How to Choose a Plug-in Electric Vehicle for Your Fleet

July 23, 2020

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Key Takeaways

Implementing PEVs can financially and operationally benefit your fleet. Telematic solutions can optimize efficiency by combating range anxiety and charging concerns and lower costs with increased fuel efficiency.

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) are becoming increasingly prevalent for both industrial and personal purposes. Leading automotive manufacturers such as Tesla, Nissan, and Chevrolet have increased the production of PEVs due to its popularity and the various benefits electric motors offer. The appeal of PEVs includes various positive implications for buyers, such as relevant tax credit and fuel efficiency. Many fleet managers have also discovered that implementing electric vehicles in their fleet and eliminating dependence on gasoline engine vehicles can improve their operational efficiency.

This article elaborates on both the benefits and drawbacks of electric vehicles. It also includes recommendations for fleet management telematics solutions to maximize the return on your PEVs.

What is a plug-in electric vehicle?

Plug-in electric vehicles are fully or partially fueled by electricity. Battery-powered electric vehicles use electricity as an alternative fuel source to gasoline. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles combine both fuel sources to reduce reliance on gasoline. Power is obtained through fast chargers and stored in large battery packs. These battery packs serve as an alternative to the liquid fuel that generic internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles use.  PEVs are desirable because they produce little to no tailpipe emissions. Besides accumulating power through charging sessions, PEVs can harness regenerative braking power, which transforms the kinetic energy generated when braking, into potential energy stored in the vehicle’s battery pack. There are two types of plug-in electric vehicles:

Battery electric vehicles (BEVs): 

Battery electric vehicles rely solely on electric power obtained from a charging infrastructure. Powered by large, rechargeable battery packs, they do not require any form of liquid fuel for propulsion. The capacity of its battery restricts the driving range of a BEV. Some possess the capability to travel over 350 miles on a single charge.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)s: 

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles run on both electric power accumulated through charging sessions and liquid fuel. A PHEV is powered exclusively by its battery pack until the charge diminishes.The vehicle will then use its internal combustion engine . PHEVs can be desirable compared to BEVs due to their extended driving range. 

What are the benefits of a PEV for your fleet? 

Adding electric vehicles to a fleet is both economically and environmentally advantageous. Integrating PEVs in industrial operations can optimize a fleet's efficiency, safety, and reliability. Some fundamental benefits are:

Tax credits 

The United States federal government is providing an incentive  federal tax credit to individuals who purchase electric cars to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Depending on the vehicle’s size and battery capacity, these tax rebates range from $2,500 to $7,500 for each new PEV purchased.

Reduced environmental footprint 

The transportation sector currently contributes to approximately one-fourth of the United States’ carbon emissions. Since electric cars do not rely on fossil fuels or produce tailpipe emissions, they are directly associated with enhanced air quality and environmental sustainability.

Reduced operational and maintenance costs 

Diminishing your fleet’s dependence on gasoline-powered vehicles can significantly reduce operational expenses. A plug-in electric car’s fuel economy surpasses that of an ICE vehicle with comparable miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe) at a much lower cost. The US Department of Energy reports that internal combustion engine-powered vehicle owners allocate $160-$200 per month to gasoline consumption. PHEVs only require an energy cost of about $50-$80 per month. Also, owners of PEVs spend about one-third as much as ICE vehicle owners on repairing systematic malfunctions. Since PEVs have fewer moving parts (no carburetor or exhaust system), their maintenance costs are lower.

Data transparency 

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are compatible with various monitoring features, enabling fleet visibility over a unified platform. Telematic solutions offer insight into variables such as battery life and real-time charging status, in addition to optimizing route planning to consider the nearest charging stations.

Vehicle safety 

Plug-in vehicle designs are safer compared to ICE vehicles, due to its lithium-ion batteries. This power source is less flammable than traditional gasoline, minimizing the impact of detrimental accidents or vehicle complications. PEVs are also less dense than gasoline-powered vehicles, decreasing their likelihood of overturning in case of a collision.  

What are the challenges of adopting PEVs? 

Despite the many benefits electric vehicles offer, you may be apprehensive about including PEVs in your fleet. Concerns such as range anxiety and charging needs are often prominent factors impeding the decision to equip a fleet with PEVs. Here are a few of these drawbacks:

Range anxiety 

The primary worry regarding electric vehicles is that they cannot reach their intended destination with a single charge.  There’s also concern that a sufficient charging point will not be reachable along the route. 

