December 21, 2023

A Fleet Manager's Guide to Navigating the Complex Landscape of Electric Vehicle Fleet Management

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7 Min. Read

Electrical vehicle (EV) fleet management is attracting more attention from companies wanting to enjoy the benefits of lower costs and tight, real-time management of electric vehicle fleets, as well as meeting environmental goals.

This article will explain electric vehicle fleet management, highlight the benefits of EV fleet management and its potential challenges, and look ahead to what the future holds.

EV Fleet Management Basics

Electric vehicle fleet management is the technology-enabled operation of several EV fleet vehicles. It is not a new concept, and it is already in wide use for ICE fleets, but EV fleets need features suited specifically to EV fleet management. The difference is a focus on battery power consumption and scheduled charging. While ICE vehicles do need to manage fuel consumption, their fueling stations are more plentiful than EVs.

The Market by the Numbers

Overall, total fleet volume by weight is surging upward, with 72.5% of U.S. freight carried by fleets, and the fleet market is expected to grow to $52.5 billion by 2030. At the same time, the overall fleet management market looks to grow at a rate of 11.3% to $34 billion by 2024, and 71% of U.S. fleet managers are looking to add electric vehicles to their fleets. EV fleet management will need to grow accordingly.

Key Features of EV Fleet Management

Electric vehicle fleet management focuses on tracking the actual versus planned location of fleet vehicles, scheduling routes for optimal efficiency, timely maintenance, and charging. Tracking is important because if a vehicle goes off its scheduled route, it may incur more costs than planned, and if a mishap occurs, the fleet manager can summon help quickly. Driver safety is also improved. Range anxiety, the fear of running out of battery charge, is a real issue with EV drivers, and keeping close tabs on battery capacity and charging stations along the route helps mitigate it.

Routes need to be scheduled for maximum efficiency to save time and money. Trying to schedule a fleet manually is time-consuming, so EV fleet management systems automate this process, making it much faster and less error-prone.

Reliability is key, and breakdowns cost time and money. EV fleet management systems track factory maintenance schedules versus actual frequency to minimize the risk of failures on the road. Because charging station availability varies and unscheduled discharge of batteries will cause costly mid-route outages, real-time monitoring of battery capacity, consumption, and charging is a necessary feature of EV fleet management.

Technology Enablers

Technology drives effective EV fleet management work. Telematics, predictive analysis, and real-time tracking are three major technology-enabled features. Telematics combines a network of monitoring sensors placed in the vehicles with telecoms that transmit real-time data on all monitored points to the system, for example, battery status. Telematics is widely deployed, with a study by Expert Markets, a research provider, showing that 83% of fleets use it.

Predictive analytics is another powerful tool that utilizes statistics, algorithms, and even artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze historical databases to predict events, for example, maintenance dates based on historical time to failure of components. The benefit is the prevention of costly failures with timely maintenance. Vehicle data is fed to the EV fleet management system by telematics and then analyzed to build optimized maintenance schedules.

The third significant enabler, GPS tracking, uses satellite technology to monitor the position of each EV fleet vehicle versus a digital map of the route plan. When the vehicle leaves its planned route, the system notifies the fleet operator for investigation. Notably, 31% of GPS adopters report a positive ROI after six months of use.

Benefits of Proper Electrical Vehicle Fleet Management

There are several benefits associated with electric vehicle fleet management.

Operational Efficiency: Optimized Routes and Reduced Downtimes

Operational efficiencies via optimized routes and reduced downtime are significant benefits, and with proper route planning, you minimize distance, charging occurs on a timely basis, and you avoid costly delays and downtime.

Telematics also enables communication on driver behaviors, providing information on training needs and providing feedback on training effectiveness after the fact.

Financial Benefits: Lowered Fuel and Maintenance Costs and Government Incentives

Charging EVs costs less than fueling ICE vehicles with gasoline. They also cost less to maintain since EVs have fewer parts than ICE vehicles, with around 15,000 total versus 30,000 for ICE vehicles. ICE engines have moving pistons, valves, timing chains, and a crankshaft, while an EV motor has one moving part: the rotor. That makes maintenance cheaper and simpler for EVs. Overall, the operating costs for EVs are lower.

