Electric vehicles are still being talked about as cutting edge technology, suitable only for early adopters. Just look at the coverage Tesla’s first electrified truck received in November 2017 – feted for its 500-mile range, it also boasts semi-autonomous driving features.
But alongside the awestruck news reporting there is a quiet revolution taking place fuelled by several countries, including the UK, Norway, the Netherlands, France and Germany, looking at legislation that will ban petrol or diesel cars and vans from 2040.
Numerous vehicle manufacturers are pledging to become fully electrified (this includes petrol hybrid models) by then – the Volvo Car Group is beginning even earlier in 2019.
The Swedish car manufacturer will be joined by Jaguar Land Rover in 2020, Volkswagen, Aston Martin and others by 2025, according to the National Geographic .
But vehicle manufacturers are only one part of the puzzle. Parts, servicing and, above all, charging all make up part of an entirely new infrastructure needed to make electric transportation feasible.
The need for infrastructure is critical when it comes to fleet. With tight schedules and dependability both ultimate success factors, fleet managers have to be certain that an electrified fleet can perform at the same levels as its fossil-fuelled forebears.
Range anxiety is one of the greatest concerns. For most domestic driving and urban fleets, charging can be done at home or at a fleet base, but for longer haul fleets, effective range becomes an issue.
Electric charging may only be a fraction of the cost of a petrol or diesel fill-up, but the latter takes a fraction of the time. Superfast chargers are already available at service stations worldwide but even then, 30 minutes is the standard wait time.
That said, there are two elements in the EV driver’s favour. Firstly, the range EVs can travel on a single charge is growing almost exponentially. Early personal use EVs had around 100 miles per charge; the more expensive Tesla brand took this up to 300miles.
The latest Tesla Roadster claims to be able to achieve 620 miles on a single charge. Its $200,000 price tag puts it out of reach of fleets with even the deepest pockets, but as with most of today’s cutting edge technology, cycles from outlier to mainstream are getting shorter all the time.
While fleet managers wait for a 600+ mile vehicle to become accessible, mileage management becomes the order of the day. By making use of tools and techniques all widely used in standard fuel economy today, EVs can become a reality in fleet.
Smart routing: Plan routes to maximise charge efficiency. Incorporate data including hills, heavy traffic, accessible charging points. Adjust for weather conditions – extreme hot and cold will increase the use of air conditioning.
Smart driving: Using telematics to improve smooth driving techniques is commonplace in standard fuel economy. The same tactics apply in EVs – defensive driving including avoiding sharp braking, acceleration, labouring or speeding and maintaining a constant speed in the right gear.
Smart loading: Weight is a big consideration when using energy. Driving the least distance with the heaviest load is key. This should be matched with route efficiency (above) to gain the best distance/energy burn ratio. Telematics data and modelling along with real time traffic information will provide maximum insight.
Smart scheduling: It is unlikely that technology will advance beyond the 30-minute superfast charge in the near future, however the wait time can be maximised by incorporating a charge into lunch breaks and rest points. Use a service station finder and incorporate the data into routing software. Driver fuel apps can also pinpoint the closest station with charge points for convenient, spontaneous charging.
As demand for EVs increases, the need to find suitable charging points will also grow. Smart scheduling and route planning using all the tools – telematics, mapping apps, service station finders – available will allow fleet managers to get the maximum range and efficiency from their current EV fleet.