If you manage a fleet, chances are you have electric vehicles on your mind. A recent Geotab survey found that most respondents have already placed electric vehicle orders, and it’s certain that many more are doing their research as we speak. Indeed, you have a lot to consider when planning your next EV fleet deployment, whether it’s your first or an expansion of your pilot fleet. Based on nearly a decade managing electric vehicle fleets, we’ve compiled a checklist for you to get the most out of your EV fleet.
1. Choose the right models for your fleet. As a fleet professional, you know how to pick vehicles. The criteria you typically rely on may include use case, price, brand trust, and cost of ownership. Of course, those factors come into play, but EVs bring a new set of factors to consider. For example, how does your expected duty cycle affect your charging needs? Familiarize yourself with metrics such as driving range, AC and DC charging speeds, and efficiency (for example Wh/mi, not eMPG). Independent databases provide good insights on what’s out there.
2. Develop a charging infrastructure plan that meets the needs of both your EV fleet and your user base. Consider the number of vehicles, their charging speeds, and desirability of a proposed charger location. Also consider how public charging factors into your plans. Recent research estimates that Tesla’s Supercharger network accounts for nearly 60% of all DC fast chargers in the United States.
Don’t know where to start with charger planning? The U.S. Department of Transportation provides an overview of the infrastructure planning process. One constant that the DOT does not give sufficient attention: be prepared to deal with lengthy permitting processes when attempting to access local grid infrastructure! This will be the most difficult part of your EV fleet deployment. Depending on the size of your deployment, your internal expertise, and the practices of your local utility, you may consider bringing on a consultant to handle your infrastructure planning.
3. Implement a telematics system. Utilize telematics to monitor and gather data on your fleet's performance. This includes tracking battery health, range, energy consumption, and maintenance needs. Such insights can help optimize fleet operations and identify areas for improvement.
4. Develop a charging schedule. Establish a charging schedule that maximizes vehicle availability while ensuring efficient charging. Balance charging needs among vehicles, considering their daily usage patterns and battery capacities. This reduces the risk of overloading the charging infrastructure. As we noted earlier, fast charging capabilities vary widely between models. Depending on your range and recharging needs, this may play a significant part in the vehicles you choose for your fleet.
5. Promote efficient driving habits. Of course, this applies to all vehicles. However, EVs, with their unique driving characteristics and modes, provide a convenient excuse to re-educate your drivers and focus on efficiency. Keep your vehicles in the appropriate driving modes to maximize range. Encourage practices like smooth acceleration and braking, maintaining consistent speeds, and utilizing regenerative braking to extend range and increase energy efficiency.
6. Implement sharing and pooling strategies. Get the most out of your EVs by implementing motor pool or car share programs within the fleet. Likely, your initial EV deployment represents only a portion of your fleet. By pooling those electric assets with an efficient management system, you’ll increase vehicle utilization, maximize the environmental benefits and reduce the costs associated with fossil fuel vehicles. While minimizing acquisition costs, pooling electric vehicles lets you maximize your electric miles traveled. And that’s the ultimate goal.
7. Develop a reservation system. Implement a system that allows drivers to reserve EVs based on their needs and availability. This ensures fair access to vehicles and helps avoid conflicts, confusion, or unnecessary downtime. Consider using software or mobile applications to streamline the reservation process and enable driver self-service while automating fleet manager controls. Paired with telematics, a reservation system with strong driver tracking processes also allows you to keep an eye on EV usage and intervene when drivers take on unwanted risks, such as driving to remote areas with insufficient range.
8. Monitor vehicle utilization. Regularly assess the utilization rates of your EV fleet to identify underutilized or over-utilized vehicles. Adjust fleet size and vehicle allocation as necessary to minimize unnecessary idle time or underutilization. For more tips on optimizing your fleet, read this article.
9. Encourage feedback from drivers. Foster an open line of communication with your EV fleet drivers. Encourage them to provide feedback on vehicle performance, charging infrastructure, range limitations, and any other relevant aspects. This feedback can help identify areas for improvement and address driver concerns.
10. Stay updated with technology advancements. The capabilities of EVs are changing rapidly. Stay informed of the latest developments in EV technology, charging standards, and fleet management solutions. Regularly assess the feasibility of upgrading or replacing vehicles and infrastructure to take advantage of advancements that can enhance your fleet's performance and efficiency. Consider the impact of government incentives as they present themselves.
Remember that best practices may vary depending on your specific fleet size, usage patterns, location, and organizational requirements. It's crucial to analyze and adapt these tips to suit your unique circumstances and to optimize the performance of your EV fleet. Without a doubt, you have a lot to consider as you plan your EV fleet. But, with these tips, you’re on your way to developing a sustainable plan that can drive great benefits for your organization.