It’s nice to want electric vehicles, but have you thought about charging stations?
Fleet managers need to explore a variety of potential options to achieve the best results: scheduling vehicle charging at the base, at the customer’s location, or at the employee’s location. It is also possible to use a turnkey service offered by specialized firms.
Where to put them, which ones to choose?
Charging electric vehicles at the base is the best option for controlling electric fuel expenses, says Chelsea Feast, Project Manager at Holman.
“Public charging stations are not always reliable and they are more expensive. Our recommendation is to focus as much as possible on charging at the base, where vehicles spend the night. That’s the key to ensuring that vehicles have the charge they need to operate the next day. So, prioritize where the vehicles sleep.”
You also have to analyze your operational mode and think about the whole structure required to have EVs on a 10, 15 or even 20 year horizon.
Roger Constantin, Expert Consultant and Professor at ÉTS, believes “a lot of different calculations will be required to determine how many batteries need to be recharged and in how long. And the following questions must be part of this analysis: will we need a single or dual connection terminal? Does the Hydro-Quebec network allow for the installation of these terminals?”
“Correctly sizing the charging infrastructure requires an audit of operations and a number of questions,” explains Sylvain Cabanetos, Account Manager at Cléo, a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec that supports operators in this transition to electrification.
“It’s actually more complex than you think. At Cleo, we start with the customer’s operations. For example, if the manufacturer’s data sheet indicates that its charging stations charge the vehicle in 90 minutes, the question to ask is whether the operations require that the vehicle be charged in 90 minutes. The faster the charge, the more expensive the charging station. So it’s important to size up your infrastructure very early in the process.”
Then come the questions: What do I do with these vehicles, what time do they leave, what time do they come back, do they go back to the base? How much mileage do they get? What is the type of terrain, is it uphill or downhill? Does the EV travel in the city or on the highway? How can we ensure that the choices made today will not have a negative impact on planning in three to five years? What type of vehicles will we be using in five years?
Guillaume Poudrier, President of Géothenic, reminds us that the priority is to “make sure that not everyone needs to recharge at the same time. The goal is not to create dissatisfaction, lengthen waiting time or lose productivity because people are waiting for a spot at the charging station.”
To achieve this, experts recommend that charging stations be installed in optimal locations, related to the company’s operations and in sufficient quantity. Constant monitoring of vehicle load and usage ensures that vehicles are properly loaded and used. Knowing the optimal charging frequency is key to planning and choosing the right charging station.
Charging at home
Companies planning to install charging stations at their employees’ homes should shop around before proceeding, experts say.
What happens if the employee leaves the position? How to calculate the reimbursement for the energy consumed? Can the employee’s place of residence – apartment, condo, house–accommodate the terminal? Are they tenants or owners?
Holman specialist Chelsea Feast recommends conducting a pre-qualification survey to ensure their users can handle the home connection.
“If an employee is not able to install a terminal at their home while keeping their vehicle overnight, we advise choosing a different driver in the early phases of the transition.”
Its shared terminals at the customer’s site
The experts are unanimous: we must therefore create a way to share the terminals and develop a vision of integration.
“Mutualization is necessarily an interesting thing,” says Guillaume Poudrier. Some companies do business with third parties for their deliveries. These companies install recharging infrastructures so that the companies that come to make deliveries can recharge at their own depot. That’s the first possibility.
The second possibility is to create an urban hub to provide access to shared kiosks for different tenants who specialize in last-mile delivery to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
This type of infrastructure exists in Montreal; Colibri Iberville is an ecological urban delivery hub on the street of the same name.
Entrust the planning of the terminals to a specialized firm?
Once again, the experts agree. “It takes people who know this, at least to make the plan,” says Constantin. “I strongly advise companies to start by taking a first look at the wheel with specialized firms.”
Sylvain Cabanetos reminds us that large companies are better equipped to carry out such a project internally thanks to planning and project managers who are aware of the issues facing electrical engineers.
“Given the multitude of new issues to consider, it may be worth working with a partner to accelerate this transition. However, once the customer sees the recipe, they will be better equipped to pursue the electric transition themselves. For the first deployment to be successful, we recommend starting with a pilot project.”
If a company plans to operate with 100 EVs over the next five years, it should consider these parameters early in the project and configure the charging station installation accordingly, Chelsea Feast ultimately recommends.