We’re finally on the cusp of the EV revolution, after multiple starts and stops over the last 20 years. The industry is at the point where EVs are a feasible alternative to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles for both consumers and fleets. A major difference is in the infrastructure—you likely don’t worry about finding a gas station, but the same can’t be said for EV charging facilities. Consumers can mitigate range anxiety via route planning, public charging facilities, and the use of a home charger, but fleets have larger challenges that require proper project planning. Depot charging becomes an integral part of the solution and it’s not as simple as installing a few 220V outlets.
The good news is that EV infrastructure is growing at a rapid rate, and it will get a boost from the $7.5 billion allocated in the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law in November 2021. The goal is to add 500,000 public chargers to the existing numbers to spur more rapid EV adoption. In addition, the way fleets think about charging versus fueling has to change. The biggest source for EV charging is a fixed location, either at home or at work/depot. Fleets that utilize take-home vehicles will have to think about both, while vocational fleets will need to pay special attention to depot charging.
Fleets that have drivers who take their vehicles home should conduct driver assessments to gauge the suitability of assigning an EV to that individual. Items to be aware of include:
- Ability to install charging (own vs. rent, apartment vs. home, garage vs. street parking)
- Installation cost
- Incentives (utility, state, federal)
- Driving patterns
Fleets that will rely mostly on workplace/depot charging need to treat the installation process as a 12-18-month project, from the initial planning to flipping the switch. Departments that are not usually consulted in the fleet space—such as Facilities and HR—will need to be involved. There are a few facts that have to be known before the infrastructure project begins. Hopefully, a fleet knows how many vehicles it has. (Don’t laugh… phantom vehicles are a thing, especially in decentralized fleets.) Then, the determination of how many vehicles are to be initially electrified and the potential total at the end must be made. Finally, a fleet should know when to expect those EVs to enter service.
Now that’s settled, the next few items to be considered include:
- Site assessment
- Architectural and engineering design
- Permitting and construction
- Type and kilowatt rating of charging supported by the vehicle
- Are dedicated chargers needed?
- Will the charging infrastructure be dedicated to fleet vehicles or shared use (such as employee personal vehicles)?
- Estimated available charging time per vehicle per day
- Ongoing maintenance and repairs
- Necessity of extra transformers
- Does the utility have enough power to supply the facility?
- Load tests at peak demand
Fifty Class 8 trucks need 9 megawatts of power for full charging. What else needs the same amount of power per day? The Empire State Building. EV infrastructure will be a massive undertaking, no matter the size of the fleet. The transition won’t be seamless and there will be challenges for early adopters, but spending the time to properly plan for workplace charging will avoid larger headaches down the line. Ultimately, fleets aren’t able to do this alone. Solid partnerships and SMEs are integral to a successful implementation. Welcome to the rEVolution!