Fleet Electrification: Preparing for the Future

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EV adoption needs careful consideration, including use requirements. PHOTO Ford Motor Company

Now is the time for fleet managers to start planning for an electrified future.

With a growing number of vehicle manufacturers announcing plans to bring EVs to market, fleet managers must start planning for a future where some, if not all of their vehicles will be fully electric.

The question then becomes, “Where do EVs fit into my fleet? Where do they make sense?”

Until recently, that question was easy to answer since the only EVs suitable for fleet applications were smaller sedans. Now, with electric cargo vans added to the mix, along with electric pick-ups, fleet managers have a more complex question to answer.

The key to answering that question, according to Charlotte Argue, Senior Manager of Fleet Electrification at Geotab is data. “Let the data tell you,” she explains. “Don’t make assumptions. You can eliminate the guesswork if you look at your historic driving cycles and the driving history of your current vehicles. You can then use that to decide which of your existing vehicles you should start with.”

Argue adds that fleet managers must figure out which of their current vehicles have a suitable EV replacement on the market. “Are there EVs out there that are able to do the job?” she asks. “Are they cost effective, and is there a positive TCO of going electric, compared to gas or diesel options? Those are the key considerations to determine if an EV is appropriate.”

Sasha Arasteh, E-Mobility and Services Manager for Shell Fleet Solutions Americas agrees that data is key to making the right decision. “Fleet managers can utilize specific data points for their fleets such as fleet size, fleet vehicle mix, driving behaviours, geography, vehicle utilization, customer visits, and more,” Arasteh says. “These specific datapoints can be put into EV assessment tools to better understand which vehicles to electrify and when, which grants apply, and more.”

Proper applications and potential risks

Much of the decision-making comes down to determining how EVs could be used, and where they’re simply not practical. “More EVs are coming to market this year than ever before,” explains Morgan Nicolich E-Mobility Business Development Manager for Shell Fleet Solutions Americas, “but they still have smaller ranges, on average, than the equivalent internal combustion engine vehicle. Fleets that are ready for EV transition now are going to be fleets that rely on cars and vans, compared to specialist vehicles (like a vehicle that is specially fitted with heavy equipment) or CRT (Commercial Road Transport and 18-wheelers) that still have a way to go before being ready for mainstream EV adoption.”

Eric Norkus, Account Executive with Foss National Leasing says that the vehicles he sees on the market today, as well as those coming to market in the near future, are more suited for shorter-range needs and predictable routes with a back-to-base scenario where they can be charged at a central hub.

“If it’s not a back-to-base situation,” he explains, “you have to put chargers in a driver’s home, and that brings up questions you need to ask: What happens if the driver leaves the organization? What if the driver lives in a condo, or their home doesn’t have an adequate power supply?”

Norkus adds that putting a charger into an employee’s home can be a liability risk. “We’ve heard of cases where the driver or a family member tripped over the charging cord. A fast dive into EVs for fleet in Canada could create a lot of challenges for a business, but a structured and stable approach with the right guidance can mitigate risks.”

Partner with experts

While it’s possible for fleet managers to dip their toes into EV waters on their own, partnering with experts who have the knowhow will help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes.

“Find a knowledgeable partner,” recommends Sara Church, District Sales Manager, Holman. “You’ll want to examine everything because what the data is going to tell you may surprise you. In order to build a baseline and determine a path forward, look at the operating parameters of your fleet. You need to really understand what your revenue-generating tool does to ensure you don’t transition to an EV model that isn’t a match for the vehicle’s intended role just to electrify the fleet.”

Emily Graham, Director, Sustainability at Holman suggests looking at the EV question from a holistic perspective. “We’re changing the dialogue for a lot of our customers when it comes to electrification,” she explains. “It’s less about which vehicle you had in the past? Did you have a truck? A van? A sedan? Instead, we’re changing the conversation to focus on the need and the goals of transitioning to electric vehicles. Once we know the need and the business purpose, we can complete a full analysis, better understand the requirements, and help develop a holistic strategy to begin seamlessly integrating EVs. It doesn’t necessarily need to be a one-for-one substitute for an EV.”

Pilot projects

Most experts caution against jumping into electrification with both feet. “We recommend introducing electric vehicles in phases,” explains Graham. “With the pilot projects of the past you would pull five vehicles out of a fleet, make sure it worked in this little bubble, and then we would copy and paste that strategy everywhere. Approaching fleet electrification this way would be challenging and not cost effective.”

“That’s why we recommend a phased approach where you look at a population of vehicles, potentially in multiple geographic regions, and understand how variables like the environment, access to charging infrastructure, funding, and overall utilization of that vehicle impacts its total cost of ownership. That alone will help you understand where you should continue to phase two, as well as whether you should consider additional applications or scenarios across the rest of your fleet.”

Even with expert advice on your side, electrifying a fleet comes with a learning curve. “There’s a lot to do between now and when many commercial EVs will come to market,” says Kevin Sambleson, Regional Director, Ontario for Jim Pattison Lease. “The transition to EVs requires a significant financial and operational analysis. That’s why you have to dig into it now, so that you’re ahead of the curve, and when EVs do arrive on the market you’ll have all the numbers, which will allow you to make the right decisions.”


Categories : Editorial, Fleet
Tags : EV, Management


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