By Michael Hughes
The future of fleets is electric. Whether it’s fleets deployed every day to make deliveries, municipal vehicles used by government employees, or public transit transporting people every hour. The verdict is that fleets need to find an efficient and affordable way to fuel and move around the planet. A major factor that will play into the adoption of electric transport by fleets is ensuring that fueling needs and infrastructure are in place to provide consistent, reliable support.
Over the last decade, more fleets have transitioned to electric fueling to reduce operational and maintenance costs, meet organizational sustainability metrics, or in response to new government mandates focused on climate action through transport.
The reality is that fleets are making the switch, and they are doing so in big and creative ways. In October 2019, Frito-Lay began its mission to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20% by 2030, replacing all of its diesel-powered freight equipment with zero-emission and near-zero emission technologies. At its manufacturing facility located in Modesto, California, Frito-Lay is installing ChargePoint solutions that will help the fleet manage their many needs both in logistics and delivery.
FUTURE IS ELECTRIC
In the past several years, there has been a great focus on electric mobility. We have seen major and continuing strides in the consumer market. But the hype is stretching across the commercial market as well. We believe the future of fleets is electric for three reasons: the economy, regulations, and sustainability.
From an economic standpoint, in most cases, electric fleets are less expensive to operate and maintain than internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Electric vehicles of any type don’t require as much upkeep as traditional ICE fleet vehicles. Maintenance costs can be relatively minimal, and fueling can be managed at the depot level, leaving the opportunity for the fleet manager to set and tailor charging times to fit their energy management and business needs.
Looking at government regulations, fleet operators who deliver goods in California, London, Amsterdam, Florence, etc. are already working with zero emissions mandates made by local and state governments that go into effect in just a matter of years.
With a push for sustainability, organizations like IKEA, Amazon, PepsiCo, and others are leading the way in electrification by setting and meeting aggressive sustainability targets. With big commitments made by those organizations, US deliveries and deployment of electric trucks are expected to double between 2021 and 2022, according to GreenBiz. Electric buses may be the next category for major EV adoption as public transportation resumes.
MEETING THE NEED
For those interested in bringing their commercial fleets into the future through electrification, ChargePoint can help. It uses its vast network to monitor fleet charging data and better understand the behavior of various fleet types. This makes the ChargePoint team experienced in understanding how to best scale fleet electrification and to witness it firsthand.
Fleet customers appreciate ChargePoint’s solutions because they provide them the flexibility and control over fueling their fleet and the lowest total cost of ownership. They can distinguish power conversion from dispensation, allowing parking and operational flexibility, energy, and cost management. With the integration of vehicle telematics and route planning, fleet operators can get visibility and control they have never had before—tracking, mapping, and controlling the fueling of vehicles has never been this easy.
One thing that fleet operators need to keep in mind is that fueling behavior shifts when owning and operating an electric vehicle. Most fleets are used to a “fuel when you need to” model instead of a “fuel where you’re parked” model. This causes fleet owners to think that they need to charge their vehicles fast when the target for optimal cost savings and operational efficiency is to charge slower to meet route requirements. With an EV, software can determine how fast vehicles charge and when, and do so in a way that keeps costs low. Peak charges for electricity can be avoided with scheduled charging that takes advantage of the longer amount of time vehicles are parked and generates significant savings in avoided electrical capacity upgrades.
It is important that when transitioning a fleet from petrol to electric, a fleet operator understands the changing pattern of behavior around fueling. With an electric fleet, vehicles don’t need to charge as fast as possible, nor do they need to charge immediately upon returning to base. In fact, all EV drivers, after making the switch, also change their fueling behavior from a “fuel when you need to” model to a “fuel when and where you can,” model—making the fueling behavior of an EV driver much more opportunistic and emphasizing the benefit of controlling when and where you charge your fleet.
This shift in behavior has the potential to cause thousands of dollars of cost savings. So when can this be a reality for your fleet?
When it comes to making the switch from ICE vehicles to EVs, you’ll have to consider the type of vehicle that works best for your fleet as well as a charging solution. We’ve observed that EV charging scales with increases in vehicle volume in every segment in mobility. We see one of the biggest barriers to EV adoption being vehicle make and model availability. As we see more vehicle makes and models come online, we believe adoption will increase.
But once those vehicles become available, the key to seamless adoption will be creating access to EV charging for all. To make this possible, public and private entities are increasing their investment in EV charging with states like California, Colorado, and Maine paving the way. Roaming integrations are expanding access across North America, allowing drivers to access charging through one account. ChargePoint has entered into roaming agreements with nearly all of the other major charging networks in the industry, which gives access to more than 133,000 additional places to charge globally.
From what we have seen with fleet customers specifically, a well-planned depot will minimize the need for “on-the-road” infrastructure. We are helping customers today with comprehensive fleet assessments matching vehicles, batteries, routes, and depot locations to their requirements and giving them comfort that they will be able to meet their route requirements without incident.
LEADING THE CHARGE
We think fleets will spearhead the next wave of EV adoption simply because more electric vehicle makes and models are available. Vehicle availability has been the primary constraint for the last few years for fleets and EV adoption overall. While buses and a handful of heavy-duty and off-road vehicles have been made available, there has been almost no reliable supply of light- and medium-duty vans, light-duty trucks, and many heavy-duty vehicle classes. Now, we see more “born electrics” like Rivian, Lordstown, Lion, and Workhorse promising vehicles and PACCAR, Daimler, and Volvo getting early production volume in the heavy-duty sector. Meanwhile Ford, GM, and a number of the traditional auto OEMs are prepping vans and light-duty trucks that the market needs to electrify.
From our perspective it’s only a matter of time before the future of fleets is in the present.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Hughes is the chief revenue officer of ChargePoint. ChargePoint is a network of electric vehicle charging stations in North America and Europe. Find out more, visit www.chargepoint.com.