March 12, 2024

Your Guide to Fleet EV Adoption and Successfully Managing Charging Challenges in Commercial Settings

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8 Min. Read

More businesses are embracing electrification and making the switch to electric fleets to enhance operations, unlock significant savings, and support ESG goals.

However, going electric is a major decision that requires careful planning and consideration of your current needs, as well as determining how you can best electrify your fleet and ensuring your EV charging strategy will sufficiently meet your route and vehicle needs. Common obstacles to EV adoption include deploying an adequate charging strategy, navigating a potentially disruptive change as you adapt to the technology, and managing the costs associated with this transition.

Do you know what type of EV charging infrastructure would best meet the needs of your fleet? Will you be able to accommodate EV charging for all vehicles onsite, or will you use a mix of public and at-home EV charging to supplement your EV charging schedule? And how can you best navigate compliance issues and energy management?

Anticipating these challenges and identifying the right strategies early in your fleet electrification project will help you optimize your EV adoption journey for success.

Charging Infrastructure Planning: Overcoming Initial Hurdles

The first hurdle you’ll likely encounter is the need to determine the range needs of your fleet and develop a viable charging infrastructure. The time it takes to charge your vehicles is crucial for every aspect of planning your evolving fleet.

Level 2 EV charging and DC Fast charging are the two EV charging options that are the most viable charging levels for commercial fleets. Level 2 charging offers a range of 12 to 80 miles per hour of charging and a full charge typically delivered in 4 to 10 hours, while DC Fast charging can add an impressive 2 to 20 miles of range per minute and a fully charged battery in 30 minutes to an hour on average.

Considering that a typical delivery truck covers over 12,000 miles annually, as an EV, this vehicle would necessitate anywhere between 150 to 1,000 hours of charging on a Level 2 infrastructure or 10 to 100 hours of DC Fast charging within a year.

The first consideration in developing your charging infrastructure is comparing the costs and benefits of the various charging speeds. DC Fast charging considerably reduces charging times, but the equipment comes with a higher upfront cost and will likely require extensive electrical upgrades. Plus, utilizing DC Fast charging too frequently can accelerate battery degradation and result in higher vehicle replacement costs.

Following this, establishing an effective charging schedule becomes the next pivotal step. Charging, being a form of downtime for your fleet vehicles, requires a meticulous evaluation of the time your vehicles can afford to be parked and plugged in for charging. This step not only aids in optimizing your fleet’s operational efficiency but also assists in determining the number of chargers required and where it will make the most sense for your fleets to charge during their downtime.

Various charging models can offer flexibility in your charging schedule. Some commercial fleets rely on a central depot, while others invest in at-home charging options for their drivers. You can also leverage public charging stations or establish partnerships with private charging networks to charge en route and extend the range of your fleet.

Fleet Transition Challenges: Managing the Shift to Electric

EV adoption requires adjustment at first. You’ll have to rethink route planning to optimize mileage and range and other fleet management processes to ensure that vehicles have sufficient range to accomplish their mission.

A single charge can last 100 to 400 miles, depending on the EV model you select for your fleet vehicles. Vehicle range should inform your EV acquisition decisions since EV models with a limited range might not be a good match for your needs if drivers are unable to complete their routes on a full charge, which in turn can lead to increased range anxiety.

Public charging availability can be another obstacle as you gradually develop your own charging infrastructure. Downtime is a common issue, with one in five public charging attempts being unsuccessful and the existing infrastructure experiencing relatively high demand from non-commercial EV drivers as well.

Plans are underway to improve public EV charging infrastructure, however, addressing the immediate charging needs of your company is also crucial, and depending on where your fleet vehicles operate, public charging may not be as viable of an option.

Considering the planning demands associated with EV adoption, many fleet managers are opting for a phased approach to replace older vehicles with EVs and build their EV charging infrastructure gradually as their internal combustion engine (ICE) fleet vehicles are phased out and transitioned to electric vehicles. This strategy helps spread costs and gives you more time to adjust processes such as route planning.

If you opt for a gradual transition to EVs, leverage vehicle data as much as possible to track productivity, charging patterns, and more. Your drivers can also contribute valuable feedback. Building a modern fleet management system that leverages telematics data will help you track costs with more accuracy and optimize your entire EV adoption journey.

