Headline News

How fleet operators can be key to UK Electric Vehicle adoption

In August this year, the Tesla Model 3 was the third best-selling car in the country, and a recent LeasePlan index suggested that the total cost of ownership of Electric Vehicles (EV) is moving closer to that of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles.

This revolution is not just occurring for cars. A 2018 study by Forbes found that as battery costs decline, the unsubsidised costs of eFleets will be cheaper than diesel in a few years. In addition, the fuel economy of transit eBuses is five times higher than  that of diesel buses which operate on the same route, according to the U.S National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Furthermore, the maintenance costs for electric motors is lower due to the fact that they have much fewer parts and are more efficient than conventional motors. These savings will soon make the total cost of ownership of electric buses significantly cheaper than their diesel equivalents.

This is good news for the government’s highly ambitious target for every new car and van to be zero emissions by 2040. To help reach this goal, it is consulting on Electric Vehicle Charging in Residential and Non-Residential Buildings. Whilst there has been extensive coverage on the requirement for all new homes to be built with EV charging ports, less attention has been given to a section that may have an even bigger impact.

For new commercial buildings and those undergoing ‘extensive renovations’, the new policy calls for charging infrastructure (the supporting cabling and ducting) to be readied in 20 percent of parking spots and for there to be at least one charger per ten spaces, with immediate effect.

If passed into law, this legislation will go a long way in helping further adoption of EVs within the fleet sector, by making the logistics of preparing for electrification a legal requirement.

However, there are a number of areas that government legislation cannot prepare the industry for. Infrastructural changes and changes in consumer perception are critical in ensuring  EV fleet operations are a success.

 Planning for the future – Power Capacity

 In truck and transit fleets, multi-megawatt sites will become common, which will generate significant energy demand. Most existing depots are currently not set up to distribute such capacity, with most sites having relatively small power needs, just enough for lighting, heating, servers etc. Whilst most of your charging will take place overnight, when overall power consumption is typically lower, many locations will find that they quickly outstrip power availability.

The first priority when transitioning a fleet to electric should therefore be to meet with your energy provider, to find out how much power is available and how to go about expanding capacity. Addressing this issue early, whilst planning for future expansion, is key to keeping long term costs manageable. We recommend that you take at least a five-year perspective of the number of electric cars, vans, trucks that will be in your fleet – not just your first purchase of electric vehicles in the short term.

Total capacity is not the be all and end all. Modern charging solutions offer you smart ways of maximising the existing capacity. A dynamic load management system that integrates with your existing building energy management system, to organise when and how your fleet is charged is important.

Dynamic power sharing allows the station owner to set a maximum power output limit for your entire facility. The available power that is not used for other building purposes is shared by the stations that are actively charging vehicles and dynamically redistributed, as the charging requirements of each vehicle change. This allows station owners to oversubscribe their supply capacity, installing more stations than could otherwise be catered for without a costly supply upgrade, or simply to avoid or minimise high time-of-use electricity rates from spikes in station usage, known as peak shaving.

 Smart Charging Infrastructure

 Many commercial vehicles will charge at the end of the day and throughout the night at the depot. Investing in the right smart chargers and network can go a long way to countering concerns about the vehicles not being charged and ready to go the next morning. There are systems available today that integrate with your existing fleet management software.

Say your vehicles typically leave at 6am and assume all need at least a 95% state of charge, this being a worst-case scenario. If you have fleet management system integration, the charging system will be able to adjust the charging rates and timing for each vehicle, based on vehicle-specific scheduled departure times and route lengths.

It can then decide which vehicle gets priority charging and when any given vehicle can finish, safe in the knowledge that all will make their rounds the following day. The savings offered are two-fold: capital – you may not need to increase your on-site power capacity, as more vehicles can be managed on the same output. Secondly, operating expenses – charging can be optimised to take place in the hours when electricity is cheapest, whilst offering a longer charging window.

Easy-to-use dashboards allow real-time monitoring of vehicles and stations, including alerts that will tell you if certain vehicles are not going to be charged in time for their scheduled departure or route length, which allows you to reassign vehicles, to make sure all routes can be met.

Even if initially you are only introducing a small number of electric vehicles in your fleet, it is important to look ahead and invest in the right smart charging infrastructure. While non-connected chargers may seem like a lower-cost option initially, they will quickly become obsolete, as you expand your electric fleet, and need more sophisticated systems to manage your fleet and minimise your operating expenses. In short: ‘Thing Big. Start Small’.

Type of Charging: DC vs AC vs Public

 Especially for light commercial vehicles, AC chargers are often adequate for providing a full charge to your vehicles overnight. Including a portion of DC charging offers you the flexibility in case of a need for a quick turnaround on a particular vehicle, that has multiple long routes on a given day. Maximum charge rate is typically dictated by the vehicle, and particularly for light-duty vehicles such as passenger cars and vans, 50-60 kW is often more than adequate.

In cases of fleets without access to depot charging or where drivers take the vehicle home overnight, use of public chargers will be needed. Due to peer-to-peer roaming agreements becoming more common between providers, public charging is becoming easier than ever. Charging hubs on busy routes, especially in big cities, are already established and growing in scope.

To wrap up, fleet electrification is ramping up quickly. Whilst the process may seem complex and somewhat intimidating, with the right planning and forward-looking investment you will soon find yourself with a cleaner, smarter and more cost-effective fleet.

Author: Mark Kerstens, Vice President of Global Fleet Solutions at ChargePoint