Fleets charge forward with electric vehicles

There might be challenges as companies transition to an EV fleet, but there are also major benefits to be gleaned. Here’s some advice and guidance from those who can make the switch as seamless and straightforward as possible

Fleets charge forward with electric vehicles

There might be challenges as companies transition to an EV fleet, but there are also major benefits to be gleaned. Here’s some advice and guidance from those who can make the switch as seamless and straightforward as possible

Plans for a ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 were first mooted in 2020. Back then, with more than a decade to prepare, it was probably only the minority of people who were considering taking the plunge. However, time has ticked on and we’re almost half-way through 2022 and the shift feels very real.

Some fleets are more prepared than others. But the bottom line is that everyone has to pay attention to the requirement sooner rather than later. With that in mind, some experts are offering thoughts and advice on how to best embrace electric vehicles on your fleet.

Leigh Purnell, founder and CEO, Petalite

“Future maintenance costs and reliability are two key problems we commonly see for fleets, problems that revolve around charger economics. Installation, maintenance, operation and life are serious fleet issues. Chargers sold as products with short 2-5 year warranties are not capable of supporting EV fleets as they grow.

“All EV chargers are based around the same ‘full bridge’ technology, which requires intricate controls meaning complicated circuitry that impacts reliability and lifetime. At Petalite, we’ve dedicated years to redesigning our EV charging technology from the ground up, developing an innovative solution called ‘SDC’, which reduces future costs and offers lifelong reliability while providing 99% uptime.

“Our PowerCores are much smaller in power than the standard modularity design you find in all rapid chargers. However, PowerCores have an estimated 17-year lifespan and can stack together infinitely. Because it has been designed using commodity parts, Petalite’s SDC charging solution can last the test of time when it comes to charging fleets over the next 30 years.

“It's vitally important for businesses to think about widespread connectivity of their chargers, not just the vehicle but also the grid. Petalite is a vertically-integrated business, which means we own, maintain and develop every aspect of the charger. Unlike many leading charger providers, we have ‘baked in’ security at a hardware level so we are not reliant on third party software.”

It's vitally important for businesses to think about widespread connectivity of their chargers, not just the vehicle but also the grid

Barney Goffer, UK product manager, Teletrac Navman UK

“One of the challenges for transport managers looking to encourage greater EV adoption is demystifying the common misconceptions around EV vehicles and raising awareness about the benefits of adopting electrification.

“For example, range anxiety is cited as a factor halting greater EV adoption. And yet it has more to do with psychology and perception than the actual range of EVs or the availability of charging points. If last year’s fuel shortage crisis proved anything, it showed that any system can fail when society is led by hysteria. If industry leaders can proactively provide accurate information, we’ll have won half the battle.

“Once misconceptions such as range anxiety are exposed, fleets switching to EV should focus on usability. User experience is key to adoption. For the EV market to truly boom, it must be straightforward and stress-free to charge, pay and use the systems. Whether recreational drivers or transport professionals, individuals need to trust that EV products can be intelligent and straightforward.

“At Teletrac Navman, we can utilise operators’ telematics data to tell customers when it’s feasible to switch, guide them through the transition process, and help them manage their entire fleet every step of the way, all in one platform.”

Once misconceptions such as range anxiety are exposed, fleets switching to EV should focus on usability

Scott Hamilton-Cooper, managing director, AX Automotive

“While AX’s recent fleet EV adoption white paper identified that over a third of businesses are yet to electrify, with a detailed plan and the right information the switch to electric is not as daunting as it first appears. Research showed that there is a significant amount of misinformation and a lack of understanding about the likely challenges of integrating EVs.

“For fleet managers who have begun to adopt EVs, the challenges are often less arduous than envisaged before the transition began.

“What is clear is that fleet operators and businesses require support from their partners to make the transition as seamless as possible. AX was the first non-fault hire company to offer a category-equivalent EV replacement guarantee – AX Electric – and understands the need for continuity and exemplary service for fleets and drivers in the event of an incident.

