September 26, 2023

Fleet Electrification - Best Practices for Charging Infrastructure Deployment

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10 Min. Read

Fleet electrification is becoming increasingly popular as organizations recognize the environmental and financial benefits of transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs). A crucial aspect of this transition is deploying a robust charging infrastructure. Here are some best practices to ensure your charging infrastructure meets your fleet’s needs and enables smooth operations.

Assessing and Planning Your Charging Infrastructure

While managing an EV fleet is similar in some ways to working one fueled by gas or diesel, transitioning your fleet to an electric one demands new solutions and tools for charging, workforce and vehicle management, and maintenance routines. The most significant difference is the need for a carefully planned charging infrastructure to ensure your fleet operates efficiently with minimal downtime for “filling up.”

Determining Range and Charging Needs

Developing your charging strategy starts with a detailed analysis of potential charging locations that dovetail with your fleet range requirements, vehicle downtimes, and other operational factors. Charging availability is critical to your EV fleet operations; it ensures vehicle availability.

A charging infrastructure strategy should examine requirements for EV chargers, potential locations, and quantities. You must plan for charger installation at sites with adequate electrical capacity to accommodate the required charging load. Consider available space at your facilities, electrical capacity, and the power requirements of the charging stations and the vehicles.

The operational requirements of your fleet will help you determine the charging capacity needed and the charging infrastructure to support it. Vehicles used for local deliveries, such as Amazon’s new electric delivery vans, or used along specific routes daily, such as school buses, probably do not need to get charged during the day. They can rely on overnight charging options at your facility. Fleet vehicles that employees drive home may be ideal for @Home charging station set-ups to ensure they are ready to hit the road every morning.

Your fleet electrification strategy should consider which vehicles travel long distances, depend on high-reliability requirements, or must be available around the clock. This helps you determine if your charging infrastructure needs to incorporate fast-charging hubs and, depending on logistical needs, even public charging stations. You may think it’s too early in the shift to EVs to consider replacing Class 8 trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles with battery-operated versions. However, commercial production of electric semis and other heavy-duty trucks is accelerating, so make sure your strategy looks at your entire fleet.

Charger Requirements

A charging infrastructure strategy should examine requirements for EV chargers, potential locations, and quantities. Before installing charging stations at sites, ensuring adequate electrical capacity to accommodate the required charging load is vital. Things to consider are:

  • Available space at your facilities.
  • Electrical capacity.
  • Power requirements of the charging stations and the vehicles.

Timing is an essential consideration in figuring out your charging station needs. Load profiles get complex based on whether you can charge all the vehicles during the same time frame. For example, if the cars typically roll out at 6 a.m. daily but return to the lot at different times, the charging windows maybe eight hours for one, six hours for another, and four hours for a third. Or your fleet may need multiple charging windows throughout the day, depending on when and how your fleet uses the vehicles.

Estimating Needed Electricity

Ratios of chargers per vehicle, such as one charger port for each car or one Direct Current (DC) fast-charging port for every 25 vehicles, are commonly cited. They may not be realistic, so determine your onsite load needs.

Determining your fleet’s load requirements starts by calculating the energy per charge for each EV. This energy consumption rate, kWh per mile, would then be multiplied by the expected distance between leaders. This creates a charging window energy requirement. If all the vehicles are charging in an overlapping timeframe, this represents the power demand during that timeframe. For example, ten cars x 100 miles/vehicle/day x 0.7 kWh/mile = 700 kWh/day. If charged simultaneously over eight hours, the power demand is 87.5 kW. Per vehicle translates to a per-vehicle charging rate of 8.75 kW/vehicle.

Software solutions can make your charging capacity scalable by adding more EVs and increasing the charging load.

@Home Charging and Other Considerations

The costs to support @Home Charging is another consideration to factor into your estimates. If there are many company vehicles driven home at night, equipping those drivers with @Home Charging reduces the on-site charging demand.

Finally, facility spacing is also crucial in your planning. The plans must incorporate adequate room for the charging stations, accessible reach for the cords to nearby parking places, and even Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) spacing regulations.

Most commercial sites install plug-in chargers on walls or poles in parking lots. Some charging station installations may require considerable work to upgrade the electrical connections and trenching.

Overhead connections and wireless charging are also options and may become more common. In fact, a wireless inductive charging system may even be as efficient as a DC fast charger connected with a plug and in the future we may see wireless charging that is just as efficient as plugging an EV into a charger in mainstream charging stations.

Installation Budgeting and Financing

The next phase in developing your fleet electrification strategy is developing a comprehensive budget and exploring financing options, including government or utility grants and incentives. While the budget will get refined as you negotiate contracts, purchase charging equipment, and delve deeper into the project, you need to plan the financial aspects of the deployment.

Budget estimates should contain the number of fleet vehicles your firm expects to add over the next three to five years, the number of charging stations anticipated, estimates on construction costs, permitting costs, and other expected financial outlays. The budget can focus solely on implementing the charging system. With growth in mind, be sure to factor in costs for installing extra circuits and boosting electrical capacity during initial construction to accommodate expected fleet growth. It can also holistically include more traditional fleet budget items like costs for purchasing new vehicles.

