Best practice guide - How to charge an EV fleet

Sima Megrel, VP Marketing

This will surprise no one - but one of the major changes when switching over to an EV fleet is the need to charge your vehicles rather than fill them up with petrol. This change in the energy source of your fleet sounds simple enough. But charging takes much longer than fueling up. Adjustments to the way you manage your fleet and the way it operates are required. 

As you prepare to launch or operate your electric fleet, it is important to understand those changes and prepare for them. Here, we will cover some of the major differences you need to take into consideration as you electrify your fleet. For fuller coverage, we recommend you download Fleet Electrification - The Practical Guide.

Electricity is much cheaper than gas

Simply put, charging is much cheaper. A full battery can cost as much as 70% less than a full tank of gas. Even using fast DC chargers and especially using cheaper options like AC charging, powering an EV vehicle costs less. 

However, it is not a simple apples to apples comparison, and there is no prominent sign to advertise electricity prices like at a gas station. Moreover, there are huge regional differences in the price of both electricity and gas. If you’re in the US, you can use this tool from Energy Innovation to get a rough estimate of the costs in your region.

Different charger types (or levels)

However, even in the same area, charge prices can be highly variable. In California, for example, charging on the road using a fast DC charger costs about 40 cents per kWh, over twice the cost of charging at a depot or at home.

De-risk EV transition with the right charging strategy

One key for successful EV fleet operations is the formation of the right charging strategy. 

Charging takes time. Even using ultra fast chargers it can take about half an hour to fill a battery up completely, and using AC chargers requires several hours. This affects not only individual vehicles, but the entire infrastructure requirements, as each spot at the station is taken up for much longer, and since charging stations are not widely available enough yet.

There is a growing awareness of this issue, and more and more public charging options are being made available all over the world (backed by considerable government subsidies). Still, waiting times is something to take into consideration, and it is often not enough to know where the nearest station is. You also need to know if there is an open charger you can use.

The right charging strategy takes into account downtime, as well as price and operational concerns. Optimizing charging times, for example, to make sure it coincides with break time can lead to a minimal impact on your fleet operations. 

You can build your own fleet charging infrastructure

Relative cost of charging

Unlike building your own gas station, building all or some of the infrastructure you need for an electric fleet is something most should consider. For a relatively small investment, you can build your own charging infrastructure. You can even provide charging outlets at drivers’ homes, reimbursing them for electricity consumption. 

These are based on so-called Level 2 AC charger, using 220V current that is standard in Europe and most of the world and available in the US. They can provide 40 to 120 km per hour charge. Leaving vehicles to charge overnight may be enough for some fleets to cover all their routes throughout the day. And with the addition of topping up the battery in public stations as necessary, can save a lot of the fleet’s cost.  

Building your own DC fast chargers is more complicated and much more expensive. It is not feasible for most, but it may make sense in some scenarios.

In building your own charging infrastructure strategy you should also take into account that the price of electricity also depends on the time of day. Time-of-use rate plans vary based on the time of day and season; but typically include two or three different rates, and you can expect to pay less during off-peak hours at night and in the early morning.

EV fleet in action: plan, simulate, implement

Much like everything else in an electrified fleet, it pays to plan and set up charging policies for your drivers ahead of time. Using advanced simulations can help you prepare for the transition and test out different scenarios and how to react to tum   

A naïve charging strategy, one that behaves like a traditional ICE vehicle by waiting for the battery to run low before charging it up, can result in longer downtime for charging, maybe when you need it most, at relatively high energy rate, and an unused full battery at the end of the shift when it is no longer needed.

Different charging strategies. Optimized charging makes sure the vehicle is available at peak demand

Equipping drivers with a charging strategy that considers future demand allows them to complete the day with minimal downtime or deadhead miles, and can greatly improve any fleet's performance. 

To learn more about how Autofleet can help you electrify your fleet, set a meeting, or download “Fleet Electrification: The Practical Guide”

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