Choosing the Electric Commercial Vehicles for your Fleet

Two White Vans

As the adoption of electric vehicles (EV’s) increases, charging options grow, and prices drop, you may be thinking of converting to an EV commercial fleet as more a question of “when and how” rather than a question of “why.”

There is a great deal to consider and the issues are complex, but the road map to making the right “when and how” choice is a relatively simple one.

Determine What Type of Vehicles are Needed

This is likely to be your easiest consideration, at least when it comes to the basics, since you’re already operating an internal-combustion engine (ICE) fleet adapted to your needs. Generally, the lighter the vehicle you need, the more choices you will have. There is a limited selection among the heaviest fleet types, but light and medium duty trucks, last mile delivery trucks and vans, and consumer-type cars, SUV’s, and crossovers are amply represented.

One important factor to consider is how charging will occur, and with what type of charger. Vehicles that have low daily mileage and/or can be parked overnight to charge will be able to use slower (and less expensive) chargers than those that have to recharge partway through the workday. This can affect what vehicle makes sense for your operation.

Now is the time to consider other questions, too. Just as you would if you were looking for new ICE vehicles, consider how well your current vehicles match the needs of your workforce, and whether it might be time to buy at least some of a different vehicle type, such as replacing pickups with vans or vice-versa. Consider what equipment or features might make your workforce more effective and comfortable and reduce overall costs.

Nearly every vehicle OEM has committed to offering more EV’s and many have committed to producing only EV’s by 2035, so keeping an eye on what these companies have planned for each model year can give you a helpful advantage as you plan your transition.

Consider Total Cost of Ownership

Many EV’s are now in the same price range as their ICE counterparts, though the initial purchase cost may be higher. However, total cost of ownership (TCO) for EV’s is lower than ICE vehicles, mainly due to their much lower costs for maintenance. EV’s have far fewer moving parts, and many of those parts are under far less stress. That means entire systems, lubricant products, and scheduled maintenance regimes are no longer needed, eliminating the costs connected with them.

How much will the cost be reduced? When New York City added EV’s to their municipal fleet, they found the annual maintenance cost for an electric Ford Focus was only 21% as much as the gas-powered model.

Many fleet managers have held off on EV conversion because of the cost of battery replacement. This is a legitimate concern, but fortunately battery costs are trending in the right direction, declining by approximately 75% in the past ten years (according to an analysis by PricewaterhouseCooper) despite increases in battery capability.

Finally, factor new charger infrastructure, increased electrical costs, support software, and personnel training into your TCO calculations. But balancing these out to at least some extent are fuel savings, government rebates, and possible incentives from utilities, manufacturers, and others in the industry.

Get Employee Input, and Circle Back Often

No one knows more about the typical workday on the road than your drivers, and if you have a large enough fleet that your maintenance is done in-house, no one will know the equipment better than your service techs. Make sure you seek—and give significant weight to—input from them throughout the planning and purchase process. This will benefit you and them by identifying potential snags, educating them about the benefits of EV’s, and getting solid buy-in from them long before the vehicles reach the fleet.