Charging Network Accessibility: Meeting the Demands

Integrating public charging locations or private charging stations from third parties into your charging strategy can leave you vulnerable to downtime and pricing fluctuation and removes control and management from your company.

As highlighted above, the downtime associated with public charging stations is a widespread issue. More than half of EV charging station malfunctions stem from connectivity issues and can be prevented by choosing a charging network that proactively monitors and addresses problems, or even uses predictive analysis to resolve issues before they even emerge.

Logistical challenges can also get in the way of public charging for fleets. Fielding long lines or maneuvering large delivery vehicles in small spaces may not fit into your plans. You also have to consider how charging times will affect your delivery routes and productivity levels.

One option is to leverage third-party charging options by establishing partnerships with local charging networks. Collaborating with these entities can result in preferred pricing, guaranteed uptime, and even access to dedicated chargers so your drivers can skip the line.

The best strategy is to mitigate your risks and costs by relying on a mix of charging options, including a central depot, at-home charging for drivers, and third-party charging locations for topping off.

Energy Management and Cost Control: Mitigating Financial Concerns

EV adoption eliminates a crucial operational cost for commercial fleets since vehicles no longer require fuel and EV owners for non-commercial electric vehicles can expect to save $18,000 across 10 years — resulting in even greater savings for fleet vehicles which can expect to have a higher annual mileage. Maintenance is also cheaper, with EV owners saving between $6,000 to $12,000 on vehicle maintenance over the lifespan of each car. Beyond saving money, reduced maintenance also reduces downtime as your electric vehicles will require fewer routine maintenance repairs.

However, EV charging represents a new cost that needs to be tracked and managed strategically. Developing your own EV charging infrastructure comes with a higher upfront cost, but you will benefit from lower energy rates and improved reliability compared to public EV charging, and electric vehicle charging is significantly cheaper than fueling ICE vehicles in most instances.

You can implement additional strategies to manage EV charging costs, such as scheduling charging to take advantage of lower Time-of-Use rates. Some businesses are also investing in battery storage solutions to store energy when rates are low to make affordable EV charging available at all times. You can also explore innovative solutions, such as investing in solar energy to charge your fleet or choosing EVs that support bidirectional charging to sell or reuse leftover energy.

To maximize ROI on your electrification project, partner with an EV charging station installer who has experience with commercial projects to explore your options and manage your operational costs more effectively.

Regulatory Compliance: Navigating the Landscape

Installing commercial EV charging infrastructure entails navigating the regulatory landscape created by your local building and electrical codes. Regulatory requirements can also stem from participating in ESG certification programs with reporting frameworks or leveraging incentives that require documentation.

For instance, the Commercial EV and FCEV Tax Credit is a popular program that can help you save up to 15% on the purchase of a plug-in hybrid vehicle and up to 30% for an EV. However, this program includes weight limits and battery capacity requirements, which means not all EV models will qualify for this tax credit.

If you decide to take advantage of the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit to save 30% on your charging infrastructure, you should know that you’ll only qualify for the credit if you’re installing charging stations in low-income or non-urban areas, however, other incentives for electrifying your fleet exist and can help alleviate the upfront and initial costs of adoption EVs and installing EV charging stations.

Additional programs available at the state or utility levels typically have their respective requirements. Your best option is to work with a professional EV charger installer who can identify the best incentives for your project and plan an electrification strategy that meets all the requirements to qualify for available funding.

Plan Your Fleet Electrification Project With Qmerit

Common EV adoption challenges for commercial fleets include planning for charging, managing the transition gradually, and mitigating costs.

Developing a strategic transition plan that identifies and anticipates challenges is crucial for the success of your project. You should also enlist the help of electrification experts early in your planning process.

Qmerit’s network of qualified EV installers can help. As the largest and most trusted network of experts in the country, our electrical contractors have planned and implemented over 269,000 EV charging station installation projects.

Discover how Qmerit can help you plan a commercial electrification project that anticipates common challenges while ensuring a safe and seamless transition to EVs. Contact Qmerit today to learn more about fleet electrification!

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