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    Fleet Electrification: First Steps for Fleets Transitioning to Electric Vehicles

    By Juliane Ding & Samantha Breaux, LCF Interns

    There are many reasons why a business or government agency may be interested in adding EVs to their fleets, such as reaching sustainability goals, lowering maintenance costs, or reducing fueling costs. Fleet electrification, however, takes a lot of thought, and details of the planning process are often overlooked when fleets look to transition. From planning and constructing the charging infrastructure to operating impacts and vehicle replacements, this article will share advice from experts on how to take your first steps towards fleet electrification. 

    For more tips on planning, check out Louisiana Clean Fuels’ online webinar First Steps for Fleets Interested in EVs (Fleet Electrification Pt. 2) featuring guest speakers Mary Till, Director of Business Development at Sawatch Labs, and Robert Mowat, Transportation Mobility Electrified Lead at HDR. Some of their advice will be shared throughout this article.

    The Basics

    With rising greenhouse gas emissions becoming a local, national, and global issue, electrification of fleets is one of the most direct methods that a fleet can adopt to help lower their company emissions, reach sustainability goals, and lower costs. Apart from these benefits, less maintenance and quiet operation can also improve driver quality of life. 

    However, adding one or two light duty vehicles to your fleet is a lot easier than adding a dozen medium or heavy-duty EVs or transitioning the entire fleet. According to Mowat, challenges may include operation feasibility, construction requirements, power demand, charging strategy, and capital costs. Fleets should consider these and other potential obstacles as they begin to research and plan for fleet electrification. 

    Planning Ahead

    As a Clean Cities Coalition, Louisiana Clean Fuels is here to help you get started as you look to tackle your own sustainability and clean transportation goals. Learning what questions to ask, how to engage with utility partners, and how telematics data can help your fleet are just the first steps in planning for fleet electrification. Our webinar series on fleet electrification is a great place to get even more information after reading this article. 

    There are various ways to begin electrifying your fleet, with various possible approaches to development, testing, and research. Mowat suggests taking a phased approach in which more advanced technologies and opportunities over time allow your fleet to gradually become more electric. Trying to jump right into electrification can lead to common industry problems such as lack of space for charging infrastructure, purchasing the wrong equipment, or vehicles being unable to meet route requirements. Thus, he recommends three guiding principles: ‘Idea to Implementation’, ‘First Things First’, and ‘Data-Driven Decisions’. 

    • Idea to Implementation: Emphasizes finding partnerships and experts to help guide your electrification project from start to finish. Lay out your scope and stay focused on the overall solution with each step you take. 
    • First Things First: Part of the planning process. Laying out a solid foundation and clear roadmap is vital to successful electrification projects. “The key for us is to do the first things first: really look at what’s going on and where you need to be,” Robert says. 
    • Data-Driven Decisions: Can help you understand your operational fleet data and make the most sustainable decisions for your company. One way to do this is using telematics data.



    Using Telematics to Plan

    An important planning tool for the project to be executed properly is telematics data. A fleet can use telematics data from their existing fleet to help them decide which vehicles and routes will be best for electrification. Some of the data available from telematics includes vehicle location, fuel consumption, and much more (see Table 1). “We can do sensitivity analysis for fleets,” says Till. “For example, if we’re talking about an eight-year life span on vehicles, there are many other variables that can change. Total cost of ownership can be impacted by vehicle purchase price and gas prices.” The chart below contains more detailed information on what data telematics and Sawatch Analytics can provide for your fleet.

    Table 1 includes examples of the type of vehicle information from telematics that can be used to help you plan your EV fleet project. Sawatch Labs takes telematics to the next level; providing a deeper analysis of your fleet.

    There are many other considerations when planning to add EVs to your fleet. Average charge time and power requirements of your vehicles must be considered along with the importance of identifying charging and infrastructure needs. Addressing these needs may include multiple things, including the consideration of the energy requirements for various types of vehicles within the fleet. However, analyses from telematics data provide a great starting point for companies looking to go electric or optimize current operations.

    Partnerships

    Types of partners to consider in your process should include third-party specialty groups, internal resources, technology suppliers, advocacy groups, peer groups, utility groups, government entities, and your local Clean Cities Coalition. “Again, these are pieces of the puzzle: getting those eight or nine essential partner groups,” Mowat explains. “An example of a partner group’s service is...where someone looks at your whole operation and does an analysis of what your fleet will need including power demand, utilities, facilities, and what can be done to improve your EVSE.”

    To get the most out of your partnerships, you’ll need to define clear goals, whether they are financial or sustainability goals. Each partner will be able to assist your process in different ways. For instance, external and internal funding can be looked at from governmental, municipal, and third-party sources. Peer organizations are a great place to start for lessons learned or personal recommendations. Louisiana Clean Fuels or your local Clean Cities coalition will be there every step of the way to assist in planning, finding funds, educating employees, and ensuring your transition will help you reach your company goals. 

    As you start thinking about your electrification goals, be sure to reach out and continue learning about the process. Adding EVs to your fleet can be a daunting task, but it can easily be tackled by addressing the challenges, planning ahead, and reaching out for information. As Till says, “There are people who have started to clear the forest and start[ed] looking for what needs to be done as we go forward. Start the conversation, engage partners, and start building your network.”

    Hear more from Mary Till and Robert Mowat about fleet electrification in our recorded webinar, First Steps for Fleets Interested in EVs. This webinar covers the things to consider when making the decision to try EVs, fleet analysis and EV Suitability of your fleet, utilizing data and telematics to inform your EV procurement decisions, along with understanding the new networks and types of partnerships you will need.

    Learn more about EV implementation here: https://afdc.energy.gov/files/pdfs/pev_handbook.pdf

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