fleet charging depot

(Featured Article -- Fleet Forward)

Adding electric vehicles to your fleet is not as simple as selecting the vehicle you want and ordering it. Unlike diesel and gasoline powered vehicles, you can’t just pull into a truck stop and plug in your EV to recharge the battery. At least not yet. 

But don’t let this scare you off from considering bringing electric vehicles into your operation. Proper planning will help you have a smooth transition to a hybrid or electrified fleet. Even if you’re not an expert on charging infrastructure or fleet electrification, there are resources at your disposal: a local utility can provide helpful guidance and it’s quite likely they already have experience assisting other fleets with electrification efforts.

Engage Your Utility First 

When it comes to electricity, rates can fluctuate up to 200% in a given day depending on when and how quickly it’s used. To put things in perspective: imagine if the price of oil varies based on when and how fast you filled the tank. Think how difficult it would be to plan and budget properly.

The 3,300 electric utilities in the U.S. have varying tariffs structures, peak demand rates, time of use charges, etc.; all of which impact what you will be paying to charge your vehicles. Therefore, it is imperative that you work with your local utility and not rely on general information about needed electric charging infrastructure, rates, etc.

So before you even place an order for an electric vehicle, you first want to speak with your electric utility company. They can not only give you information on your current electrical infrastructure but can also tell you about special, local funding opportunities that might be available to defray costs. They can assist with everything from your substation to your transformer through to your meter.

Each case is unique and should be dealt with on an individual basis by working in tandem with partners and utility company staff.

Utility as Consultant

Fleet managers also need to determine exactly what their operational needs are going to be, and how charging will fit into this. How many EVs are you planning to add to the fleet? Will they all need to be fully charged at the end of each day? Will they all be charging at the same time of day or will they be returning to the yard at different times and therefore charging throughout the day?

Here again, you can bring in a utility partner or specialist consultant to help you model multiple charging scenarios. They can also help you build out an infrastructure that is capable of handling additional charging stations in the future as you bring more EVs into your fleet. When it comes to retrofitting your facility, your energy provider can advise if electrical upgrades may be necessary to accommodate your specific needs. 

Now is when you should start thinking about ongoing energy management. This is an area that is often overlooked, but failure to think through how to manage energy and avoid demand charges could result in costly surprises on your energy bills month after month.

Bring up the discussion on load management and best ways to fuel your electric fleet early. A free planning tool is a simple way to start scoping on your end and will help guide this discussion with your utility. Energy management is one area that needs ongoing attention as you scale your use of electric vehicles. Only at this point should you begin constructing the infrastructure and installing the charging equipment.

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