The first essential step is to conduct an analysis of the existing fleet and its operational capabilities. How are the vehicles being used? What is their typical daily mileage? What are the dwell times, and where are they located overnight? Telematic data from the fleet can help determine appropriate technology selections.
Commercial availability of EV models is rapidly changing. Most currently available models are light-duty vehicles, with some medium- and heavy-duty options emerging. These might not satisfy 100% of a fleet’s needs, but they could represent an opportunity to grab the low-hanging fruit in the early stages of a conversion process
The ability of an EV to meet operational needs is a critical component in vehicle selection. Fleet electrification can extend well beyond light-duty and passenger-type vehicles. Public works vehicles and utility vehicles have specific functions and can involve widely varying payloads and ranges. Decision-makers need to understand which options on the market meet those functional needs.
Numerous stakeholders can lend insight into the specific use cases desired. In addition to the drivers, these can include dispatchers, maintenance staff, operations supervisors, facility managers and fleet managers.
Vehicle and Infrastructure Procurement
Lead time in the EV market is an important factor. Fleet operators must be aware of whether and when they can procure vehicles and how much they will cost, as well as the charging infrastructure that must be purchased to make the vehicles work.
Selecting charging infrastructure is another important step of a fleet conversion. Most fleets should utilize a combination of Level 2 (L2) and DC fast chargers (DCFC), but how many of each are needed? Vehicles with long overnight dwell times may be suited for L2 chargers, while vehicles with short dwell times or multiple routes per day might need higher-power DCFC to fulfill their daily operations.
Engage with the electric utility early. Most utilities operate on long timelines to upgrade their capital assets; in most cases they cannot serve large new loads instantly. The utility might have to plan upgrades to a distribution circuit or substation that is scheduled five years out. When fleet operators engage with the utility early, their needs can be addressed sooner and better planned for, helping operators phase their own approach.
Energy Management Software
Charging patterns for EVs will matter more than fueling patterns for internal combustion vehicles. Gasoline and diesel are the same price per gallon at 4 p.m. and 4 a.m., but the price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) can vary based on the time of day. Energy management software can help manage operational costs by optimizing vehicle charging to minimize demand charges and charging at peak rates.
Resiliency and Peak Shaving
On-site backup power should be considered when electrifying transportation. In the event of an unplanned power outage, a backup generator or behind-the-meter distributed energy resource could bolster reliability. In addition to providing resiliency, behind-the-meter generation assets such as photovoltaic solar and stationary battery storage can also be utilized for load shaving during peak utility pricing to save on operational costs.
Grants and Funding
Funding is available through different federal and state grants for electrification, so it’s important for fleet operators to research which they may qualify for. Many local utilities also have rebates for installing equipment like DC fast chargers (DCFC), and time-of-use rates could be advantageous for some operational costs.
Organizations in the planning stage should be asking what impact electrification investments will have on their goals, what are the potential emission savings, and what those results would mean for the organization.
It’s a good idea to start building the necessary infrastructure for an electric fleet even while waiting for the vehicles. Getting charging equipment funded and in place is a smart play so that the EVs can be charged and utilized once they arrive. Phasing this process and building extra capacity for easier expansion later can save money over the long term and save time as the conversion grows.
Start With the Low-Hanging Fruit
Regardless of incentives, it makes sense to look for the easy wins — fleet elements where the most impact can be attained for the least money spent. If 8 of 10 facilities will be hard to electrify, but two will be easy, start there. Even if those facilities aren’t in optimal locations, those projects cultivate understanding of what’s necessary and how to communicate about it.
Develop a Transition Plan
Compile a report that includes vehicle and infrastructure selections, time frames for replacements, and plans for building out the necessary infrastructure. Conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the upfront capital expenditures and operational savings EVs can provide to determine the payback period. Once the realistic total cost of conversion is grasped and the return on investment is calculated, operators can start building conversion costs into future budgets.