Adjusting driver behavior

Adopting EVs will require a bit of change management, necessitating drivers adjust their behavior. Drivers unaccustomed to EVs might forget to stop and charge in time, putting themselves at risk of being unable to complete their job.  

Because of this, planning is even more essential for an EV fleet. Access to data points such as state of charge, nearby charging stations, or driver HOS status are essential to ensure every EV in your fleet can make it to a charging station.

Since EVs can take over eight hours to fully charge, drivers should take care to charge vehicles overnight to save on electricity costs and ensure vehicles are plugged in after routes are complete. Fleet managers can save on costs and increase the road time for their EVs with this simple adjustment. 

Installing a charging station:

Commercial EV charging stations are classified by charging levels or charging speeds. There are three levels of charging speeds: 

  1. Level 1: 3-5 miles of travel per hour of charging time. EV drivers receive a basic level 1 plug that connects an EV to a typical 110V wall outlet in a home. 

  2. Level 2: 12-40 miles of travel per hour of charging time. This is the standard EV charging rate at commercial stations. 

  3. Level 3: 35-100 miles of travel per hour of charging time. This is the fastest charging level and consequently, requires more energy and expenses to install. It is also worth noting that not all EVs are compatible with this charger. 

A big concern with installing EV charging stations is cost. The installation cost is affected by factors such as available electrical service, site location, data connectivity, materials, labor, permits, and taxes. In order to get a quote on the installation costs of an EV charging station, reach out to an electrical contractor. To lower the cost of installing a charging station, take advantage of available EV charging rebates or grants

Slow charge speed 

Charging duration can vary from 30 minutes to over 12 hours. A typical electric car with a 60 kWh battery takes under 8 hours to fully charge with a 7kW charging point. Some factors that affect the time to charge an electric vehicle include:

  1. Battery size: The larger your vehicle’s battery capacity (measured in kWh), the longer it will take to charge.

  2. State of battery: If you are charging your vehicle from empty, it will take longer to charge than if you are topping up from 50%.

  3. Max charging rate of vehicle: You can only charge a vehicle’s battery at the maximum charge rate the vehicle can accept. For example, if your vehicle’s max charge rate is 7 kW, charging will not speed up by using a 22 kW charge point.

  4. Max charging rate of chargepoint: The time to charge will also be limited by the max charging rate of the charge point used. For example, even if your vehicle can charge at 11kW, it will only charge at 7kW on a 7kW charge point.

  5. Environmental factors: A colder ambient temperature can increase charging time, particularly when using a rapid charger. Colder temperatures also mean vehicles are less efficient, so less miles are added per time charging.

What PEVs are available in the market?

While all-electric vehicles yield similar benefits, each model possesses variant features, including differences in power output and driving range. These two variables are the dominant features buyers consider when comparing specific models. Some leading PEV models are listed below.

  • Chevrolet Volt: Compared to the Chevrolet Bolt, this model has a relatively short range of 53 miles battery-only. It has a battery capacity of 18.4 kWh, but it is still viewed as an economically efficient compact PHEV.

  • Ford Fusion Energi: Featuring a four-cylinder engine and electric motor, the Ford Fusion Energi can travel 26 miles battery-only and 610 miles total. The plug-in hybrid vehicle is powered by a 9 kWh battery, attributing to an electric range shorter than many other models available on the market. 

  • Toyota Mirai: Unlike most other PEV models on the market, the Toyota Mirai functions as a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV). Hydrogen powers this vehicle and it emits only water vapor into the atmosphere. This model possesses a 32.3 gallon fuel tank capacity.

  • Chevrolet Bolt EV: With a 66 kWh battery and a 259-mile range, the Chevy Bolt EV is an electric hatchback that offers a regenerative-braking paddle. The electric car operates as a PHEV that is desirable due to its affordable price.

  • Nissan Leaf SV: One of the most popular BEV models available on the market, the Nissan Leaf SV is powered by a 40 kWh battery and can reach 150 miles on a single charge. It possesses an mpg equivalent of 123 in the city and 99 on the highway. With a compact build and reasonable price, this model is often desirable.

  • Chrysler Pacifica: This hybrid minivan can travel 33 miles on a single battery charge and possesses an efficient fuel economy for its size. It operates on a 16 kWh 360 V lithium-ion battery pack.

  • Tesla Model X: Tesla has largely paved electric automobile innovation, and the Model X reflects these strides with a battery-only range of 351 miles. The SUV incorporates a 100 kWh battery and is constructed to optimize safety.

