December 19, 2023

How Electric Vehicle Fleet Charging Infrastructure is Driving Sustainability Forward

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12 Min. Read

The electrification effort is already underway by businesses, municipalities, and other fleet-dependent organizations that recognize the environmental and fiscal advantages of replacing their existing fleets with electric vehicles (EVs). Achieving those advantages, however, is subject to implementing a successful electric vehicle fleet charging infrastructure.

The strategy adopted depends on whether the fleet is utilized for localized distribution, meaning whether the vehicles are driven by employees to residences each evening or used primarily for longer hauls. In this article, we examine the current trends in fleet electrification and EV fleet charging infrastructure options and explore how electric vehicle fleet charging is driving sustainability across the country.

The Surge in EV Fleet Adoption

The number of EVs on U.S. roadways is increasing noticeably—and especially so in environmentally focused states. Nationally, current EV projections indicate that 23% of all new car sales will be EVs by 2025, and EVs will comprise over 50% of the market by 2030. Commercial fleets make up about 4% of vehicles on American roadways, but their electrification is expected to be even faster since fleets typically replace light-duty automobiles and trucks more often than people replace personal vehicles.

Commercial fleets are expected to include eight million EVs, which would be approximately 10-15% of total fleet vehicles by 2030. Organizations of all sizes are taking action, spurred by the Commercial Electric Vehicle Tax Credit rebating 30% of the vehicle purchase price for EVs as well as other government and utility incentives that create price parity or even cost benefits for buying EVs. There are also significant cost savings on gasoline and maintenance to be realized.

Additionally, embracing fleet electrification not only brings environmental and economic benefits but also enhances public relations efforts by positioning your business as an environmentally conscious, tech-centric leader at the forefront of the transition to electric fleets. This proactive stance will provide a more favorable outlook to the potential perception of falling behind the competition once states begin to restrict the sale of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles and automakers follow suit to phase them out of production.

Businesses and Governments Transitioning to EV Fleets

The federal government is financing the purchase of 1,800 gas-powered buses and vehicles in 46 states. Via another federal initiative, there are many municipalities receiving funding. Here are some examples of city grant recipients:

  • Seattle, Washington plans to purchase 30 battery-electric buses.
  • Iowa City, Iowa will replace four diesel buses with electric ones.
  • New York City received funds to replace 900 additional fossil-fuel-powered city vehicles, adding to its already 4,000-vehicle-strong electric fleet, which amounts to approximately 20% of the city fleet.

But governmental organizations are not the only ones preparing for an electric-fueled future, as these delivery services are also embracing EVs:

  • The United States Postal Service committed to purchasing 25,000 EVs this summer and plans to garner 66,000 EVs through 2028.
  • Amazon ordered 100,000 custom electric delivery vans from Rivian through an originally exclusive contract with the automaker, with the commitment to have all 100,000 electric delivery vehicles on the road by 2030.
  • UPS is acquiring 10,000 electric delivery vehicles to support its fleet services and expand the roughly 1,000 electric and plugin hybrid electric vehicles already on the road for the delivery company.
  • Walmart is purchasing 4,500 Canoo Lifestyle Delivery Vehicles, which the company plans to implement for last-mile deliveries. Through this initial investment, Walmart will also have the option to expand the contract to include the purchase of up to 10,000 of the Lifestyle Delivery Vehicles (LDVs).

While many of these are the more highly publicized EV purchases as these companies share their eMobility goals in transitioning their fleets to electric vehicles, the truth is that they represent a fraction of the ongoing fleet transition activity. Fleet electrification is happening rapidly, and companies that delay making the switch may swiftly find themselves outpaced by the competition.

The Heart of the Matter: Charging Infrastructure

Electrifying a fleet is more complicated than switching out one type of vehicle for another. It requires planning to provide the necessary EV charging infrastructure and identify the change management strategy for electrification. For day-to-day operations, the most critical element of the planning process is designing an electric vehicle fleet charging infrastructure that helps minimize downtime and keep the fleet rolling.

Before developing a charging strategy, fleet managers should conduct an exhaustive review of their fleet operations, including determining the range requirements on a usage basis (per day or per trip) as well as potential charging locations that mitigate downtime and ensure vehicle availability. These may include overnight at-home charging equipment for home-based fleets, an auxiliary site across town accessible midday, or other scenarios that allow for your fleet drivers to access charging as needed and ensure they begin the day with a fully charged vehicle. Identifying the EV fleet charging infrastructure requirements needed for your fleet should incorporate current routes, potential growth areas, and expected ranges of the vehicles being utilized.

