As state and federal governments continue the rigorous push toward automotive electrification, many in the fleet industry are going through a slow changeover process, introducing electric vehicles (EVs) into their fleets. As with any new technology, tracking success and ROI, as well as general asset management, can prove trickier than anticipated.
What is Electric Vehicle Fleet Management?
EV fleet management is the act of tracking and monitoring electric fleet operations — including all fleet-related data — to improve productivity while mitigating expenses as much as possible. So easy, right? The challenges in fleet management, especially for mixed fleets, have changed and evolved over the years, in part due to the influx of new technologies. Adding EVs to your fleet can throw yet another wrench in the management process, but there are solutions available that can take EV management from an obstacle to a breeze.
One of the most important items to track when it comes to EV management is ROI. As a fleet manager or owner, you need to be able to discern whether:
- EVs are as productive as comparable internal combustion engine (ICE) assets
- EVs are sustainable for your fleet’s operation
- EV benefits outweigh upfront costs over the duration of their useful life (including fueling/charging, maintenance, repairs, etc.)
Why go Electric?
The drive to go electric is largely based on two things: a company’s desire to “go green” and the good ole regulatory push. While some fleets may turn toward EVs solely on the touted benefits of fuel and maintenance cost savings, conflicting reports around those benefits make it clear that they aren’t hard and fast selling points. Because EV repairs can often cost more than ICE asset repairs, and due to the fluctuating costs of charging — which can be comparable or even more costly than that of fossil fuels — let’s look at a few other benefits EVs provide.
- Improved ergonomics, which improves driver wellness and comfort
- Reduced noise pollution, which also improves driver wellness and comfort
- Government funding incentives like tax breaks, grants and credits
- Ability to work in zero-emission and emissions-restricted zones as well as during emissions-restricted hours, ensuring no productivity lost related to these challenges
How are Electric Vehicles Changing Business and Management?
For all the potential benefits EVs afford fleets, it should be noted that EV fleet management differs quite a bit from ICE fleet management. Or, rather, it involves more. You’ll still be collecting the same data as you would for ICE assets when it comes to electric vehicle fleet monitoring, even if the terminology around fueling differs, but you also need to account for charging schedules, workload and/or routing and even EV storage.
EV Charging Schedule
I’m sure we’re all familiar with what a pain in the buttocks it is when you run out of gas on the side of the highway — not that it’s ever happened to me — and when it happens with a fleet asset, it can often equal productivity and profitability loss. Luckily, with a trusty gas can (or AAA), you can refuel enough to get to the gas station, fill up and move on. With EVs, this issue becomes more difficult and time-consuming to deal with. Charging an EV not only takes substantially longer than filling a tank, it’ll also cost you a tow truck to get it to a charger.
Without a charging schedule based on the nuances of your fleet’s operation, including miles per route, quick-charging stations along route and off-hours slow-charging, a fleet’s EVs can cause unnecessary downtime and increased battery degradation. Knowing when and how to charge is a huge factor in reaping the benefits of EVs.
EV Workload/Routing Schedule
“Know your load” isn’t just a fun thing to say, it’s a good way to understand where to incorporate EVs into your fleet for optimal results. Because EV batteries weigh the equivalent of a horse (or seven kegs of beer), EVs are considerably heavier than their ICE counterparts. This weight difference is an important consideration for trucking fleets that must adhere to specific GVWRs as the vehicle’s added weight must be offset by lightening the load.
Additionally, knowing the mileage and conditions of specific set routes can help you better determine where to place EVs. Whereas ICE vehicles typically get better highway mileage, EVs are better for stop-and-go routes.
In a perfect world, all fleets could store all assets in a climate controlled building. Alas, this is not the case. In colder climates and/or during colder seasons, EV batteries are quite affected, losing range and increasing charge times. This means both charging schedules and route schedules are equally affected by the chill. If possible, parking EVs out of the elements will — at least — keep charge times akin to what they are during warmer seasons. The range is a bit harder to regulate, though, as using an EV’s heater draws on the battery supply.
Considerations for Fleet Managers and Operators
Adopting electric vehicles for your fleet is about more than just upfront costs. Uncovering the best fleet EVs for your operation is the first step in adopting an EV fleet, and it can be a time consuming and exhausting endeavor, especially if you don’t know which metrics to compare or how to gain real-world experience before the purchase. Aside from consulting with industry peers, some considerations you can take before committing to an EV include relying on OEM specs minus 10 percent. That 10 percent gives you some flex room when calculating blindly.
- Look at miles per kilowatt hour
- Look at charge times, with special consideration going toward slow charge, as fast charging degrades the battery faster
- Determine load needs
- Determine routes appropriate for EVs
- Determine replacement windows for current assets
Benefits of EV Fleet Management Software
EV fleet management software (FMS) eases the burden of tracking EV data by doing so automatically. In addition to capturing standard fleet data like expenses, maintenance and repair services and usage rates, using EV FMS allows you to easily see what assets are charging as well as when and how long charging takes. It also shows charging costs per asset and kilowatt hour rate. Having the ability to quickly access this data makes it easier to see how your EVs compare to your ICE vehicles.
Because charging is a huge part of running EVs, tracking and monitoring related data is essential in keeping those assets in top running condition. EV batteries degrade over time and charging cycles, and degradation increases when fast charging is used too often. Being able to monitor your EVs’ battery decay rate can help you make informed decisions around charging habits for increased asset life. With thorough EV data collection displayed in easy-to-analyze reports, you can ensure you’re making the most of EV benefits for successful EV fleet adoption.
What is electric vehicle fleet management?
EV fleet management is the act of tracking and monitoring electric fleet operations, including all fleet-related data, to improve fleet productivity while mitigating expenses as much as possible.
How are electric vehicles changing business and management?
EV fleet management requires collecting the same data as you would for ICE assets, but you also need to account for charging schedules, workload and/or routing and even EV storage, making it a more in-depth management process.