“Building an electrification strategy for the business is vital, and as part of that, identifying the challenges is an essential place to start. In AX’s recently published white paper, fleet managers identified charging infrastructure to be a concern and barrier.

“The paper also indicated that businesses are being slow to incorporate workplace charging points to circumvent the problem. Over half of fleet managers said that a lack of charging points at the workplace is one of the greatest challenges facing EV adoption.”

What is clear is that fleet operators and businesses require support from their partners to make the transition as seamless as possible

Beverley Wise, regional director, UK & Ireland, Webfleet Solutions

“For fleets making the switch to electric, shrewd decision-making is called for to optimise the cost-efficiency opportunities presented. And this calls for meaningful, actionable insights.

“Which journeys and operational activities are best suited to EVs? What charging infrastructure is needed to support these vehicles?

“How can a business make the most of their electric miles, minimise costs and vehicle downtime while optimising service delivery?

“Thanks to advances in dedicated EV software solutions, telematics data is now available at the touch of a button to help answer these critical questions. Planning reports provide clear visibility over the typical mileage and type of journeys undertaken by drivers, signalling which vehicles to switch to EV alternatives and helping shape the most effective charging strategies.

“Battery levels and remaining driving distances for every vehicle is aiding workflow planning, job dispatch and routing and scheduling decisions. Mapped coverage of charging points help drivers navigate to the closest EV charging stations via their connected sat navs.

“Energy consumption reports analyse energy usage – in kWh, per vehicle, per day – enabling the energy performance of fleet vehicles to be compared to help identify and address inefficiencies. Tools such as Webfleet’s Charger Connection Report also provide insights into the charging process and vehicle charge levels, helping ensure charging occurs when tariffs are most favourable and in a way that minimises battery degradation.”

For fleets making the switch to electric, shrewd decision-making is called for to optimise the cost-efficiency opportunities presented

Switching with the right service

With its Electric Vehicles as a Service (EVaaS) offer, Rivus aims to deliver an end-to-end, single service solution that supports fleet operators in making the transition to electric.

“We’ve developed EVaaS to ensure customers have a single source for everything needed to successfully implement and run an electric fleet,” says Thomas Maerz, chief development officer at Rivus. “Given the impending 2030 deadline to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel models, fleet operators throughout the UK are working out their long-term vision for deploying and servicing their fleets.

“However, it can be daunting switching to electric vehicles for the first time and managing the multiple considerations across a fleet such as the total cost of ownership, vehicle selection, vehicle range, the installation of charging facilities, as well as reimbursement of energy costs.”

Sarah Gray, product and services development manager (EV) at Rivus, adds: “We offer customers a unique blend of consultancy, choice, flexibility and expertise in making the transition to electric. This includes everything from consultancy, funding and acquisition, design and build and driver training, to accident management, service maintenance and repairs through our own garage network or our mobile service and repair specialists. It’s our job to ensure our customers can get their job done.”

Follow the plan

One of the first things to consider for a successful transition to EVs, says Compleo, is to think about the charging infrastructure early.

Compleo can work with fleet managers to identify the best hardware, software and installation requirements for electric vehicles. The company says it enables fleet managers to select the solutions that are right for them, rather than ‘bundling together a must-have package, which they don’t need’. In addition, the chargers and software can all be white-labelled, enabling the business to promote its own branding, rather than Compleo’s.

However, the charging point is just one part of the whole infrastructure. And thinking about software is a bigger consideration. That may seem counter-intuitive, but making sure you have access to the right data, the ability to charge users for charging and activate load balancing if required are all vital considerations as your EV fleet grows. Software from Compleo enables users to set up and manage their own mini-network, which means drivers can charge at any of the company’s chargers with ease using an RFID card.

Understanding whole-life costs for each vehicle is vital and, with the right software in place to manage and monitor vehicle usage and provide essential insights, a fleet manager has all the data they need at their fingertips.

