Lampiris 'tanks up' on electric vehicles

Total affiliate Lampiris has decided to take its company fleet of 90 cars all-electric. It's a technological, financial and human leap that also has to factor in individual considerations. We look at a decision that balances business interests and civic-mindedness.

A pioneering move

Founded in 2003, Lampiris is a Belgian company that specializes in providing renewably sourced energy at lower prices than established gas and power suppliers. The Liège-based business joined Total in the fall of 2016, as part of the major's strategic shift to become a force to be reckoned with in the renewable energy sector.

A Day in the Life of Two Electric Vehicle Users at Lampiris

In late 2017, senior management decided to switch the company's vehicle fleet to all-electric. Though it was a radical change, the idea made perfect sense to CEO Tom Van de Cruys. "The decision is in line with our business and lets us expand our offering." That's because changing over to an electric car doubles the annual energy consumption of an average household. "To be able to meet the demand for EV charging power, we wanted a proof of concept — living with and knowing electric cars — so that we'd provide the right solutions." The CEO acknowledges, that for all that, his decision is also a conviction and a company choice "not limited solely to cars, because bikes and ride-sharing are also encouraged at Lampiris!" He was the first to trade in his gasoline-powered car, an executive sedan, for a smaller electric model.

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Education and support

Lampiris has installed 14 EV charging stations at its headquarters and gradually switched over the company's 90-car fleet as a number of vehicle leasing contracts expired. "We don't lease cars with internal combustion engines anymore. We started with five cars, then another 15 since November and we'll be at 100 percent by 2021," says Tom Van de Cruys.

The changeover isn't quite as seamless as it sounds, though. Switching to electric vehicles means changing habits, status and concerns. Isabelle Lavergne, Lampiris's human resources director, remembers the reluctance and avalanche of questions in the early days. "Personal concerns were raised by people living in cities who didn't have a charging station in their garage, employees who commuted 150 kilometers a day, and big families. We had to explain and provide support. And also update our car policy, with the help of a service provider who had never to deal with a scenario like ours before." All this made Lampiris a pioneer from start to finish!

But the rapid change in the EVs available has allayed many fears. When Lampiris began transitioning, there were only a few models available[1]. Today, there's a much wider selection and the models chosen by the company cover 90 percent of employee needs. "Ultimately, everyone drives differently. Roads have charging stations, worries about driving range have faded and driving is more enjoyable, smooth and quiet, with responsive acceleration. Once you've tried one, you won't want to go back!" declares Lampiris's CEO.

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A market advantage to boot

The initial field test lived up to expectations. Employees who drove electric vehicles reported their satisfaction with their EVs and with being part of a grassroots movement. Tom Van de Cruys assures us that "The first 2,000 kilometers are a learning curve; after that, people embrace it." Based on the field test, Total now offers B2C customers in the Netherlands a single power supply contract that includes the electricity used for vehicle charging. The customer pays the same rate, the one in the home contract, anywhere the car is charged. "In Belgium, we offer a comprehensive solution for our business customers' EVs," points out the CEO. "Using digital technology, we can identify situations and apply the charging rate either to their personal account or the company account."

And more sweeping changes are on the way. One is fast charging[2], which means drivers don't have to wait around for an hour to add 100 kilometers to their range, is one. A dense network of Total-operated charging stations (1,000 stations, with one every 150 kilometers in Western Europe) and political decisions that continually push for fewer internal-combustion engines in cities and promote clean mobility, is another. Electric vehicles are a key to achieving this.

The experience has equipped Lampiris to support companies interested in following its lead and help them avoid the early pitfalls. As Tom Van de Cruys says, "People expect Lampiris to push the envelope and create solutions that don't exist yet. Switching to EVs is a wonderful testing ground to do that."

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[1] BMW i3, Volkswagen e-Golf and Nissan Leaf.

[2] For a so-called “normal” or “standard” charge requiring 3 kW of power, cars can be charged at home using a standard outlet or a wall box in 12or 15 hours. Two solutions are available for faster charges. A fast charge (45 minutes to 1 hour) takes 50 kW and an ultra-fast charge (15 to 20 minutes), 150 kW. Source: OVE (French only).

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