Government incentives significantly reduce acquisition costs, especially the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, which provides fleets substantial relief in the form of $40,000 and $100,000 tax credits per fleet EV and charging station, respectively. Some states and utilities offer incentives as well.

Cost Savings Are Not the Only EV Fleet Benefits

Corporate sustainability and its role in environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) goals is a topic of interest for today’s eco-savvy companies and consumers. At the same time, companies are acutely aware of tightening federal and state Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Commitment to the environment is good business.

Potential Challenges in EV Fleet Management

EV fleet management is not without its challenges. Acquisition costs and change management are two of these, but there are solutions for both.

Initial Capital Investment

Acquisition costs for EV fleets can be substantial. The good news is the incentives offered by the federal government, states, and utilities that can increase the affordability of vehicles and the necessary charging infrastructure. Another way to soften acquisition costs is to gradually build your EV fleet over time to make the investment more manageable while you work your way up the learning curve.

Charging can be done at the fleet depot, at public stations, and with at-home charging at drivers’ homes. The fleet manager can fund the home chargers, lessening depot infrastructure investment and providing the convenience of overnight charging while drivers sleep. Be sure to investigate this option for your drivers.

Adapting to New Technology and Ensuring Staff Training

Any major change requires change management with proper training and employee education. EV fleet management is no exception, with complex systems and processes to learn for the best results, so be sure to build in formal training, including hands-on learning with the required successful test results or certification. That should be required of all fleet operating and support employees, not just drivers.

Looking Ahead: The Future of EV Fleet Management

The future is full of possibilities, driven by technological advances. Listed below are a few of them.

Anticipated Advancements: AI-Driven Management and Integration of V2G Systems

Two major trends lie ahead in EV fleet management. The first is the continued rise of AI in management. In the future, AI will increase the ability of fleet managers to optimize and closely monitor route compliance and plan for charging stops with more and more precision and reliability, as well as improve predictive maintenance with more experience. Driver behavior and training will also improve.

The second trend is the integration of V2G (vehicle-to-grid) systems that leverage bi-directional charging capabilities, like those of the Ford F150 Lightning, which charges from the grid or another source and can return power to the grid. The objective is to reduce the load on utilities as well as save money for users.

The Importance of Data Analytics

This is the age of big data, opening up new windows into EV electric vehicles fleet management, but data is one thing, and information is another. Improved data analytics will provide powerful information to fleet managers across a wide, almost unlimited spectrum.

With complex scheduling and interdependencies, sound, fast, fact-based data analytics and prediction are essential. Faster speeds will shorten reaction time, and efficiency and profitability will climb.

Preparing for the Rise of Autonomous Electric Fleets

Autonomous (driverless) fleets are in the early phases but appear to be inevitable. An example is TuSimple, a pioneer that went public in 2021 with a U.S. fleet of around 50 autonomous vehicles. The potential of autonomous trucking and other fleet uses is immense as the technology continues to evolve and new applications emerge.

Moving Forward

Electric vehicle fleet management is capturing the attention of fleet owners today with its substantial cost savings and operating efficiencies driven by advancing technologies. At the same time, the cost of EV acquisition and charging infrastructure build-out is offset substantially by federal, state, and location incentives.

Quality installation is a prerequisite for success. EV technology is still evolving, and an EV-savvy partner can help you plan a successful venture into EV vehicle fleet management, including ways to mitigate start-up costs and risks. Qmerit is uniquely qualified to be that partner as North America’s electrification leader.

As North America’s electrification leader, Qmerit brings unparalleled expertise and experience to the table. Our legacy in advancing energy efficiency makes us uniquely qualified to guide and support you through every phase of your EV fleet management journey. From meticulous planning to mitigating start-up costs and risks, Qmerit stands as a beacon of reliability and innovation in the realm of electrification and there’s a reason why our network of certified installers is the most trusted network for electrification installations and services in North America. Let us empower your success in the electrified future – contact Qmerit today!

Author: Ken Sapp

Ken Sapp

Senior Vice President, Business Development and eMobility