Believe me when I say it was a difficult decision. Yes, it’s true; I am no longer on the public side of fleet management — I’ve moved back to the private sector. What’s funny, is that now and back when I started in government fleet, depending on who you ask and what side of the public/private line they fell on, I often heard, “You’ve gone to the dark side.” I’ll say this: To me, I think both sides are looking pretty bright with an abundance of positive things happening, particularly when it comes to technology.
In May of 2017 I joined Fermata Energy, a startup based out of Charlottesville, Va. While we are a small group (for now), there is something about our team that motivates me like never before. Maybe it’s Fermata’s vision paired with the diverse backgrounds from the private and public sectors. Or maybe it’s the simple fact that our business model will potentially have a significant impact on the automotive and energy industries.
So, what does Fermata Energy do? The condensed version is that we are commercializing vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology. Let me unpack that for you because there is a lot there. Essentially, V2G systems allow electric vehicles (EVs) to earn money while parked by utilizing their large batteries to provide energy storage services for buildings, utilities, and the grid. Fermata uses this extra money to reduce the total cost of ownership of EVs. In some cases, V2G systems can pay for an entire vehicle.
Because V2G systems can generate revenue and savings, the total cost of ownership of EVs drop compared to similar gasoline-powered engines. It is worth noting that Fermata is redefining the standard fleet definition of utilization — typically seen as the number of miles, hours, or frequency a vehicle is driven over a period of time. The thought that the value of utilization could be greater when the asset is parked rather than driven at certain times had never even entered my mind as a fleet manager, but Fermata is doing just that — redefining utilization. Keep in mind, a vehicle is parked for 95% of its life. If you are maximizing the remaining 5%, great work, but isn’t the thought of transforming an EV into a more versatile asset intriguing? I’d say so.
As storms continue to intensify, an agency’s resiliency is critical. Fermata is also exploring ways to turn a vehicle into a “drivable generator.” Think about the potential opportunity and savings here: no need to maintain small generators, no need to deploy them before or after a storm, no need to fuel them during a storm, no need to collect them after a storm, and eliminate the threat of theft of these small units. Imagine driving to a device that has lost power, such as an intersection, plugging your EV in, and resupplying power. Certainly, using the EVs to power a building is another possibility.
So, this all may be new to you because it certainly was to me just a few months ago. The reality is — and this reality shouldn’t be much of a surprise — leveraging technology is a necessity in fleet management. I once read about a manager telling a subordinate, “If you are staying the same, you are falling behind.” New technologies like Fermata Energy’s V2G further enables fleets to continue to add value within their organizations, it’s your role as fleet manager to redefine what it is your fleet is doing, and your refusal to stay the same is key.