Which EV Charger is Best for Your Fleet?
For fleet managers undergoing the overwhelming endeavor of electrification, there can be endless considerations and questions to ask along the way. Which vehicles do you electrify first? Which models make the most sense for your fleet? Will drivers be charging vehicles at a fleet yard, out on the road or at home?
One question that is often asked too late is which electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to invest into? Charging stations and plugs can total up very quickly to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the size of your fleet and the equipment chosen. Additionally, the decision of where charging will take place further affects the price of equipment and charging.
Creating a charging strategy is an essential step of electrification that many do not realize should be done well in advance of receiving new EVs. While it can be relatively simple for a single EV driver to implement a single-port level one charger in their own home, fleets looking to build an entire charging station with several ports for fleets can be looking at months of installation time.
Let’s look at some of the factors that can affect how managers choose to charge their EV fleets.
When it comes to cost, charging EVs at home is typically the cheapest option. Fleet managers can consider implementing a vehicle take-home policy for EVs, allowing drivers to plug in overnight and come back to work with a full charge.
The simplest, most cost-effective plugs used at home are level 1 chargers, which require no extensive installation. Level 1 plugs are the slowest to charge, typically adding from 3 to 5 miles of range per hour. They are the cheapest chargers because they can plug into standard 120V outlets without the need for additional equipment, making for painless implementation. These universal plugs are compatible with all EVs on the market, except Teslas, making it simple to implement across a diverse fleet.
One disadvantage to charging vehicles at home, however, is the amount of planning needed for it to be successful. Fleet managers must take into account each driver’s living situation and whether an outlet is available where they typically park. Reimbursing drivers for home energy used for charging is another consideration to keep in mind.
While it’s unlikely for fleets to depend solely on level 3 charging, due to it being the most expensive way to charge, it is worth considering as a supplementary option. Level 3 charging is also known as DC fast charging, as it is the fastest way to charge EVs. These plugs charge vehicles at up to 525 miles per hour, making them ideal for use on the road and for giving last-minute top ups before heading out from the depot.
While these chargers can definitely help drivers in a pinch by charging up to 80 percent of battery capacity in under an hour, level 3 public charging can often be more costly than fueling a comparable ICEV with gas.
One option for fleets looking to implement fast chargers is installing stations at their own fleet yard. A single-port level 3 station can cost up to $50,000 for the equipment alone, with installation adding on another $50,000. This investment presents the most costs upfront of any charging strategy but can provide a long-term solution for vehicles who don’t have much time at the fleet yard before setting out again.
For managers who need their vehicles to be accessible when not in use, level 2 charging right at the fleet yard can be a great option. While level 1 chargers offer the lowest upfront costs and level 3 offer the quickest charging times, level 2 chargers can be a sweet spot of convenience for fleet EVs.
Level 2 chargers can add from 12 to 80 miles of range per hour, so charging in between shifts does not require as many hours as with level 1. Drivers can simply plug in their vehicles after a work day and pick it up the next day fully charged and ready to go.
Unlike level 1 plugs, level 2 EVSE requires access to 240V outlets which must be installed by an electrician. In all, equipment and installation can total up to around $2,200. Compared to the cost of installing level 3 fast chargers on-site, this number can be much more realistic for fleets requiring dozens of charging stations.
The bottom line
Ultimately, deciding on the optimal charger for your fleet depends on the factors affecting your fleet’s daily operation. Likely, fleets will implement a strategy that mixes various charging options for different scenarios. For example, level 2 charging at the yard overnight with access to public fast charging for mid-route top-ups when necessary.
Regardless of what works best for your fleet, the best charging strategy is the one planned well in advance that considers every alternative. A major oversight a manager can make is to put in their order for new EVs and leave charging as an afterthought. There is evidently no one-size-fits-all for EV charging strategy, so the more time spent evaluating options and crunching numbers, the less challenges there will be to work through.
If you’re interested to learn more about electrification and helping fleets to get more value from their telematics data, schedule a demo with us.