Just as the growing streams of data from electric vehicles help refine future models, the early adoption fleets are providing a trove of reality checks and pilot tests that can guide fleet managers pursuing EVs.
In a recent Charged Fleet webinar, Closing the Circuit on Electric Vehicle Planning & Implementation, Verizon Connect product strategy manager Steve Hemenway draws on his experience with telematics clients transitioning to electric vehicles.
The Verizon Connect sponsored webinar, which aired on Feb. 15, details the planning process of getting EVs into fleets and on the road, whether an operation is starting out or already has added EVs.
Here is a list of common questions related to costs and finances, internal review processes, daily logistics and oversight, maintenance, metrics, and more that Hemenway answered during his one-hour presentation.
What markers indicate that an EV surge is gaining momentum in the market?
- Double digit growth in EV sales in the headlines.
- More concerns about power demand.
- More battery production plants under construction.
- Net zero legislation or states influencing outcomes, such as promoting electric vehicles.
- More EV deadlines and policy requirements for fleet managers.
- Push for more profit and productivity in the commercial fleet space, with fleets setting up goals and milestones.
What new challenges and questions must fleet managers prepare for?
- One of the key considerations for fleet managers is how will you choose and order your electric vehicles?
- How will you upfit EVs and specialize them for the jobs and duties?
- How will you adapt your repair and maintenance service to handle EVs?
- How should you prepare your real estate for new garages, parking spaces, charging stations, and maintenance equipment?
- What communication program do you need for training, learning and development on a variety of topics, including not just the FAQs about EVs and what to expect, but new operations of vehicles and safety protocols.?
- What fleet policies related to driver operation, risk management, and vehicle usage should be revisited?
What are some of the points that fleet managers should consider around acquisition?
- Budget considerations: Investments, cost offsets, incentives, tax credits.
- How vehicles will be deployed: Jobs, duties, loads, types of transportation, special equipment vehicle modifications, traffic routing, geography, charging availability.
- “You need to revisit your acquisition specs and then find a comparable for those parameters,” Hemenway said. “Then you'll find you may need some modification along the way. It's not just about the delivery of the vehicle but getting everything set up on it and having your property outfitted for the job and readied for the work being planned.”
How does a fleet manager create an accurate cross-cost structure for EVs looking at specific factors and variables? What are some of the factors you think fleet managers should focus on to make sure they're getting the most value out of the EVs?
- Comparing acquisition costs of different EV models
- Cost benefit analysis
- Total cost of ownership metrics
- Maintenance costs and related service and support
- Transitional energy costs, from fuel, to hybrid, to electric
- Costs per mile
- Internal organizational changes
- Economic factors, such as labor and supply chain shortages
- Shared costs with other stakeholders in your organization
How do you find the best approaches when making an apples-to-apples comparisons with EVs and ICE vehicles?
Single screen or page views that show the dashboard metrics and cost matrixes of different vehicle types, based on telematics data reports.
What are some creative or new ways for fleets to find qualified technicians or at least devise their training?
Find emerging talent in your backyard. Identify common needs among fleets in your area. Collaborate with other fleet managers and/or mentors. Consider joining up with several other fleets to partner with a community college. Look for technology suppliers, utilities, dealerships, and/or OEMs that can offer technical expertise or talent.
After you've acquired the EVs, you have a cost structure in place, and you’ve projected your usage metrics, how should fleet managers prepare for the daily operation of EVs?
- Consider all parties involved, such as drivers, employees, customers, mechanics, supporters, in revising and updating practices.
- Set up a communication plan and standard operations program that covers safety protocols and the handling of vehicles.
- Get comments and feedback to identify any blinds spots in your electrification plans.
- Arrange a charging plan that everyone can access in real time and see what vehicles are charging where and when.
- Assess demand and power distribution within and outside of your operation to track changes in the power grid, energy rates, and available charging infrastructure.
- Update and upgrade your repair and maintenance shop and retool with new technology where necessary.
