CAF met with John Marion, President, Baka Communications to learn about the company’s decision to electrify its fleet.
Baka Communications is one of the largest independent Bell mobility dealers in Canada. Operating across Ontario, the company began transitioning its fleet to electric vehicles in 2012 when it purchased 10, 1st generation Chevrolet Volts. “It was the perfect balance of affordability and range at the time” noted Marion.
In 2014 Baka followed up the Volt purchase by replacing its diesel delivery van with a converted battery electric Ford Transit Connect. “When the Chevy Bolt came out in 2017 it was our obvious next choice.” Added Marion. Along with the Bolts and Volts, Baka has a Chrysler Pacifica PHEV and 2 Tesla’s. Baka decided to electrify its fleet as part of a corporate initiative to become a carbon neutral business and did so for primarily environmental reasons. “While we weren’t considering ROI factors, as we have progressed we do see real ROI especially around how much less it costs to operate the EVs. Our analysis showed the average gasoline passenger car costs somewhere around 12 cents/k for fuel; our costs are significantly less, ranging from 1.2 to 2.1 cents per kilometre for our fuel; electricity, and that was before gas prices started to rise.
Our accident rate has also fallen as our drivers behaviour has improved in their quest for maximum range” Said Marion. “As well, we are seeing our repair and maintenance costs cut almost in half as most of what we do is tire rotations and windshield wiper replacements. Range anxiety has been cited as a cause for concern among corporate fleets thinking of electrifying. Marion says for Baka it’s been a non issue. “Our drivers average about 180 kilometres a day. Having the combination of home and work chargers has made the range anxiety concern moot. In fact, our drivers have more confidence in the EVs then gas vehicles as many times, being busy professionals there have been occasions where they were driving “on fumes” on the way to a call. Knowing you have a full charge and a range of more than 300 kilometres is a great stress reducer.”
The company didn’t just provide EVs as part of its strategy. It has invested in a solar carport, which features 8 level 2 charging stations and generates enough solar energy to power 160,000 of zero emission transportation a year. Going further, the company has purchased chargers for Bolt drivers use at home and helped them with the installation. “The solar carport was a huge part of the decision to electrify as well. 275,000 vehicles pass by our head office every day. Seeing the solar carport and all the vehicles parked underneath makes people ask us what we are doing and why. As a result, we’ve been approached by cities and corporations like The City of Toronto, the San Diego Zoo and the US Marines asking us for guidance on developing similar programs for their organizations.”
Baka leases its EV’s which operate on a lifecycle is four to five years, by which time the average vehicle has driven between 160,000 to 180,000 kilometres. “Given that BEVs have constantly evolving technology it made sense for our fleet to lease.” Said John of the approach. Baka has seen much more than operating cost benefits as a result of the switch. “Sustainability gains have been a big one.” Said John. We achieve true zero emission transportation with the help of the solar carport. Even without it, the benefit is excellent since Ontario’s energy is pretty green to begin with. The EVs are a big part of our overall ecosystem at our head office and play a significant role in our mission to be a carbon neutral business. We are in the process of building a micro grid to enable electricity independence when needed fueled by solar energy and incorporating storage for the vehicles.”
Making the change didn’t come without its challenges. “We didn’t anticipate how much cold weather would reduce the range of the EVs even with new battery chemistry. Some of our vehicles experienced close to a 35 percent range reduction in cold conditions. The other issue is winter tires, they’re not made for BEVs generally and can attribute to further range reduction. That said, we have changed the way we drive and plan ahead. “We found it very much worth doing”. Looking forward, Marion is excited about doing more. “We’ll never stop innovating and are looking forward to seeing the advancements in electric passenger and commercial vehicles that are coming out. We’re adding more chargers to our locations and are pleased to see many of the malls where our stores are doing the same. I would really encourage fleets to look closer at the benefits EV adoption can provide for their businesses in addition to delivering an ROI, they will also get a fabulous RODG, return on doing good”.