If you've been hesitant to integrate EVs into your fleet — and haven't yet due to a lack of charging locations, you're not alone — but some recent developments may soon change your mind.
As of late 2021, there were just 109,307 charger ports across the U.S., which is the equivalent of about 14 EVs to each port. For fleets operating in parts of North America where charging ports are scarce, this has made integrating EVs into their fleets much less pervasive The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) says charging infrastructure has been identified as one of the biggest unknowns and sources of anxiety for fleets.
Fortunately, port scarcity is being addressed on multiple fronts.
In late September, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it had approved EV charging station plans for all 50 states, including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. The plan would cover roughly 75,000 miles of highways, a major upgrade to the current availability of charging stations, especially in states where charging stations are scarce.
“While this doesn’t solve every challenge that EVs pose for fleet operators, it is a major step in a positive direction,” said Dain Giesie, assistant vice president, Enterprise Fleet Management. “More charging stations make EVs more viable for fleets and reduce the need to plan routes that may be longer or less efficient just for the sake of finding reliable chances to recharge.”
Steps in the Right Direction
So, what does this development mean for fleet operators?
First, it represents an investment that would cover almost 47% of our nation's more than 160,000 miles of federal and state highways as indicated by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. And while this will leave the majority of America's highways without reliable access to EV charging stations, it's a significant step in the right direction — but it's hardly the only recent step toward making EVs a better option for fleet operators.
Earlier this year, $5 billion was allocated by the Biden administration to fund electric vehicle chargers over five years as part of the administration's bipartisan infrastructure package. The bill was announced by the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Energy in February of this year. A component of this allocation is guidance designed to help states build EV charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors. Meanwhile, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program, a separate federal initiative, will provide funding to states for deploying EV charging stations and establishing an "interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability." This funding is available to cover up to 80% of eligible project costs, including installation, operation, and maintenance of EV charging stations.
All told, these initiatives aim to make long-distance highway travel by EVs easier and more reliable in the coming years — but fleet operators shouldn't expect to see major changes overnight.
“Fleet operators may want to take a long-term approach here,” Giesie noted. “In other words, be patient. Change is coming, and these changes should make EVs even more viable for fleets. But these changes are also incremental and require planning and coordination between national, state, and local bodies. That’s not something we can rush — but that may work in a fleet’s favor. After all, it provides more time to plan and think strategically about the role EVs can and will play in the near future.”
The Need for Long-Term Strategic Thinking
Obviously, building a massive network of EV charging stations is a serious undertaking and one that will likely include delays, challenges, and the usual hurdles encountered with undertakings of this scale. So, there won't be charging stations at every off-ramp next week or even next year, but there is cause for operators to start thinking now about how they'll integrate EVs into their fleets within the next decade.
Why? Aside from the benefits of reduced auto emissions — which make up 27% of all U.S. emissions — there are laws and consumer sentiment to consider. California, for example, America's most populous state and a major hub for automotive fleets, recently banned the sale of new gas-powered vehicles starting in 2035, according to an executive order by Governor Gavin Newsom. And while it's the only state to take such sweeping measures to date, it might not be the only one to implement such measures in the coming years. In fact, Nevada could be next, and 15 other states — including population centers like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania — have also adopted California's low-emission vehicle standards.
Meanwhile, as consumers' concerns about emissions and the environment grow, so will their expectations for fleet operators. According to Argonne National Laboratory, which reports on the sale of hybrid and electric vehicles, in September 2022, hybrid electric vehicle sales rose almost 5% compared to the previous September, while plug-in electric vehicle sales rose more than 42% during the same period. That's a notable sign that consumers are coming around to EVs' viability and the impact they can have on our environment. And ignoring EVs might not be a viable option for fleet operators in the coming decade.
“Consumers are long past the point when they viewed EVs as novelties,” Giesie said. “They’re seeing more of them on the roads every day, and they know that EVs have, at least to some extent, a real role to play in the future of transportation.
Where We Go from Here
While there's no need for immediate action for everyone, fleet operators can start making plans today to evaluate the opportunity for integrating EVs into their existing fleets. While there is quite a lot to be considered, from financial, infrastructure, mechanical, and other constraints – one approach would be to begin replacing existing vehicles with EVs as those vehicles reach the natural ends of their service lives – but that's only a viable strategy for operators that plan to make this change a gradual one.
“There's plenty of time to do it smartly and strategically — if operators start planning for EV integration today and seek out the right partners while doing so,” Giesie emphasized. “Enterprise Fleet Management, for example, is committed to bringing forward solutions that put our client’s business needs first, while making investments in our capabilities to be able to support the transition to electrification. We're proud to partner with organizations and businesses both small and large as they begin planning to incorporate EVs into their fleets.”