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SPOTLIGHT: Rob Labinski, head of electrification, Octopus Energy for Business

Octopus Electric Vehicles has gone from strength to strength in the industry, raising its profile from a complete unknown to a major player in just three years. Adjoining that company is another arm of the cephalopod called Octopus Energy and more recently still, Octopus Energy for Business. The Great British Fleet Event catches up with Rob Labinski, head of electrification at the company that offers compelling ways to help fleets go electric.

“My career started as an energy efficiency and smart grid consultant, for Honeywell building solutions”, Labinski says. Having worked on virtual power plant design and aggregation of flexible loads at commercial and industrial consumer sites, he then moved to REstore, where he was UK Flex Sourcing Manager, before its acquisition by Centrica. He then worked for a year to help integrate demand response and process optimisation into the Centrica Business Solutions proposition until Q1 2019. “I was introduced to electric fleets in March 2018, joining Octopus Electric Vehicles a year later as head of fleet and business solutions, and recently transitioned to head of electrification at Octopus Energy for Business.”

An electric convert, Labinski’s first car was a maroon Ford Fiesta 1.1 (complete with manual choke) but he now drives a pearl white Tesla Model 3. However, his dream car would be either a Porsche Taycan, Humber pickup or Volkswagen Campervan.

Like many others put in the GBFE Spotlight, he says that Podcasts are a preferred option to listen to while driving, particularly anything entrepreneurial. “I’m also a big Stormzy fan – his album Heavy Is the Head is a favourite of mine at the moment.”

What is Octopus Electric Vehicles’ focus for 2020?

Our big focus this year is the launch and implementation of our new EV ‘transition bundle’ to assist fleet managers and businesses making the switch to electric driving. EVs can reduce fuel costs by up to 90% and maintenance costs by up to 70%, however it’s often considered “too challenging” by many businesses. We’ve reacted to fleet manager’s needs by partnering with best in class businesses Ohme, Alfen and FLEETCOR to develop a bundle that takes the stress out of switching. The key to it all is flexible green energy tariffs.

How much have you found the fleet sector is changing?

The biggest change we’re seeing in the fleet sector is the move towards electric. Businesses are under increasing pressure to go green and make the switch. For us, it’s about making this transition as seamless and stress-free as possible with our latest transition bundle offering.

What’s keeping today’s fleet manager awake at night?

The challenges facing fleet managers of today are evolving all the time. From reconciliation of charging costs, to those arguing that electric fleets is an energy rather than a traditional fleet vehicle discussion. Availability of vehicles and grid connections is a real concern, as these issues aren’t going to disappear in the short term. The way forward is electric, and it’s encouraging to see more fleet managers looking to make the switch, something that was perhaps less prevalent five years ago.

How do you see that continuing to change over the next five or ten years?

The speed of change will certainly continue, with the availability and range of choice of vehicles set to improve. It’s likely that grid connections will become a scarce commodity and fleet managers and those working in the energy sector will have to work more closely together to support green renewables on the network, and distributed energy to make the proposition effective.

What sort of challenges and opportunities could this present?

While these changes might appear challenging initially, opportunities can be created here. A transition model needs to be built for the next five years, which focuses on increasing infrastructure spend to ensure charging infrastructure is readily available. If fleet managers can spend with a view to focus on the long term, focusing on 2025-2030, they can play a key role in paving the way to a greener future. This only works if we make sure that fleet managers are making strategic decisions with a no regret spend mindset.

Written by Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.

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