Terry Rivers, Cox Automotive: Are EVs good for your fleet?
When it comes to fleet management, converting to an electric vehicle is a feasible option for certain fleet profiles, according to Terry Rivers who is Vice President of maintenance for Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services and Provost of the company’s Fleet Tec Academy.
To get an idea of what types of fleet would be good for making this transition, I had a brief talk with Mr. Rivers on the sidelines of the Top Tech finals, a competition for world-class truck technicians from the Fleet Tec Academy.
Terry Rivers and Global Fleet Editor of the Americas Daniel Bland at Top Tech finals 2022 in Indianapolis Indiana (source: Global Fleet)
You are transitioning your own fleet to be electric. Could you tell me a bit about that?
Rivers: Yes, for our fleet of maintenance trucks, we use most of our energy onsite rather than getting to and from the site. Keep in mind, if you're working in the cold or in extreme heat, you need air conditioning and this takes up a lot of energy.
Other firms such as electric power or cable companies have similar fleet cycles. For example, they could have a lineman electrician working on a telephone pole for hours. To escape from bad weather, they would need to use the air conditioning or heater for a few minutes.
A technician may also step into their car to take a lunch or snack break, do their notes, among other things.
With that said, an electric vehicle (EV) uses a fraction of the energy that an internal combustion engine (ICE) uses to keep the cab cool or warm for driver shelter. In one hour, a diesel burns about a half a gallon (approx. US$2.80). Also remember that a combustion engine has nearly 10,000 parts on average, whereas an EV only has approximately 700. All in all, EV maintenance costs are about 30% less than ICE maintenance costs.
What types of work are done by your maintenance fleet?
Rivers: Our onsite maintenance entails performing services on several vehicles. Besides preventative maintenance, other tasks could include air conditioning repairs, brake jobs, and tire rotations. In general, our technicians work on class 4-8 trucks and possibly half of their time could be spent at jobsites.
We also have our Ride Clean service which offers vehicle cleaning with less than a gallon of water, a sustainable way to help keep fleets in tip top shape.
And how does EV maintenance differ?
Rivers: One difference you could face in EV fleet operations is the management and repair of regenerative braking systems. Issues such as oil changes and fuel filter replacements do not exist though. From what I understand, maintenance on an EV is roughly a third of the maintenance cost of ICE engine platforms. Still, one of the biggest challenges in terms of EV implementation today is the lack of recharging infrastructure, something which should improve in the coming years.
So, if I have a fleet of 1,000 vehicles, how many maintenance technicians do I need?
Rivers: Good question. For diesel powered fleets, the industry accepted standard is roughly one technician per 30 vehicles. However, for EVs, it could be one technician per 90 vehicles or maybe even 100.
In addition to building your own EV fleet, you are also in the business of building these types of fleets for other companies, right?
Absolutely. Our goal is to reduce our greenhouse gases and carbon emissions, but we want to help our customers as well. Although we serve several clients, among one of the key multinational companies we provide for is DHL.
How do you see the evolution of electrified fleets?
Rivers: First of all, this is not new. Some 100 years ago, Henry Ford hired Thomas Edison to make an electric version of the Model T for his wife. Basically, she was a small lady who was not strong enough to physically crank the engine over as it did not have a starter. So, you can see that this is not new, but several new advancements are underway.
There were about 450 new form factor ICE engine startups such as Ford, Chrysler, and Chevrolet at the time and now, there are about 400 new form factor EV startup manufacturers. Evolution is underway and it is an interesting time to be working in the vehicle industry today.
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Top Photo: Terry Rivers (source: Handout)