10 steps to an electric fleet
Thinking of electrifying your fleet? There may still be a serious lack of zero emission pick-ups and large vans, but battery-powered alternatives are available for a number of vehicle segments, and more are coming as corporate businesses, public authorities and private consumers look for ways to reduce their carbon footprints. Here are a few of the issues to consider and the steps to take before plugging in.
1. Learn the EV language
There’s an alphabet soup of acronyms in the zero emission world, so it pays to familiarize yourself with the abbreviations for competing technologies, said Toni Garofalo, senior fleet consulting manager, Wheels. PHEV, for instance, stands for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, which offers a combination of both electric power and an internal combustion engine, while a BEV is a Battery Electric Vehicle.
2. Start with senior executives
Converting the most senior members of staff to zero emission cars makes sound strategic sense, says Carlione. The choice of electric cars is widest in the luxury sector, and board level directors are most likely to have their own allocated parking bays, which makes it easy to install workplace charge points. Plus, if senior management buys into the idea of electric vehicles (EVs), “they will be much more apt to approve EVs for working vehicles,” said John Ciarlone, director, product management at LeasePlan USA.
3. Analyze your fleet
Take a close, hard look at your fleet; where and how are the vehicles being used? “The answer to this question will dictate the EV options for your fleet. For instance, if your drivers have a fixed destination then there is a variety of known factors to consider, including average kilometers driven, fuel consumption, driving routes and more. With these answers, you can decide what vehicle range you need. If there’s access to charging stations throughout their route, a full BEV might be a good option. If they're in a charging station dead zone, maybe a conventional or plug-in hybrid is the better choice,” said Garofalo.
4. Take advantage of telematics data
Installing telematics devices within vehicles can track their daily routes and routines. Analysis of this data can identify those capable of operating on battery power, said Ciarlone.
5. Make the business case
“Now, when we do the analysis of total cost of ownership, electric vehicles are coming out ahead in a lot of cases versus comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles,” said Ciarlone. “In fuel costs, your typical EV works out about 3 cents per mile, whereas an ICE that averages 22mpg works out at 12.5 cents per mile. The per mile savings are significant. It’s just the upfront costs of EVs that is a difficult pill to swallow at this point.” There are, however, financial incentives running to thousands of dollars in some states to encourage the uptake of EVs, so it’s worth investigating the support and grants available.
6. Plug into different chargers
Charging stations differ significantly in the speed with which they can recharge batteries, with different options for the home, workplace and public networks, said Garofalo. Typically, home chargers are the slowest because cars can be plugged in all night, while the fastest rechargers are open to the public on highways.
7. Reassure drivers
Arrange test drives, explain to employees how EVs work and promote their advantages. “The vehicles are quite exceptional in terms of their performance,” said Ciarlone. Where range is an issue, perhaps for workers heading away on vacation, one solution is to retain a small pool fleet of ICE vehicles that employees can hire or borrow.
8. Educate EV drivers
Driving an EV should straightforward, but there are a few techniques to optimize the condition and life of the battery. “For example, not charging the battery fully (some manufacturers say that 80% is optimal), not leaving the battery at zero for extended periods and avoiding subzero temps can extend its life,” said Garofalo.
9. Plan for workplace charging
At the office, introduce a charging etiquette so that drivers can reserve a charging station for a few hours per day, before moving over so another EV can recharge its batteries, suggested Ciarlone.
10. Think ahead
“If you have to do any building work, or create any parking lots, think to the future,” said Ciarlone. “It’s going to be all electric within 10 years or so, so prepare for that. Even if you don’t install charging units, get power lines laid now so you don’t have to break the ground twice.”