The Top 4 Concerns About Adding Electric Vehicles to Utility Fleets

Gretchen ReeseFebruary 19, 2021

Electric vehicles are an emerging technology coming alongside plenty of potential enhancements for fleet operations and sustainability initiatives. But some are still wary, with concerns that many fleet managers in the utility space echo.

What benefits do electric vehicles bring to fleets?

There are many benefits associated with electric vehicles. Many are excited to see this new technology being adopted in the fleet industry, especially in cities that have already begun the “going green” transition

It’s reported that overall, electric vehicles have a lower cost of ownership (no fuel expense – aside from charging expense, and less moving parts = less maintenance costs), less pollution output and perhaps even allow for more efficient fleet operational strategies. But does that mean that they’re right for your fleet?

Not always. 

What are the top concerns surrounding electric vehicles for utility fleet managers?

As with any new technology, you have some that are excited, some on the fence and some caught up in concerns. Fleets around the world have suggested that when the technology becomes available, that they’ll electrify. But for those that haven’t yet, what might their concerns be?

1.     Electric Power Grid Capabilities

Electric power grid capabilities differ per state nationwide. When we’re looking at the average consumer consumption of electricity on a given day, the same amount of an average American powering their home (including running appliances, computers, light, heating and cooling) is equivalent to the 30 kilowatt-hours needed to power an electric vehicle for 100 miles. 

A study done by the U.S Department of Energy found that by increasing electrification (due majorly to the wider adaptation of electric vehicles) could boost energy consumption by nearly 40% by 2050. So, whilst sustainability is a huge driver for this technology – a lot of this depends on whether or not the energy is being produced in a sustainable, renewable way. Think solar, wind and hydropower as a few options. 

The main concern that many grid operators have is wondering when most electric vehicle users or fleets will choose to charge their vehicles. When you look at a typical usage day, electric consumption is higher during the day than at night and is highest in the early evening. If the trend follows into their charging habits, early evening is when most people would likely use the charging infrastructure – potentially causing a grid overload and a demand for higher energy outputs than current capabilities would be able to.

2.     Lack of National Infrastructure

Fleet vehicles have different needs than a standard electric passenger vehicle. They typically remain in service longer, have higher usage rates and require more energy.

Fleet managers will need to consider charging infrastructure when weighing the pros and cons of adding electric vehicles to their fleet. Obviously, it is important to ensure that while on a route or performing a task, that their vehicles won’t run out of power – so this likely will pave the way for route planning and charging station location strategy in the future. Currently, if you look at an international and even national scale, cities tend to on average have more infrastructure and charge points for electric vehicles than suburbs or even remote/rural areas. Which, one could reasonably understand. However, in order to create more confidence for consumers – infrastructure will need to be added to all areas within a country in order for a wider adaptation of this technology.

3.     Charge Range Difficulties

One aspect of electric vehicles that causes quite a reasonable (and understandable) concern is their range. How many miles can my drivers, or myself, go without needing to stop for a charge? Can I depend on the infrastructure in place should I need a charge upon reaching my final destination or work site?

A key piece of this charge-range concern is dealing with the charge range fluctuations. A typical EV can go roughly 200+ miles on a fully charged battery – obviously depending on the type of vehicle and its usage. Not only is this much less than the typical 400 to 500-mile range of a traditional fuel-powered vehicle, but also the charge range tends to be dramatically lower in winter months, in part due to the limitations of battery chemistry as well as the additional power needed to heat the cabin of the car. 

But what’s the solution here?

Many say to travel light, go easy on the heat/AC and stick to smoother terrain – but if you’re a municipality or utility fleet driver, that’s not always possible. Sometimes we just have to wait for the data to reveal the answers here. 

4.     Lack of Vehicle/Power Options for Heavy Duty Fleets

Many fleet types like the idea of electrification, but simply cannot invest in it. And no, it’s not due to monetary barriers. Rather, it’s because the vehicles needed for their fleet simply don’t exist in an electric form. Or, if they do, there’s no data to prove that they can do the heavy lifting that a traditional fuel-powered vehicle can. 

Take construction fleets for example. In the heavy-duty construction sector, electric vehicle technology is widely underdeveloped. There isn’t a solution yet to power the types of equipment needed to perform most tasks on a job site. At least, not yet – but it’s been said that this technology may be something that we see come to fruition in the next few years.

Are electric vehicles right for your fleet?

As with any new technology, it’s important to understand your fleet and it’s data by doing a deep, analytical dive to determine whether or not electric vehicles are suited to your organization and region of operation.

Over the last few years, Utilimarc has been working with electric vehicle data with the aim to help fleets understand their options and their data when considering new vehicle additions for their organizations in the future.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Utilimarc can help you make the most of your electric vehicle data, schedule a live demo with our analytics team.

Gretchen Reese

Growth Marketing Manager

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