Charging choice

bp’s UK fleet sales manager, Adrian Brabazon, shares his top considerations for each charging solution to make the switch as seamless as possible and ensure it’s a worthwhile investment for businesses.

Depot charging: “Investing in charging infrastructure at a depot or workplace can be efficient, but understanding who owns the land and the power availability is an important factor. If a business leases the land, it should be prepared to enter into conversations early with the land owner before progressing too far down the line.”

On-the-go charging: “Fleets will sometimes need to rely on the public network, even if it’s a backup plan. For some drivers the process of switching to an EV won’t be easy, but the public infrastructure is growing at pace. Include drivers in the early transition phases of the fleet. It will bring a lot of great insights to the business and make it easier to roll out in the future.”

Home charging: “Some fleet drivers will have capacity for a home charger but some won’t. It’s important to have a deep understanding of drivers’ habits including the current and desired mileage, routes, downtime, depot activity and refuelling and charging routines, to know whether it’s the right option for a fleet."






Tesco’s transition to an all-electric delivery fleet

As part of its ambition to become net zero in the UK by 2035, Tesco has committed to a fully electric home delivery fleet in the UK by the end of 2028. Its fleet of 5,500 home delivery vans travels to thousands of UK households every day – transitioning the whole fleet to electric would be equivalent to taking 54,000 cars off the road each day.

The vans might belong to the same fleet, but they are spread across multiple sites and depots, each with its own specific electrification challenges and requirements. Therefore, Tesco needed to find a charging solution that was scalable, capable of supporting the fleet as it grows over time, and reliable.

Step forward EO Charging (EO), which supported Tesco with its electrification project. EO provides everything required in the process, from analysis of site specifications to the appropriate hardware and management software to ongoing service and maintenance.

The transition process

The first phase of the project focused on upgrading five Tesco sites – two in Scotland and three in England – with the capacity to service over 200 electric vehicles in total.

A crucial first step in any fleet electrification project is to conduct a smart fleet consultation to understand the charging infrastructure required at each site. The assessment also deciphers whether a fleet can be electrified based on current operations – and whether there is sufficient power at the site(s) to accommodate the new infrastructure.

To support the consultation, Tesco provided EO with existing vehicle telematics data over a three-month period and half hourly consumption data from the previous year. EO also conducted its own modelling to get a full picture of each site.

The insights showed that Tesco’s delivery fleet commonly performs more than one trip (or wave) a day and that the operational range of the EV was sufficient to cover single trip distances across all the sites.

At three sites, the range was also sufficient for the maximum daily distance of each vehicle. However, at the remaining two sites it wasn’t, so charging between delivery waves would be required.

Following the smart fleet consultation, EO made recommendations based on each site's specific requirements and set-up. Central to this was the need for the infrastructure to serve both day-to-day charging requirements, as well as rapid charging for emergency cover.

Service and maintenance

As part of its turnkey service, EO also provides Tesco with ongoing support and maintenance. All chargers have a bespoke fleet service package, meaning EO engineers are guaranteed to be on-site within four hours if any technical issues arise.

This measure is supported by EO’s hardware-agnostic cloud-based management software, the EO Cloud. As well as charging management, site load management and vehicle telematics, this software monitors the performance of all chargers and provides remote diagnostics, ensuring any issues can be identified and addressed as soon as they arise.

The story so far…

Six months into phase one of Tesco’s electrification project and the majority of the first five sites have now been completed. The modelling and analysis conducted upfront in the smart fleet consultation was vital. As well as revealing the optimal pathway for electrification and helping a business prevent unnecessary infrastructure investments, it allowed the partner to get under the skin of how the fleet operates and to understand all its unique requirements.

There is no silver bullet for electrification, but the right charging partner will walk a business through every step of the process, ensuring current needs are met, as well as how to best prepare for the demands of the future.

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