  • Hyundai Ioniq EV: With a city/highway combined rating of 58 mpg, the Hyundai Ioniq EV is considered one of the most fuel-efficient PEV models on the market. Powered by a 38.3 kWh battery, the 2020 model boasts a range of 170 miles.

  • Tesla Model 3: A75 kWh battery powers this sedan, and the Long Range model can reach up to 322 miles on a single charge. However, the Performance model  may be desirable due to its ability to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. At 220 V, it takes 8.5 to 10 hours to gain a full charge, designating it as a top contender for fastest charging time.

  • Audi E-Tron: The Audi E-Tron has a battery range of 204 miles and is able to get 54 miles of range with a 10 minute charge at a high-speed public charger. 

  • BMW i3 REx: This PHEV model’s 42.2 battery corresponds to a 153-mile battery-only driving range. This car can travel 200 miles total based on a single fueling session. 

  • Honda Clarity: The Clarity has a fuel economy of 126 city and 103 highway and a battery-powered range of 89 miles. This medium-sized car utilizes a 25.5 kWh battery.

How fleet management solutions help you maximize the return on your PEVs 

Concerns such as range anxiety, charging speed and adopting new habits are understandable when adopting PEVs, but utilizing telematics to monitor your fleet can combat these issues. Some monitoring solutions are listed below.

State of charge reporting 

Companies like Samsara offer State of Charge Reports that help monitor historical charging trends and allows you to easily monitor charging status to determine if your PEVs are plugged in and charging.

And, EV State of Charge Alerts will notify a fleet manager if the state of charge falls below a particular custom threshold. This helps managers can route the PEV to the closest charging station. 

A telematics solution, like Samsara, can offer PEV owners information such as: 

  • Charging status and alerts for complete visibility 

  • Notifications of low battery levels 

  • Insights into fuel and energy levels

  • Assessment of vehicle performance

  • Visibility into battery health 

  • Notification when charging is complete and battery is full

Charge station maps

The charge station map overlay that Samsara offers information about nearby charging stations. This can benefit fleets by improving route planning and reducing the costs of charging during peak hours. Data relevant to each PEV is also easily accessible, enabling visibility to ensure each driver is managing fuel usage. 

Adopting electric vehicles 

Deciding to invest in electrictrifying your fleet or adding EVs to your fleet is a big decision. Fleet managers must make sure they have all of the data needed to make electrification decisions that will impact both the environment and your bottom line. 

The Fleet Electrification Report divulges which vehicles will operate most effectively when replaced with a PEV and yield positive outcomes, such as reduced costs and carbon emissions. The report analyzes multiple variables to determine which vehicles are most appropriate for electrification, including:

  • Mileage: Vehicles that have accumulated a considerable amount of miles are prime candidates for electrification.

  • Average electric range: Some modern PEV models can travel 200 miles on a single charge. The Fleet Electrification Report promotes vehicles that will fit in your desired driving range. This feature relieves the concern of potential range anxiety. 

  • Fuel efficiency: Fuel economy can often be optimized by implementing electric vehicles, ultimately benefiting finances.

  • Projected annual fuel savings: This feature illuminates the savings investing in a PEV earns,compared to the cost of fueling a corresponding ICE vehicle.

  • Projected annual emissions saved: From an environmental standpoint, the report also showcases the reduction in your carbon footprint by divulging the carbon emissions saved by replacing an ICE vehicle with a PEV. 

Full visibility into operations

The Samara Fleet Management Platform enables you to monitor battery health and facilitate optimal fleet performance. This unified system integrates cellular gateways, wireless sensors, dash cameras, and a convenient driver app to ensure optimal efficiency. Applying this platform with the adoption of plug-in electric vehicles, has resulted in various benefits for customers. The Dohrn Transfer Company experienced a 50% reduction in vehicle idling, Cash-Wa Distributing had 30% fewer claim payouts, and Moore Food Distributors saved $250k in costs from avoided accidents for customers.

Maximize the return on your PEVs with Samsara

Ultimately, the decision to integrate PEVs into your operations is one that will prepare your fleet for the future. In addition to diminishing carbon emissions and improving fuel economy, the integration of PEVs is cost effective. Potential range anxiety or charging complications can be simplified with the implementation of Samsara monitoring telematics, allowing the transition to PEVs for your fleet to be thoroughly beneficial. 

To learn more about how to build an electrification strategy for your fleet, download this guide so you can get the best return for your investment. 

If you are interested in trying Samsara for the first time, request a free trial today. 

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