Infrastructure for a Better Fleet – Preparing Your Facility for Conversion to Electric Vehicles

As the green revolution picks up steam, household name companies – including Comcast, DHL, FedEx, Frito-Lay, Ikea, Pepsi, and even Waste Management – are converting their fleets to electric vehicles, or EV’s.  Amazon is making perhaps the biggest EV bet, with a plan to purchase 100,000 EV delivery vans.  Others such as AT&T and Best Buy are using hybrids to reduce their emissions.

Does EV conversion make sense for your business? One important thing to consider is the charging infrastructure you’ll need to operate an electric-powered fleet.

Do EV’s Fit Your Operation?

Range is arguably the most important consideration for anyone adopting EV’s. Fortunately, ranges are constantly increasing, and most commercial vehicles drive relatively short distances in a local area.

Fleets with these characteristics are excellent candidates for conversion:

  • Vehicles return to and remain in the same location for long periods.
  • Daily mileage does not exceed the vehicle range of the vehicle, requiring recharging during service hours.
  • Stop-and-go traffic. Surprisingly, this is actually a benefit, because regenerative braking can add charge to the vehicle as it drives.

If your fleet does not experience significant daily downtime, you may need to either convert to hybrids or use Level 3 fast chargers.

Charging Levels and Infrastructure

Let’s review the charger types, what fleet uses they work best with, and what infrastructure changes you will need to implement. EV charging is divided into three distinct levels. At each level, more power is delivered to the vehicle’s battery more quickly, and more robust equipment is required.

Level 1—The Wall Socket Charger

This type connects the vehicle to a standard 120 volt 3-prong wall outlet and delivers the power for about 3-5 miles of range per hour of charging.

Infrastructure Changes: Either none, or addition of standard “house wiring” and grounded outlets to equipment bays.

Fleet Uses: Though the investment is very low, this type can realistically only be used with vehicles that drive less than 40 miles per day and then can charge overnight for 8 hours. They may also make sense for use with plug-in hybrids.

Level 2—Wall Mounted Stations

These chargers are often wall-mounted and use 240-volt AC power. They deliver 8 to 65 miles of charge per hour depending on the acceptance rate of the EV, making them a good balance between the need for fast charging and overnight charging.

Infrastructure Changes: Station installation in each vehicle bay or parking area, plus new 240-volt wiring.

Fleet Uses: These chargers are perfect for most fleet uses, where the vehicle travels more than 40 miles per day and can charge for at least a few hours. Their versatility and relatively low cost compared to Level 3 chargers can make it worth the investment to install them at the homes of workers who take their vehicle home each day.

Level 3—DCFC

This type is the one most often seen by the public, along with some level 2 chargers and tends to vaguely resemble a slender gas pump. Like gas pumps, they are commonly found at commercial locations near highways because they are the best option for long-distance travel. They convert 240-volt or 480-volt AC power to DC for faster charging and deliver about 250 miles of charge per hour.  Cars like the KIA EV6 will charge 80% in about 18 minutes.

Infrastructure Changes: Station installation in each vehicle bay or parking area, plus new 240-volt or 480-volt wiring. These stations cost more than Level 2’s, but for operational reasons (see below) you will likely need fewer of them.

Fleet Uses: It may make more sense for your fleet to use chargers at commercial locations to “top off” if they are driving long distances and/or have little or no daily downtime. This will usually be more cost-effective than installing a full set of DCFC chargers at your facility, but it will be wise to install some DCFC chargers for use by vehicles as they return to base temporarily during work shifts.

Your Partner

Could you use some advice on the what, why, and how of fleet conversion and charging stations? Thayer Energy Solutions has experts on hand who are ready to help. Get in touch at 815-282-1112 today, and together we’ll find the best options for your situation.