We had a customer who wanted to go down from Brisbane to Byron Bay and it wasn’t feasible as they would be charging twice on that,” he says. “So, we showed them what was and wasn’t possible.
“You’ve got to ensure that the deployment of an EV is a success because you don’t want them going backwards after they’ve gone forward. For us, that’s critical in our model and giving people flexibility to tailor their lease to suit their needs.”
That said, people are concerned about residual value and what to do with the vehicle at the end of life. CarBon can point to solutions for the repurpose of batteries as off grid charging solutions or at home charging solutions.
“It takes away the hassle and worry from companies who are uncertain as to what they do at the end,” says Scott. “We look after all that as well for them.”
The business is geared around three segments: transport, mining and rideshare. In mining CarBon offers a full light fleet solution including a Gen-2 LandCruiser 79 Series-based ZED70 Ti of which it ordered 200 units from Zero Automotive in August.
In rideshare, the company is supplying its partners with EVs such as the Tesla 3, BYD ATTO and MG 4s nationally. CarBon also has a novated lease segment that is seeing a significant uptick.
By June next year, Scott estimates the CarBon fleet size, across all categories, will surpass 1000 vehicles.
“That’s based on our trajectory and the forward orders that we’ve got and are starting to come through,” he says. “There are other partnerships that will be coming out over the next month and that’s going to accelerate our footprint.”
Customers in commercial operations have had success with LDV Deliver 9s and Skywell EC-11 cargo vans. In the light truck space CarBon stocks Foton t5iBlue and Hyundai product.
This month it will add the Ford eTransit and the JAC 9-tonne truck. CarBon already has a number of customers who want to deploy the Hyundai Mighty EV into their fleet for its 3.5- to 4-tonne payload.
At present, CarBon offers ten units in the fleet which they will build to around 40 trucks over the next 12 months.
“We want to be increasing that based on some of the customers and some of the contracts and announcements that are coming over the next couple of months,” says Scott. “We see it being a big part of our fleet.”
Offered with a factory-fitted pantech or refrigerated pantech, the Hyundai Mighty EV affords up to 200km in range when laden from its 114.5kW battery system. There’s also distinct crossover in the commercial vehicle realm for the innovation and accessibility Hyundai is renowned for in its passenger car range.
“The product is brilliant. When we’ve compared it to other vehicles coming across, we’re really impressed by the innovation and the tech and the safety as well,” says Scott. “That’s paramount for our operators and that is really carried across with Hyundai. We did see some other brands come out in the first round and their safety features weren’t as good, whereas Hyundai has brought that 100 per cent complete to market.”
Well built, according to Scott, the Hyundai Mighty EV is going to be a strong option in the niche space for last mile where a little bit more payload is required.
“It’s good in that sense and is going to be awesome in that 7.5-tonne GVM category,” he says. “With the range that it can get, I think it’s a great truck.”
Demand continues to be largely driven by the customers of transport operators who want to see fleets act on emissions. As the transport sector is regarded as one of the heaviest emitting industries where any small change can be made to mitigate environmental impacts it should be according to Scott.
“Let’s be honest in that last mile lighter vehicle space you can do it now,” he says.
“In the heavier space we understand there’s limitations and customers aren’t demanding that as much as the light vehicle space. Equally some of our customers are just innovative companies. They’re saying we need to start to move. Let’s be a leader rather than a follower.”
The EV work being pioneered by Kings Transport, a partner of CarBon’s, in last mile logistics has not gone unnoticed. Kings now has dedicated battery electric vehicles that deliver for a range of large global and Australian retailers following the company’s initial proof of concept pilot program explains Scott.
“It’s the same with All Purpose. They’ve got another four or five customers talking to them about delivering their products in electric vehicles because they see the benefits of it,” he says. “They want to reduce their carbon footprint as well. Our leasing model enables those contractors. Kings have contractors. All Purpose have contractors. ANC have contractors. But our model allows them to get into an EV that they wouldn’t have been able to do if they had to go and purchase it outright at double the cost. For some it’s hard for them to finance.”
Last year ARENA announced a $70 million funding pool aimed at supporting EV uptake through public charging stations. Scott applauds this pivot to redirect investment to charge infrastructure but insists the focus needs to include better accessibility for commercial vehicles.
“They should start thinking of commercial vehicles and how they would access those chargers, rather than putting it in a carpark that has got a 2.1 metre clearance. I think it’s something people have not thought of previously.”
Commercial charging also needs to be provisioned at service station providers. One solution might be to invest in DC chargers where accessibility isn’t an issue, say, for instance, in industrial parks where power supply tends to be strong and reliable. The sooner it happens the better it will be for uptake and the operator experience, which, as Scott believes is superior.
“A lot of people who have jumped into vans are finding the cost is a lot less in terms of charging versus diesel and diesel’s pricing fluctuates so much,” he says. “It offers stability in their costs too.” CarBon offers a fully inclusive lease designed to make budgeting easier. Operators, what’s more, who drive an EV note it’s less stressful in the traffic and that they handle better. That’s the feedback Scott has been receiving.
“It’s on the whole a more pleasurable experience and as these products continue to arrive, it allows us to scale as we’ve got many customers asking about what they can do,” Scott says. “Our business is now 18 months old and it’s like a snowball that’s gathering momentum.”