April 25, 2023

Charging Solutions for EV Fleets


10 Min. Read

Upgrading your company vehicles to an electric vehicle (EV) fleet requires careful consideration of the infrastructure necessary to support charging the new EVs.

Different types of EVs have different charging requirements due to variations in battery size, charging speed, and electrical capacity, and fleet owners must choose the appropriate infrastructure accordingly. For example, plug-in hybrid EVs or PHEVs typically have smaller battery sizes and can use slower charging options, while battery electric vehicles or BEVs require fast charging options to maintain long-range driving capabilities.

When it comes to business fleets, finding the right charging solution is essential to ensure maximum uptime and efficiency. Factors such as route planning, vehicle utilization, and charging infrastructure availability should be considered when deciding on the right charging solution for a fleet of EVs. This could involve a mix of charging options, such as fast charging stations at central depots and slower charging options at employee homes or workplaces, to ensure that vehicles are always charged and ready to go.

Fleet owners must determine which types of charging infrastructure are necessary, taking into account factors such as the type of charging station, location, and availability. In this article, we will explore the infrastructure needed to handle electric fleet upgrades, from the types of charging infrastructure to the charging capabilities of each type of EV. We will also discuss backup power systems, networked stations, and how fleet owners can maximize charging opportunities to achieve the best return on investment (ROI).

Finding the right EV charging solution as you upgrade and electrify your business fleet can take your company to the next level by providing efficient, reliable, and cost-effective charging infrastructure tailored to your fleet’s, and your businesses’, unique needs.

Types of EVs and Their Charging Capabilities

Electric vehicles are a growing segment of the automotive industry that rely on electric motors for propulsion instead of internal combustion engines. There are different types of electric vehicles, such as battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and hybrid electric vehicles. Each type has its unique characteristics, advantages, and charging requirements.

  • Battery Electric Vehicles: BEVs have no internal combustion engine (ICE) and run solely on battery power. They rely on Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 direct current fast charging (DCFC).
  • Hybrid Electric Vehicles: HEVs function primarily on ICEs. They have a battery backup that charges through regenerative braking. There is no plug-in capability for charging the battery. These hybrids do not require charging infrastructure.
  • Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles: PHEVs utilize an ICE with a battery backup. PHEVs are much like standard HEVs. The battery charges through regenerative braking. Unlike HEVs, PHEVs can also be plugged in. The battery size is approximately 10% the size of a BEV battery. PHEVs can only be charged using Level 1 or Level 2 charging.
  • Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles: FCEVs use hydrogen instead of gasoline. They require specific hydrogen charging stations, which are rare. Standard Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 charging is not applicable.
  • Extended-Range Electric Vehicles: E-REVs can utilize Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 charging stations. Unlike HEVs or PHEVs, they utilize an ICE as a backup instead. These plug-ins are like regular BEVs but alleviate the range stress.

As more electric vehicles are introduced into the market, fleet managers need to understand the different types of EVs and choose a version that best suits the needs of their business model.

Infrastructure Determinations

Consider which types of charging infrastructure are necessary to handle upgrading your fleet to electric vehicles. Charging at public charging stations may be a long-term consideration depending on the area and availability, however, relying on public charging can lead to long waits and no guarantee of charging.

Fleet owners should familiarize themselves with the Alternative Fueling Station Locator tool. The station locator tool allows fleet owners to plan routes depending on public stations to maximize charging opportunities. Public stations may also be a short-term solution during infrastructure construction.

Level 1 charging, also referred to as trickle charging, will not be efficient enough to meet the needs of most fleet vehicles as, at a rate of 2-5 miles per hour, it takes approximately 40-50 hours to charge a light-duty EV. That plays a significant role in both public and private charging stations. Level 2 charging is often preferred by most drivers as it offers a range of 12-80 miles per hour of charge, making it an optimal solution for fleets that charge vehicles overnight.

Stationary charging stations are not the only options available for Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations as portable charging units can increase flexibility while keeping initial costs lower. That said, 120V or 240V receptacles must be installed at the vehicle charging locations to support your electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE).

Regardless of the location of your charging stations at a home or business, it is always important to hire a licensed electrician certified in electrification technologies as these outlets will be designed for consistently high amperage for hours on end.

Where You Charge Matters

Fleet owners with home-based fleets will need to consider the charging capabilities for employees. Employees will often be spread out, which adds an additional challenge to fleet owners when upgrading their fleet. That drastically lowers the potential to rely on public charging stations solely. Every house is different, so some employees may need to have the electrical panels in their homes upgraded, along with the installation of charging systems.

Currently, public charging stations vastly utilize Level 2 charging. DCFC is seeing rapid growth to meet public demand alongside the increase in EV adoption. The growth of Level 3 charging stations growth is seen along highway routes. Some of those stations are currently free of charge for short durations. Pay-for-use systems are becoming more common and allow for network subscriptions. Fleet owners can similarly utilize that function to corporate gas cards.

DCFC can add as much as 200 miles of travel distance in 30 minutes of charging. Fleet vehicles with frequent use and low downtime, such as shift-based vehicles, may need to charge with Level 3 charging stations consistently. Transportation, delivery vehicles, ambulances, and the like are all examples of vehicles that may require low rest periods. Make, model, size, load, and driving habits will impact battery usage, but keep in mind that frequent use of DFCF can lead to a significant decrease in the battery life of your EVs.

Backup Power Systems

Fleet managers installing charging stations installed as part of their electric fleet upgrades can substantially increase their ROI. Backup power systems can create a microgrid or nanogrid which gives a plethora of benefits when the grid can’t be relied on. Similar to a battery backup, the batteries from EVs, depending on the vehicle, can be accessed during a power outage or blackout with bidirectional charging.

