Can fleet electrification negatively impact performance?

Gretchen ReeseNovember 26, 2021

Fleet electrification is well underway within many different sectors across the globe – from municipal fleets to last-mile delivery vehicles. With sustainability goals becoming stricter and more urgent, many fleet managers are drawn to electric vehicles’ promise of zero tailpipe emissions. Others are more attracted to the idea of less routine maintenance and associated upkeep costs.

Despite the benefits of switching from ICE vehicles to EVs, however, there is an inarguable lack of EV options available to fit everyone’s needs. As of 2020, there were about 370 models of electric car on the market, with electric pickup trucks in very early production and electric utility vehicles being nonexistent. Because of this, total electrification is simply not a possibility for all fleets.

Even when the right vehicles for your fleet become available, there is still the question of whether they are truly the better option. Fleet managers must justify that EVs would perform at the same level as their current ICE models. If not, it is hard to justify both a major financial investment and a significant decrease in performance.

Who is more likely to struggle with EV adoption?

Fleets can have widely varying purposes, operating in distinct conditions and working on different schedules. For this reason, managers must consider certain aspects of their fleet’s duties that could make them less suitable for electrification.

Vehicles with variable routes

Since managers have to consider EV range and work routes when planning daily operations, fleets with fixed routes are far more suitable for electrification than those without. Fleets of school buses, postal service trucks, and delivery vehicles typically follow the same exact route on a daily basis, making it easy for managers to optimize routes and ensure the vehicle’s range will be sufficient.

On the other hand, vehicles with variable routes like taxis, emergency services or utility trucks can suffer a decrease in performance if electrified. With the ambiguity of different routes each day and a larger disparity in miles driven on one day versus another, managers can have a tough time optimizing fleet performance.

Since refueling EVs is not as simple as pulling over at the nearest gas station and filling up in under five minutes, getting caught with a low battery mid-route can significantly disrupt a work schedule. It could even force drivers to decline a last-minute job due to insufficient charge. Managers can estimate the miles a vehicle will drive in one day, but with this number being so subjective to how many jobs they are called to on a given day, it is difficult to strategize efficiently.

Fleets in cold weather regions

Extreme weather conditions can drastically affect EV batteries and reduce capacity up to 12 percent due to slowed or accelerated chemical reactions within the battery pack. This becomes a problem when EVs start performing well below their average kWh per mile, making it difficult for managers to plan routes accordingly.

In the case of fleets operating in storm-prone regions, power outages can also be a major cause for concern when it comes to electrification. Unlike with gas-powered vehicles, refueling with electric charging is simply not an option amid a power outage. This can make these EVs too inefficient or entirely futile to deploy, especially if they cannot perform in the same way an ICE model could.

Factoring in charging time

The added element of charging time is enough to weaken fleet performance on its own. Compared to fueling up on gas or diesel in a matter of minutes, charging with a basic level one charger could take 11 to 20 hours or use a level 2 adapter to charge in 3 to 8 hours. In either case, there is a substantial different from five minutes at a gas station. This can make it more difficult for managers to make the most of their vehicles and send out for last-minute jobs.

First time EV drivers are also commonly faced with range anxiety which can affect how comfortable they are in their vehicles. Driving without the option of quickly refueling at one of the 150,000 gas stations across the US can seem daunting.

Boosting performance

At the end of the day, these are issues with electric vehicles that we will likely face and have to find ways around for the foreseeable future. Luckily, strategic planning and telematics data can help significantly with closing the gap of performance disparity.

Telematics can be a key tool with EVs, helping managers to track average daily usage and locate their vehicles in real-time. To combat range anxiety and increase fuel efficiency, vehicles can be assigned to mapped out areas. Telematics makes it easy for managers to find their vehicles and assist drivers in getting to the closest charging station, if necessary. Further, telematics data can give better insight on how batteries are actually performing in cold weather regions and how much range to actually expect from a full charge. Ultimately, it helps by taking some of the unpredictability out of switching to electric.

If you’re interested to see how our BI platform and team of analysts are driving fleet success with telematics data, schedule a demo with us today.

Gretchen Reese

Growth Marketing Manager

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