27. August 2020

Paving the way for environmentally friendly corporate fleets

In Adlershof, companies leading the charge for electric vehicles have found pragmatic ways of dealing with the existing hurdles

Tobias Breyer with GreenPack replacement battery © WISTA Management GmbH
Tobias Breyer with a GreenPack replacement battery © WISTA Management GmbH
Christian Scholz, LTB Lasertechnik GmbH © WISTA Management GmbH
Christian Scholz relies on an e-company fleet and plug-in hybrids for LTB Lasertechnik GmbH © WISTA Management GmbH

The number of registered electric vehicles is on the rise. In Adlershof, too, more and more electric vehicles are being added to company fleets. This raises the question whether expanding the charging infrastructure can keep pace. Companies leading the charge for electric vehicles have found pragmatic ways of dealing with the existing hurdles.

GreenPack, a manufacturer of standardised replacement batteries for cargo bikes, cycle rickshaws, electric scooters, snow blowers, and street sweepers, was the first to break this new ground. The Adlershof-based company is now going beyond what it has helped to start: Under the brand ‘Swobbee’, it is creating a network of battery replacement stations, where commercial customers can exchange empty rental batteries for full ones in just a few simple steps. The service is included in the price for renting the battery. There are already 16 such machines in Berlin, and more in the Rhine and Ruhr area as well as Freiburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Jena. According to Tobias Breyer, the head of marketing, the 30-strong team is now preparing to break into the Dutch market.

Users of electric cars have a much harder time recharging their batteries. All attempts to establish battery changing systems in the automotive industry have continuously failed due to the resistance of manufacturers against standardised high-voltage storage systems. This has had consequences: Electric cars are charged using cables at charging stations, blocking them for other users for hours on end. This worked fairly well when there were only few electric cars on the road. However, thanks to lavish government incentives, sales of purely electric cars and plug-in hybrids are increasing. Many anxious voices are being raised in Adlershof whether the expansion of the local charging infrastructure is able to keep pace or whether it will fall behind.

GreenPack aka Swobbee has two electricity-powered company vehicles. Charging them here in Adlershof seldom worked, says Breyer. ‘Our employees usually charge them at home or at charging stations in other parts of the city,’ he says. Even so, seven new charging stations have been opened in four locations across the Technology Park in June 2020 as part of the ‘FlexNet4E- Mobility’ research project. This should alleviate charging problems for the time being. However, companies committed to building an electric-powered fleet, must be in it for the long haul, says Breyer. ‘You must really want it,’ he says diplomatically.

Christian Scholz, CEO of LTB Lasertechnik Berlin GmbH, is one of those who really wants it. And is spending money on it. His company’s lasers are predominantly used in mass spectrometers, where they are used to determine the quality of gemstones or to identify metal alloys in recycling facilities. The latter serves to achieve a high recycling and energetic recovery quota for raw materials and plastic. Scholz and his team also want to contribute to protecting the climate and the environment. ‘We have decided to only buy plug-in hybrids as company cars, better even, purely electric vehicles,’ he says.

Electric cars for city traffic, hybrids for long hauls, and, as soon as the infrastructure permits, hydrogen vehicles. ‘We’re not going to save the world on our own, but if each one of us takes the steps we are capable of, it will push everyone forward,’ he says.

He welcomes the funding opportunities for company cars, especially as electric company cars bring tax advantages for his employees. ‘They have more money in their pockets without a pay raise,’ says Scholz. However, the vehicles are expensive to buy. And because he is somebody who likes to do things properly, his company is now investing in its own charging infrastructure. ‘We are building an on-site charging station with six to eight connections as well as funding wall box chargers for our employees so they can recharge at home,’ he says. One reason being that plug-in hybrids should run on electricity whenever possible and only run on combustion engine on overland journeys. Scholz started by gathering data and information - and switched his whole company to green energy while he was at it. ‘The price difference was so low,’ he says, ‘we should have done that much earlier.’ He has now taken that step. And that’s what counts.

By Peter Trechow for Adlershof Journal