By Eliron Ekstein
I’ve spent a good part of my career in ‘traditional industries’. These include energy and chemical companies that produce the most essential products to sustain our ever-demanding lives.
And since I can remember, we have always looked to measure and reduce our carbon footprint. At ICL, a multi-national producer of fertilizers and other chemicals, I was fortunate to be part of a group that pioneered the concept of reducing and trading greenhouse gas emissions 'credits' through the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism back in 2008. At Shell, we set up a new organization dedicated to New Energies that is now investing billions of dollars into renewable energy, electric vehicle charging and new mobility services. We also allocated significant resources into Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS), Hydrogen, synthetic fuels and other forms of sustainable extraction.
It was only in the last few years that it occurred to me that these large-scale, dramatic investments alone are not enough to stop global warming. Sometimes the smaller, steady steps of adopting operational efficiency goes a long way. In addition to the environmental benefits, the economic benefits can also be huge.
Take fleet management for example. The transportation industry consumes over 20% of oil production globally and is responsible for a large part of greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions are predominantly generated by moving people and goods from A to B.
However, as we learned by working with fleets like Avis Budget, Hertz and others, it appears that at least 20% of car movements are not business related.
20%? Really? What does that mean?
Well, if you’ve ever been involved in fleet management, you know that cars need to be cleaned, fuelled, checked and repaired quite often, especially when they move hands continuously. At many car rental locations we visited, a dedicated person would drive the vehicle to get cleaned and fuelled, drive it back, and if something went wrong then the vehicle would be sent to a repair shop for assessment. Apart from the significant loss to the fleet since the vehicle is ‘out of service’, we found that one in five movements were ‘non revenue movements’. This means - gasoline burnt and CO2 emitted without actually providing transportation or economic value.
Many of these processes can be improved with remote vehicle assessments. When we first introduced our AI-based inspection system based on camera scanners, it was seen mainly as a cool feature to help customers drop off their vehicle without going through the tedious car return process. While the vision of seamless returns is still a top attraction, there are also operational benefits.
Our system is capable of showing the cleanliness of cars, or when damage is detected, over the life cycle of a rental through mobile phone or static camera scanning. It is complemented by car data showing fuel level and other malfunctions, to provide the fleet manager with a full view of their vehicles' conditions at any given moment and without driving them to a dedicated centre. If they decide to seek a professional view for possible repairs, they can export 360-degree views to a repair shop and get an instant quote - all without moving the vehicle or taking it out of its daily operation. This means that ‘non-revenue movements’ can now be reduced from 20% to below 10%. Taking the 1B vehicles on the planet by proxy, the outcome can save billions of tons of CO2 (and remove almost 10% of operational costs along the way).
The impact of operational efficiency by avoiding unnecessary vehicle usage is sometimes greater than those gigantic clean energy projects - it is the art of execution that will determine how and when we can all benefit from it.