To many fleet operators, converting to electric vehicles seems as simple as buying new trucks, to others an overly complex task that will in the end only yield good, green PR. In reality it’s neither. Fleet conversion is a move that can help your bottom line as well as the planet, and like any good investment requires careful – but not burdensome – assessment, planning, and work to be a success.
Let’s review the steps for converting to an electric vehicle, or EV, commercial fleet, and the best way to approach them.
Assess Needs, Benefits, and Opportunities
To decide if you will have an EV fleet and what form it will take, consider the following:
Is your fleet used in a way that allows for charging time between trips, such as being parked overnight? Will the charging time easily cover the distance driven each day? If not, can you use vehicles with Level 3 chargers that recharge quickly at offsite locations? We cover these and other issues in our article on evaluating your potential fleet.
Evaluate the available vehicles themselves to ensure your new vehicles will provide service equivalent to your current fleet. You’ll have no problem finding an EV equivalent (possibly an EV version of a model you currently use), as manufacturers offer electric-powered vehicles from delivery trucks to pickups to crossover SUV’s.
Finally, consider any changes you need to make to the routes or other use patterns of your vehicles. Vehicle ranges have increased dramatically, but it’s better to evaluate routes now than make changes on the fly.
What will need to change in your facility? Most will need few changes but will need new 240 volt service to garage bays or parking spots, as well as chargers.
Costs and Savings
- Vehicle purchase cost—EV prices continue to decline and in most cases are in the same range as gasoline equivalents.
- increased power costs—These will be offset by lower fuel costs.
- Total cost of ownership for EV’s is lower than fossil-fueled cars. One major reason is reduced cost of maintenance. When New York City added EV’s to their municipal fleet, they found the annual maintenance cost for an electric Ford Focus was only $386, only 21% as much as the $1,805 maintenance cost of the gasoline-powered model.
Incentives and Partnerships
Be sure to explore what government or utility company incentives might be available to help fund your transition. Rebates or other funding from EV manufacturers may be available as well. Partnerships with these organizations—and with an energy partner experienced in administering these projects—can help you increase your funding with tax credits, emissions credits, and grants. They can also save time and hassle by helping with permitting and paperwork.
The changeover to EV’s might be the right time to consider these additions to your project:
- Solar installations to provide additional low-cost charging power
- Generator capacity to ensure you always have power for vehicle charging
- Chargers in parking areas for employee vehicles
- Upgrades to route-planning software and/or other IT infrastructure related to the fleet
This step overlaps the assessment and planning steps. The larger your fleet, the more significant the change you will be asking staff to undertake. In addition to the usual corporate inertia, you may need to overcome objections informed by outdated or politicized reporting on EV’s.
Ease this process (and be sure you’re covering all your bases) by seeking employee input—especially from drivers—during the assessment phase. Once you’re ready to move from assessment to planning, be clear with drivers about what will and won’t change. With all employees, focus on the business case and why changing to EV’s is not just good for the planet, but for the bottom line.
Now you’ll plan the purchasing and buildout for your site improvements and fleet. If you haven’t used them already, it’s time to involve an experienced project partner, like Thayer Energy Solutions, that can help with paperwork and incentive funding. They can also perform a site assessment, prepare your budget, help you follow the best practices for choosing the location of charging stations, and choose the right equipment to install.
Thayer Energy Solutions can also make sure your plan accounts for problems—such as supply chain delays and project hitches—and opportunities such as future expansion of your business that may require more or different charging capacity.
With Thayer, you can relax about the installation of the new systems, but more work will be needed as you introduce EV’s into the fleet. Work closely with drivers and other staff to identify unseen problems and opportunities to address/take advantage of. Keep a close working relationship with your local energy project partner, and all of you will be able to keep things rolling smoothly.