Tom Moloughney shows the practical application in his home with the Ford Lightning’s intelligent power backup system. You can set up this system to automatically transfer power during a power outage or do it manually through an app. This gives more control to the fleet owner to dictate how and when their electricity is being utilized.

Backup power systems provide an additional layer of reliability and flexibility to businesses and are becoming increasingly important for fleets as they transition to electric vehicles. With traditional combustion engine vehicles, drivers could simply fill up at any gas station, but with electric vehicles, a lack of charging infrastructure or a power outage could leave a fleet stranded.

Backup power systems, such as mobile charging units or stationary battery systems, can provide a reliable source of power for fleet vehicles in the event of an emergency. This not only ensures that the fleet remains operational, but also enhances overall efficiency and productivity. By creating a microgrid or nanogrid, businesses can access the batteries of their EVs during a power outage or blackout using bidirectional charging.

As demonstrated by Tom Moloughney’s use of the Ford Lightning’s intelligent power backup system in his home, backup power systems can be practical and convenient for businesses looking to increase their resilience in the face of power disruptions.

Networked Stations

Controlling when and how your fleet charges can heavily sway the company’s overall ROI. Networked stations require an internet service of some kind. You can access the Internet through cellular, wireless, or wired, though wired connections are the most stable and preferred. Wired connections will minimize complications while guaranteeing the strongest connection.

Fleet operations, such as charging times and electricity consumption, can be tracked when stations are networked. In addition, advanced charging through “smart” technology can allow fleet owners to charge fleet vehicles during off-peak hours when electricity is cheapest per kWh. Savings can be as high as 60% or more if all vehicles are charged during off-peak hours.

EVSE ports can have multiple charging connectors. Typically, stations can only charge one vehicle at a time. Networked connectivity allows for vehicle charging to be staggered. Depending on the space a fleet owner has for infrastructure, this can be advantageous.

It’s essential to establish equipment ownership. Depending on who owns the equipment, the responsibilities, such as maintenance and repair, are in the owner’s hands. Costs are lower if the fleet manager takes responsibility for ownership, but the maintenance and repair costs fall on the fleet manager.

When a network provider owns the equipment, they are in charge of maintenance and repair. It’s crucial to have a written agreement on response times and acceptable equipment downtime.

Bidirectional Charging

Bidirectional and backup power are similar. Bidirectional charging often refers to utilizing the vehicle to supplement the power of the home (V2H) or the utility grid (V2G), but there are many different ways this technology can be utilized and applied.

When beginning the electrification process, it’s essential to check with the utilities to determine the rate structure and any incentives for providing electricity back to the grid. Bidirectional charging is a great way to increase ROI by charging vehicles during off-peak hours and supplying electricity back to the grid during peak hours.

Depending on location, time-of-use billing (TOU) dictates that off-peak hours may be as low as 7 cents/kWh for consumption, and peak hours can get as high as 24-31 cents/kWh. That substantial difference can allow your electricity bill to pay for itself. In other words, if done right, that’s free fuel for the fleet. This electricity provides balance during high demand to reduce strain on the grid.

Net metering with solar energy and batteries serves the same purpose. Electrification technologies, if utilized properly, will pay for themselves over time. Upfront costs can be offset heavily with various federal, state, and local incentives. These benefits will aid fleet managers when switching to a full EV fleet.

Protecting Your Investment

Routine maintenance and other preventative measures will help reduce unwanted fees and potential accidents, protecting your investment for the long term. Fleet managers should inquire about incorporating specific aspects during the design process.

  • Housekeeping pads: Having these installed under pedestals can alleviate the adverse effects of rain, snow, and dust.
  • Screen protection: Orienting the screen away from the sun and using a protective covering on the screens will lower the chances of malfunctions due to heat exposure.
  • Collision protection: Bollards are excellent additions for physical protection, especially in areas with low visibility, such as snow.
  • Cord length and management: Shorter cords can be used to minimize damage. The functionality of short cords is a common concern for public charging stations. Installing a retractable cord is a sound system for keeping the cord safe from damage and increasing safety. Damaged electrical equipment can be hazardous.

Most EVSE equipment companies offer warranties on their equipment. Those warranties often cover 3, 5, or 10 years. Taking advantage of those warranties may save on larger maintenance costs.

Preventative maintenance to ensure proper equipment function should be conducted regularly. Inspecting and cleaning cords and plugs and checking the pins are intact will ensure functionality and optimize efficiency. DCFC may require filter changes and inspections of the cooling unit. Report potential hazards such as cracked pavement and flooding in nearby areas before they become issues.

Ready to Charge Ahead?

Electric fleet upgrades are cost-effective and efficient for fleet owners. Plenty of EV options are available to fit fleet needs and infrastructure to suit charging needs.

Having a detailed plan and a trusted electrification partner will make the transition to a fully electric fleet a breeze. Finding a partner that has in-depth knowledge and the best interest of the consumer in mind is a must, which is why so many fleet managers are turning to Qmerit.

As the most trusted distributed workforce management provider and with over 450,000 EV charging station installations to date, Qmerit is the perfect partner for all your electrification upgrades. Regardless of the size and location of your North American fleet, the Qmerit Charge@Home™ for Fleet Electrification program will make your electric transition smooth and simple with our expert service and vast knowledge of the electrification industry.

Join the many fleet managers who are already making the switch to electric and start enjoying the benefits of a cleaner and more efficient fleet today. Contact Qmerit to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you join the energy transition with ease.

Author: Ken Sapp

Ken Sapp

Senior Vice President, Business Development and eMobility