The route requirements of the fleet facilitate the determination of the charging capacity needed and where it is needed. Delivery vans, school buses, and other vehicles running local, regularly scheduled routines can have routes planned to alleviate the need to access charging equipment during the workday. Fleet drivers can rely on overnight charging options at the worksite or the installation of an @Home charging station for an employee who typically takes their company vehicle home each night. Additionally, a central charging hub can allow for top-ups or even overnight charging if your fleet is stored in a vehicle depot during downtime.

EVs routinely traveling longer distances will likely need access to public charging stations or, depending on the routes utilized, fast-charging company-owned hubs at strategic locations. These may be at company-owned auxiliary locations or in partnership with other firms, and by forming strategic partnerships with charging networks or other industry leaders, you may be able to unlock additional charging benefits or savings.

Installing Charging Solutions Tailored to Fleet Needs

Before finalizing the EV fleet charging infrastructure requirements, consider the pros and cons of deploying charging equipment on company property or at employee homes or encouraging drivers to rely on Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) stations or other public charging stations along their routes.

Pros and Cons of Installing Charging Equipment

The pros of maintaining charging stations at worksites and residences are reliability. There is potentially no wait for port availability when using on-site or home-based EV charging stations. The vehicles are fully charged and ready to go before each shift, and drivers who take their vehicles home each night will experience an enhanced driving range. However, investing in and maintaining charging stations, including ones at employees’ homes, can be a costly investment in the future of your business. Additionally, if the vehicles travel longer distances and cannot make it to a company worksite to recharge, you may need to determine a charging option en route. Charging from a privately owned charger is significantly cheaper than public charging, so while installing EV chargers may incur an upfront investment, it is one that quickly recoups any costs especially when paired with existing incentives to reduce the cost of purchasing and installing EV chargers for homes and businesses.

An advantage of using public charging stations is minimizing the expense of purchasing and installing them. This is ideal for firms with minimal space for charging stations or fleets that travel long distances and do not have access to company-owned charging stations, however, public charging stations are significantly more expensive to use per kWh, regardless of charging with a Level 2 public EV charger or a DC Fast Charger (DCFC). Relying on public charging stations also assumes that public chargers will be operational and available as needed, and any issues in charging accessibility and reliability can be significantly exacerbated if the fleet is driven through rural areas or ones with minimal charging facilities. This issue is currently something the industry is seeking to improve across the country, but even with improved reliability, fleet drivers may experience delays while waiting to charge their EVs if there is a queue of drivers also waiting to charge.

Most firms develop a hybrid electric vehicle fleet charging infrastructure, relying partly on charging equipment installed on company property and, where practical, employee residences. Those capabilities are further augmented by accessing public charging stations when needed. By thoroughly evaluating your fleet needs, routes, and driving habits, you can determine which charging method will work best for your business operations.

Another facet of an electric vehicle fleet charging infrastructure strategy that recommends purchasing or installing proprietary equipment is determining what kind:

Level 2 Charging Stations

Level 2 equipment is most frequently used at worksites and employed for at-home charging. These chargers are relatively inexpensive to purchase and can recharge a vehicle overnight in as little as 4-10 hours. Level 2 EV chargers use dedicated 240V circuits with a hardwired connection or a NEMA 14-50 outlet, similar to those used for clothes dryers, but specifically designed for continual high-powered electrical currents. A Level 2 EV charger outlet or hardwired connection should always be installed by experts as supporting the charging will often require additional electrical upgrades and only a certified electrician can ensure the EV charger is correctly installed.

Level 3 (DCFC) Charging Stations

Level 3, also known as DCFC charging stations, are ideal if fleet vehicles need charging quickly to get back in service. This high-powered equipment can charge a fleet vehicle in 20 minutes to one hour, but they are significantly more expensive to purchase, install, and maintain than Level 2 EV chargers. Additionally, the high voltage level requirements can limit their usage, as the 400V-1000V current needed is generally only available in commercial corridors. Upgrading the electrical wiring running to your firm or upgrading the area’s power distribution infrastructure to support higher-voltage direct current may be required to install Level 3 equipment.

Importance of Strategic Charger Placement

When looking for space to locate charging stations onsite, considerations include power requirements for the charging stations and electrical capacity at that spot. The layout should incorporate adequate room to access the charging stations and provide adjacent parking spaces for vehicles using the equipment.

Most workplaces and parking facilities install plug-in chargers on walls or parking lot poles. While less common, overhead connections and wireless charging present other options.

Direct Environmental Benefits

Transitioning the fleet to battery-driven automobiles and trucks is inevitable as the industry adopts electrification to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the company’s carbon footprint. The benefits of the transportation transition are proven.

