March 21, 2023

How to Evaluate Which EV Charging Station Solution Fits Your Electric Vehicle Fleet Needs


7 Min. Read

Are you looking to equip your company with electric fleet vehicles to save money, impress customers, and minimize your carbon footprint? If so, you will need to decide on an EV charging solution that best suits your needs.

Forecasts predict that EVs will account for up to 60% of all new vehicle sales within the next decade. With this in mind, you’ll want to equip your company with electric fleet vehicles to ensure long-term success.

Understanding your options and determining your charging strategy will ensure a successful transition as you join the electrification movement and adopt a cost-effective and sustainable fleet model.

In this article, we will provide guidance on how to plan your charging infrastructure to meet your needs, taking into account important factors such as your fleet’s duty cycle. We will also explore the different EV charging methods available, as well as the pivotal role of software in your EV charging solution.

Develop a Plan

The first step in evaluating which type of EV charging station or combination of stations will best fit your EV fleet is to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Your unique goals, infrastructure, budget, and implementation strategy must be factored into your solution.

Second, installing a charging station is technical and requires expertise, time, and money. Developing a plan for the electrification of your fleet is a necessity and will help ensure you are making the most of your effort and budget.

Any EVSE plan should consider how your EV fleet may grow. EVSE plans are data-driven, so ensure you have a reliable method and the technology to sort, store, and utilize the data. To fortify your plan, it will be wise to speak with your local utility to ensure you have all the data and pricing information available. Keep in mind that many utilities offer off-peak hours for better electricity rates and the implementation of charging software can assist you in maximizing these benefits.

There are several essential elements needed for formulating an EVSE plan and determining which EV charging station solution will best meet your fleet’s needs.

Duty Cycle

The most critical part of developing a plan is establishing what type of duty cycle(s) you expect for your EV fleet. Depending on your business’s type, scope, and scale, you may use just one or several vehicles operating on different duty cycles.

Currently, most fleet EVs are light-duty sedans and SUVs used to transport clients and customers, shuttle service crews, or light supplies and equipment. Heavy-duty EV trucks are still a rarity but are expected to grow in numbers in the coming years. You might even see electrified refuse trucks.

Light-duty sedans and SUVs offer flexibility because they can be garaged at employees’ homes at night or stored at a centralized fleet facility. Heavier EVs are more likely to operate on a return-to-base cycle where they depart a fleet garage in the morning and return by the end of the day. A third scenario is for EVs that regularly operate outside the local area and are not garaged daily at a home or fleet yard.

Three Methods of EV Charging

There are three methods of charging your EV fleet. The type of duty cycle your EVs operate will determine the best charging mode.

1. Home Charging

Home charging works for light-duty EVs taken home each day by their drivers. Two EV charging stations are available for home installation: Level 1 and Level 2 chargers.

Level 1 Charging

Level 1 chargers utilize a standard 120V AC outlet.

Level 1 chargers typically charge about 2-5 miles per hour and are sometimes referred to as trickle chargers. This level of charger is convenient in that it will not require electrical upgrades, although you may still want a certified electrician to examine the intended outlet to ensure it is correctly wired. However, what this level of charging offers in flexibility and electrical convenience, it lacks in the speed and power it can provide.

This level of charging will be inadequate for most fleet needs, as it will take approximately 40-50 hours to charge a light-duty EV.

Level 2 Charging

Level 2 charging stations operate on dedicated 240V AC outlets.

These outlets are similar to the outlets used for home dryers, although you do not want to plug your charger into a clothes dryer outlet as they are not designed for consistently high amperage for 8-10 hours every day. Inadequate wiring and devices can result in melted components, electrical fires, and other safety hazards.

Level 2 chargers are sometimes referred to as overnight chargers, as you can typically expect a full charge overnight when using this level of charging. Level 2 chargers charge at a rate of up to about 12-80 miles of range per hour, depending on the amperage of the charger. This is a reliable form of charger for most EV fleets with a set daily range of travel, as you can ensure the battery will be fully charged the next time the EV is needed.

2. Depot Charging

Depot charging best fits vehicles that operate on return-to-base duty cycles.

After their daily routes are finished, drivers park the EVs at a centralized site where Level 2 chargers are available. This depot charging allows for a speedy recharge of the vehicles and helps to put them back on the roads quickly. Level 2 depot chargers can be augmented with DC fast charging (DCFC) or Level 3 charging stations for fleet vehicles needing a midday boost.

Level 3 Charging/DCFC

Level 3 chargers, also known as DCFC or fast chargers, operate with an output of up to 350 kW and can fully charge most EV batteries in 20-45 minutes. While convenient for a quick charge, DCFC installation is significantly more expensive, as it requires a much higher voltage and will typically need more electrical work to install. DCFC is a great option for longer routes and a midday boost, however, it should not be relied on as the only method of charging as regular use can lead to long-term battery degradation.

3. Public Charging

Public charging is the most expensive mode for charging electric fleet vehicles.

As previously mentioned, frequent fast charging can damage EV batteries and shorten battery life cycles. Most public charging stations use Level 3 or Level 2 chargers. Level 2 charging can be time consuming and inconvenient when deadlines must be met.

Public charging can create further challenges as you cannot always predict that a charging station at a particular location will be available when your EV needs to be charged. However, public charging is often the only option for fleet EVs operating on extended routes beyond their drivers’ homes or company garaging facilities. It is also practical as a short-term fix when the battery is depleted, and the vehicle cannot make it back to a depot or home.

Availability in public charging and charging infrastructure is expanding through regional and federal initiatives, and the US Department of Energy offers an online public EV charging station locator.

EVSE Software

Another critical component of your EV charging solution is a digital EVSE fleet software platform.

There are several applications on the market, and feeding your information into a given program will offer an analysis of your specific charging needs. In addition to evaluating whether you would benefit from home or depot charging or a combination of the two, the software will also validate the optimal size of your charging station(s) and the redundancy required to ensure you don’t experience service disruptions.

The software will help determine what time of day to charge based on your local electricity rates and duty cycles and can even suggest driving routes that prioritize public charging, ultimately helping you manage payment data across charging facilities. It can also compare different charging plans from your local utility or other enterprise charging station operators and conclude which plan makes the most financial and practical sense given your fleet needs.

How to Get Started

Transitioning your fleet to EV delivers immense benefits.

Electricity prices are more stable than gasoline and diesel, and EVs are easier to maintain than their fossil-fuel counterparts as they don’t require frequent motor oil changes. One study by the University of Michigan concluded that EV operating costs are less than half those of operating a fuel-powered car, and there are also qualitative goodwill benefits associated with converting your fleet to EVs.

Research is required to evaluate which EV charging station solution fits your fleet needs, but the payoff will be tremendous, and finding the right project management team can help.

The first step is to partner with a reliable leader in charging solutions. As the most trusted partner in EV and electrification solutions management, the Qmerit Charge@Homefor Fleets program can help ensure your fleet electrification is seamless and successful.

Qmerit is a business partner you can depend on for top-quality installation and a guaranteed service geared toward your long-term success. Contact Qmerit today!

Author: Ken Sapp

Ken Sapp

Senior Vice President, Business Development and eMobility