Seeing how EVs compare against Internal Combustion Engine vehicles will help you create a realistic picture of your fleet expenses and sell the leadership transition. Various articles claim that EVs cost less to operate over their lifespan. Presenting a comparison analyzing the total cost of ownership between different vehicles is helpful in your planning. The operational savings you expect from the fleet EVs’ reduced “fueling and maintenance costs” should be accounted for to show how they offset higher upfront costs of the transition.

Financing your fleet’s electrification can be daunting, especially for those new to the process. Making a move now will allow you to capitalize on the favorable economics of electrification with available federal, state, local, and utility incentives. For example, there are federal tax credits of up to 30% of the vehicle purchase price for EVs. The U.S. Department of Energy maintains a database of electrification incentives at all levels. Many utilities can also help you identify options. For example, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) provides up to 40 rebate awards for installing EV charging stations, including Level 2 EV charging stations for employee use and DCFC stations to charge light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles. Customers may be eligible for up to 40 rebate awards.

Selecting the Appropriate Charging Station Types

The time value for your drivers/vehicles plays a huge factor in determining which charging station types are appropriate for your fleet. Level 1 chargers, which can take up to 20 hours to charge an electric car, must be faster to ensure fleet vehicles are ready for action. So fleet managers should be considering Level 2 or Level 3 (DCFC) charging stations or a combination thereof:

Level 2 Charging Stations

These relatively inexpensive units that suitable for four-to-10-hour charging periods. That makes them ideal for overnight charging at your facility or for fleet vehicles that can employ @Home Charging. They use 240V outlets like air conditioning units and clothes dryers but require professional installation because electrical upgrades are often needed.

Level 3 (DCFC) Charging Stations

DCFCs, aka Level 3 charging stations, are ideal when fleet vehicles require quick turnaround times or operate on tight schedules. They are considerably more expensive than Level 2 options but can charge a commercial car in 20 minutes to one hour. Also, as the name implies, they require higher voltage “Direct Current” electrical hookups, which are unavailable in all areas.

Integration with Renewable Energy Sources

Besides considering charging station options, consider integrating solar panels or other renewable energy sources and energy storage capabilities into your infrastructure strategy. The solar EV charging market is growing. It incorporates solar panels that convert the sunshine into power, store it, and then use it to charge vehicles. The concept is used in many homes to keep energy costs down. It is also ideal for deploying solar EV charging solutions off-grid and in more remote locations, much like solar-powered lighting in rest areas or along some highways. Capitalizing on renewable energy sources will help reduce operational costs and enhance sustainability.

Implementing Effective Fleet Management Strategies

When implementing any new technology or process, there is always a transition period requiring change management, changing mindsets, and squelching negativity. Incorporating a change management strategy in your fleet electrification strategy will help minimize initial disruption, organizational challenges, and potential resistance from drivers and others directly affected.

Charging Schedule Optimization

Securing cooperation and commitment starts with recognizing that effective implementation will depend on how easy drivers find it to grapple with the charging schedule.

Drivers who use vehicles that they can charge overnight at your facility won’t be dealing with much of a change. They won’t be dealing with any downtime for battery charging. Conversely, those who take the vehicles home should get used to plugging in the car or truck at night, like they plug in their phone or are on “low battery” in the morning. Both of those situations do not require a lot of logistical machinations.

Fleet managers must approach planning routes and maintenance schedules differently for other vehicles. You must analyze each vehicle’s routes, ranges, and charging speeds to maximize vehicle uptime and minimize electricity costs.

Utilizing Fleet Management Software

Fleet management software can help you monitor the charging status of your EVs and vehicle logistics. It also makes it easier to optimize routes based on battery ranges, charging station availability, and the time charging stops along that route may entail. Think of the software as a traffic control system. It will give you real-time visibility into the vehicle’s locations, traffic issues, and route analytics to help refine how you use fleet assets.

Leveraging these software solutions makes it easier for you to optimize routes based on battery ranges, charging station availability, and the length of time charging stops along that route may entail. The software is beneficial when tracking many different types of vehicles in the fleet. You can track repair schedules, operating costs, and other metrics to optimize fleet performance.

Training And Education

Getting your fleet drivers ready to embrace the transition requires training both inside the vehicle and outside of it. Drivers must understand the differences between operating the new EVs in the fleet and their previous vehicles. It’s essential to recognize that someone who hasn’t driven an EV before could have “range anxiety,” a fear that they may not have enough battery charge to reach their destination.

Accordingly, they need to understand your charging infrastructure and be confidently aware of available charging points, mainly if they are not just charging the vehicle when parked at your facility or home.

You want to ensure they are comfortable with the tools available to locate chargers and the route optimization tools employed. They should know your strategy will include ongoing efforts to monitor the fleet transition and optimize routes and vehicle usage.

Expert Assistance

Deploying a robust charging infrastructure is vital to the successful electrification of your fleet. Qmerit simplifies fleet electrification by helping businesses overcome the complexities of the transition and provides a seamless installation experience with top-quality service you can trust.

Our team helps fleet managers budget and control costs while tracking every step of the process. See how Qmerit’s expert team is ready to simplify your @Home EV charging installation with guaranteed satisfaction and support.

Contact our team at Qmerit to learn more about our comprehensive EV charging solutions tailored for commercial fleets and why Qmerit is the most trusted installer network in North America.

Author: Ken Sapp

Ken Sapp

Senior Vice President, Business Development and eMobility