With recent announcements by California and New Jersey to ban the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035 in favor of electric vehicles (EVs), the alternative-fuel future may seem set.
But as any forward-looking fleet manager will tell you, buying electric vehicles is easy; charging them is the hard part.
A Tough Choice
It’s the classic chicken-and-egg problem: Do you buy the EVs first and worry about the charging infrastructure after the fact, or build the infrastructure out first to anticipate the acquisition of EVs?
This is a question not confined to an individual fleet, but to the entire fleet industry, and even society itself. Having easy, accessible ways to charge vehicles is one way to beat range anxiety among drivers — which still exists even with vehicle ranges meeting or even exceeding internal combustion engine (ICE) models — and pique or meet driver demand for these vehicles.
Building Out the Infrastructure
For centralized, fixed route fleets, charging infrastructure is rather straightforward and typically follows a formula, which their OEMs or fleet management companies (FMCs) can help calculate, of “X” number of chargers per “Y” number of vehicles. Then, there is a clear-cut journey of permitting, construction, and implementation to create the infrastructure these centrally garaged vehicles will need to stay fully charged and on the road.
But for dispersed fleets, the infrastructure answer is more complex and multifaceted. For example, for companies with fleet drivers in Southern California, providing charging options could be difficult, since most individuals live in apartments or condos. To answer that problem, Southern California Edison has implemented a program to increase the numbers of charging units for existing and new multifamily apartments and condos, and at workplaces, parking lots, schools, hospitals, and destination centers.
While ready access at home and in public places will make charging more convenient, setting it up to be widespread will solve range anxiety.
For example, Electrify America has recently completed a cross-country installation of DC fast chargers every 70 miles from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., along interstates 15 and 70. A far southern route between Jacksonville, Fla., and San Diego, Calif., is also planned for the near future. With this type of installation, fast-charging stations — which require about the same time to “fuel” as a traditional gasoline pump —will transform the process and experience of operating an EV to that of an ICE.
For those fleets that need portable charging, there are options to provide as a solution especially if the driver will have little to no access to a reliable charging outlet during a long journey or in an area without infrastructure, resembling the early days of ICE vehicles when drivers had to haul their own fuel.
Another short-term option for areas with less access to charging stations is to equip those drivers with a hybrid or range extender instead of a battery electric vehicle, giving them a fall-back option to readily available gasoline.
While still complicated, it is possible to develop a successful, workable solution for a dispersed fleet.
Key to Adoption: Planning Ahead
Success lies in planning ahead, which involves having a comprehensive, long-term electrification strategy.
Your OEM and FMC will be close allies in helping you find an EV acquisition approach that reflects both the availability of a public charging infrastructure and installing charging stations at your drivers’ residences — whether single-family homes or apartments or condos.
Your OEM and FMC could help advise you on how to navigate local laws related to installation and/or how to secure grants or rebates that would partially offset the cost of setting up charging stations.
While it may not be a guarantee, all signs point to electrification reaching a tipping point sooner rather than later. Finding the answer to your own chicken-and-egg problem with a plan to charge your dispersed fleet will help ease the transition and enable you to stay productive.