- Set up record systems to support the data and information linked to electric vehicles. Include records of suppliers and vendors and their support programs. Keep detailed records of training procedures and technician performance.
What are some of the daily differences in dispatching and routing of electric vehicles compared to those of ICE vehicles that fleet managers should prepare for?
- Make sure to accurately manage charging, ranges, and duty assignments, while factoring in traffic, terrain, and weather.
- “Fleet managers know all the curveballs in last-mile delivery scenarios,” Hemenway said. You just need to get your playbook out on those curveballs and figure out how to optimize for different scenarios.”
- Ask if you must add more charging locations, swap out electric vehicles, or assign EVs to different shifts?
- Devise maintenance checklists suited to electric vehicles, which may not require as many intervals as with ICE vehicles. But pay close attention to brakes and tire wear given the added weight of typical EV batteries, as well as the regenerative braking and battery quality.
What forks in the road to electrification do fleet managers need to navigate that change their roles and daily work routines?
- Choosing the best charging infrastructure and selecting and acquiring the right electric vehicles.
- Managing labor and hiring the right workers.
- Developing plans for emergency situations and setting up regular practice drills.
- Identifying power alternatives in the event of an extended electric grid outage.
What are some of the ways fleet managers can incorporate telematics for maximum advantage in their daily operations?
- Fleet managers should mine the relevant data about usage locations, starts and stops, mileage consumption, route tracking, maintenance checklists, and defect reporting. Organize the information for easiest access and viewing within the organization so different parties can filter at their fingertips the performance and diagnostic data they need.
- Real time monitoring of charging station access and reliability.
What are key points to understand in developing TCO and applying KPI benchmarks?
- Partner with the right vendors and companies that can help a fleet manager understand some of the key metrics, especially for TCO.
- Calculate or project the vehicle remarketing timetables and resale value after depreciation. Separate the initial capital investment versus the supporting residual investment.
- State government fleets can provide models and examples for TCO given that many of them are further along with electrification than most other types of fleets.
- Consult websites, tools, and resources such as electricfleet.org and the Electrification Coalition that have thorough and meaningful methods for TCO and KPI tracking.
- Leverage your telematics data from suppliers and vendors that can inform TCO and validate the assumptions behind the cost matrix you are building.
In preparing for the EV surge, what are the next steps for fleet managers as they look ahead?
- Retooling and making sure you have a good toolbox.
- Revisit and update your metrics dashboards.
- Develop key metrics and measurements for a mixed fleet that has fuel, hybrid, and electric vehicles at the same time.
- Make sure your electrification roadmap has a pilot program as a crucial first step.
- Regularly inform and update your electrification plan. Check that your assumptions are scalable, and your roadmap can not be hit by any curveballs.
- Remember the 4 Ps: Planning, piloting, procuring, performing. Update each step as new information emerges.
- Work with experienced partners and advisors who can add perspective to the 4 Ps. There are many experts, consultants, utility companies, and power people who can help you get to where you need to be and do some future proofing on the electrification plan.
- Use such partners in developing emergency plans and execute stress tests to gain perspective and share notes for improvement.
- Develop and integrate a solid safety program that includes tracking of vehicles, equipment, tools and other assets; dash cams, video, and AI technology.
What is the best structure in a fleet operation for reviewing and revising electrification plans?
- Hold regular advisory sessions with stakeholders and peers to gain additional views and advice to inform the plan and offer perspectives on all types of changes: Staff, operations, real estate, telematics, etc.
- Involve your finance team and local utilities to identify state and federal programs, incentives, credits, rebates, and best practices that are always updating and shifting so the fleet can save money long-term.
How do you find the balance between not moving too fast with electrification versus not being left behind either or constantly playing catch up?
Depending on an organization’s timing and mandates, fleet managers should structure workflows and deadlines that dictate the speed and pace of how to ramp up electrification. Commercial and public fleet operations may be under different expectations for profitability and productivity. Some operations will have more time than others to plan and phase in electric vehicles.
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