When the electrification efforts began a few years ago, the transportation sector accounted for 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the largest source of toxic emissions among all American industrial sectors. Within the transportation sector, roadway transportation represented 81% of those greenhouse gases.

With catalytic converters and other SMOG abatement efforts, California has aggressively sought to tackle exhaust emissions for years. The advent of EVs is accelerating the effect. To date, approximately 40% of American EV sales were in California, where grid emissions are now less than half the national average.

Decreased air pollutants will enhance urban air quality and improve daily living conditions for drivers, customers, and the local population. Unmitigated air pollution in urban areas is deadly for those routinely exposed to exhaust fumes, including residents, vehicle drivers, customers, and others regularly exposed to ICE fleet exhaust. Estimates are that twice as many people die from air pollution than traffic accidents.

Worldwide, drivers and organizations are switching to vehicles operating on electricity. The transition appears inevitable. Accordingly, forward-thinking businesses and municipalities are pushing forward with EV fleets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and positively impact public perceptions of their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts.

Economic and Operational Advantages

Escalating gasoline and diesel costs are factors driving the upsurge in EV adoption for many. The fuel savings are just part of the economic and operational advantages of an electrified fleet.

Tax Advantages Today

The federal government offers substantial tax incentives for businesses purchasing electric fleet vehicles and establishing an EV charging infrastructure. Many states, local governments, and electric utilities also offer financial incentives that can be combined to maximize savings. Some of these inducement programs have limited funds, however, so it can be advantageous to access the multiple opportunities now.

Lower Maintenance Expenses

EVs demand less maintenance overall than equivalent ICE vehicles. The tires still need changing and fluid refilling, but there are considerably fewer moving engine parts that can potentially fail or require replacement. The vehicle’s battery and motor need little to no regular maintenance, and regenerative braking substantially reduces brake wear.

Total Cost of Ownership Examples

The maintenance savings are considerable, but the biggest savings accrued by EV driving are in fuel prices. While results vary by utility rates, EVs operate 3-5 times cheaper per mile than ICE vehicles. Between fuel and maintenance, light-duty EV owners are estimated to save between $6,000 and $10,000 over a vehicle’s lifespan.

Fleet vehicles with routine utilization, such as delivery vans, can accrue even more savings despite their higher purchase price. A small electric school bus costs approximately $250,000 versus $50-$100,000 for a diesel one. The federal incentives significantly subsidize the purchase. Beyond the initial purchase expenditures, a school district operating an electric bus can save more than $100,000 in fuel and maintenance savings during its lifetime compared to an equal-sized diesel one.

Potential to Garner Additional Revenue

Public charging stations are not as ubiquitous as gas stations. While some companies restrict charging infrastructure access to their employees, others open access to the equipment after hours, whether for free or to generate revenue. With the considerable requirement for additional charging stations throughout the country, organizations establishing an electric vehicle fleet charging infrastructure may decide to make their charging equipment publicly accessible during off-hours and generate revenue as a site host. The federal government reports that only 14% of approximately 13,000 privately owned Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations nationwide restrict equipment access to select groups, such as employees or fleet drivers. That percentage will probably drop as more businesses close their parking facilities overnight and install charging equipment.

Challenges and the Pathway Forward

Many fleet managers are implementing or planning to transition their current internal combustion engine (ICE) fleets to battery-powered electric vehicles. Deploying a robust EV charging infrastructure is significant to any successful fleet electrification effort and to creating a more sustainable future for the transportation sector. Adding EVs to a fleet or transforming it completely is being proactive and helps realize the financial and environmental impacts as soon as possible.

But installing the charging stations is only the first step. The equipment must remain operational with minimal downtime and have routine maintenance checks. It is also important that fleet managers stay informed about the latest trends as the world embraces transportation electrification.

Transitioning to an electric fleet and employing a strategic EV fleet charging infrastructure presents implementation challenges that can be mitigated with the right partner, Qmerit. We’re a trusted, experienced EV transition partner in the U.S. and Canada.

Our customized turn-key installation solutions can readily meet your business needs. Qmerit’s experienced network of certified electricians has installed more than 269,000 EV charging stations, including adding @Home EV charging for fleet drivers and commercial charging station set-ups at worksites. Qmerit delivers trusted installation solutions for stakeholders across the EV ecosystem, including homeowners, automakers, EV charger manufacturers, and fleet managers.

Contact Qmerit today to find out how we can simplify your fleet’s EV transition.

Author: Ken Sapp Ken Sapp Senior Vice President, Business Development and eMobility