Five Key Questions to Answer When Converting Your Fleet to Electric

Read the 5 ‘critical questions’ that fleet operators seek to answer to simplify the complexity of fleet electrification and reduce challenges.

Fleet operators implementing electric vehicles or converting their fleet to electric need to untangle a chain of complexities to ensure that each deployment is successful and that operations are not impacted – a key concern for fleet operators with the mission of reliable service and resilient operations.  

Conversion of any fleet requires a systems thinking approach fixed in the interdependent elements that compose electric fleet planning and operations: routes and schedule, electric vehicle capabilities, charging equipment and charging schedule, infrastructure sizing, energy consumed and electricity cost, onsite energy options, and facility upgrades for both power and vehicle placement.  

Although complex, fleet operators and their advisors should consider these interdependencies and include them in zero emissions fleet transition plans. For example, vehicle and charger procurements should be made after charging schedules have been simulated and charging strategies have been optimized to minimize the associated costs. The scale and scope of electric vehicle deployments should be informed by the operating environment and existing infrastructure to support charging at the site, and match each deployment phase to necessary upgrades timely and cost-effectively. 

To simplify this complexity it is useful to reduce the challenges of electrification into 5 ‘critical questions’ that fleet operators seek to answer.  


1. Will electric vehicles serve my routes? Every route is different, and electric vehicle (EV) battery range can vary widely with temperature, terrain, payload, and driver habits. Vehicle original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) provide a typical mile range on a single battery charge, but often these numbers do not reflect the elements of steep terrain or cold and hot temperatures. EVopt modeling incorporates real-world factors – weather, terrain, payload – on a route-by-route basis to determine realistic EV energy consumption in kWh/mile. Such detailed modeling is key to assessing EV suitability and overcoming range anxiety to provide the fleet operator clarity about what portion of operations is electrifiable with today’s technology.

2. What size battery do I need?  Fleet operators are tasked to sort through a myriad of information to determine the vehicle battery size and charger power ratings that fit their operations in the short- and long-term. To answer this question EVopt uses route energy consumption to identify the minimum battery size necessary to complete each route over the projected vehicle lifetime. This provides the operator with confidence about what to buy, where to deploy, and when to shift older EVs with less battery capacity to shorter routes.  

3. What charger power do I need?  Like vehicle batteries, charger power ratings need to be specified for the operational schedule. More energy consumed during operations and shorter charging windows require higher power ratings, and less energy consumed and longer charging windows need only lower power chargers.  EVopt uses energy consumption and operating schedule to determine the minimum viable charger sizes to meet the required state of charge every day. A clear charging strategy in the near and long-term can significantly reduce the cost of the charging system. 

4. How much power and infrastructure upgrade is needed? Concerns about available power and timeframe for upgrades must be addressed right up front to avoid the mismatch of when vehicles arrive and when charging systems are installed. To support electrical system evaluation and utility engagement EVopt calculates the power required at each facility and illustrates peak power reduction under a managed charging scenario. With both options in hand the fleet operator and their utility can evaluate existing infrastructure, and if/when and what capacity is needed at each site. 

5. Why is connecting a short- and long-term plan necessary? Fleet electrification can be overwhelming with the changes associated with transitioning to electricity for vehicles and facilities. Clarifying what needs to be considered and implemented today, or over the horizon, allows fleet operators, their engineering firm, and their utility provider to focus on what matters for successful deployments and to have a line of site to when other considerations are necessary. At MGL we think in phased deployments based on the overall system and fleet transition timing, and designed EVopt to be used for multiple scenarios and depots to generate the right answers for the right time. Using a systems design approach that naturally optimizes vehicles, chargers, and infrastructure sizing, capital costs are minimized and deployment plans are derisked. Whether you are a fleet operator, energy advisor, or utility provider, answering the right questions for the right timing can significantly reduce the complexity in fleet electrification, procurement, and deploying electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. 

System-level Answers Realistic and comprehensive fleet modeling answers near-term questions based on long-term considerations, and a plan that connects these two endpoints supports stakeholder engagement, budgeting, grant writing, and of course design/procure/build.


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Upcoming Virtual Event

Fleet Electrification 101: Modeling & Cost Analysis

September 9, 2021  – All Day Virtual Event

Learn how to electrify your fleets at EUCI’s virtual course, Fleet Electrification: Modeling & Cost Analysis, featuring the Microgrid Labs team and other leading electrification experts.