In its commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2040, Schindler Elevator Corporation has identified fleet electrification as a key component of its sustainability strategy and is collaborating with Holman, the company’s fleet management provider, to transform these EVs into vocational workhorses.
“This is a pretty big commitment for a company our size,” says Gibran Lehmkuhl, head of purchasing and mobility for Schindler Elevator Corporation. “Once you commit to that, you need to deliver. That’s what we’re working on a lot right now to make sure that we are ready to deliver by that deadline.”
Schindler Elevator Corporation is the North American division of the Switzerland-based Schindler Group, a global manufacturer of elevators, escalators, and moving walks. It has 6,000 employees in more than 160 locations in North America.
In a recent video episode of Fleet Momentum, Lehmkuhl shared the plans for his company’s fleet electrification, and Ted Davis, senior vice president and chief operating officer, manufacturing and distribution for Holman, discussed how the fleet management company helps clients to maximize the potential of these commercial vehicles, particularly as it relates to customizing and upfitting.
Fleet Electrification Initiatives
One of the initiatives at Schindler is rightsizing the fleet to help reduce carbon emissions, says Lehmkuhl, who manages a fleet of approximately 4,000 vehicles. In its goal of transitioning towards a net zero emissions fleet, the company had roughly 100 EVs in 2022, and that number is expected to more than double by end of this year.
Schindler is part of the Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance (CEVA), a collaborative group of companies whose main goal is to accelerate the transition to EVs. “We are pioneers in the elevator industry in terms of fleet electrification,” says Lehmkuhl.
In weighing the fleet needs against the capabilities of EV models offered in the marketplace, Schindler considers multiple factors such as the safety of its drivers, the efficiency, the varying demands of its business, and the need to evolve along with changes in the EV marketplace.
There have been recent changes in the small- and medium-sized van market, as a few models have been discontinued, such as the Mercedes Metris, Ram ProMaster City, and Ford Transit Connect.
The elevator services company recently partnered with Canoo, which has introduced “a very unique, head-turning vehicle in terms of design,” says Lehmkuhl. “They came to us and they listened to our needs. They dissected one of our vehicles trying to understand our needs on the vehicle.”
Schindler expects delivery of approximately 50 Canoo EV vans by end of this year.
Long-standing Partnership with Holman
Equally important in Schindler’s electrification transition is its partnership with Holman, a global automotive services organization. As an established partner of Schindler, Holman knows and understands the needs of the company’s fleet, says Lehmkuhl.
Lehmkuhl says, “That kind of understanding, both from the business side and from the technical standpoint, is really crucial to make sure that we are going to have the right product on the road in this transition and have the right upfitting for the vehicle. That relationship we have is very open to the point that they make suggestions, challenge us, and share expertise and experiences. We learn from each other. It’s a real partnership.”
Fitting EVs into Their Duty Cycles
Holman examines “a larger set of data from a client operating standpoint to make some immediate determinations about where EVs fit into the fleet,” says Davis.
With the data, Holman will look at the range that the vehicle needs to operate in a standard duty cycle, the payload it needs to carry, and the conditions it’s going to operate in, such as geography and weather, he says.
It’s also crucial to know where the vehicle will be stationed at night, whether at a central location where it can be charged on a regular basis or at the driver’s home, says Davis.
“From all that information, we can really start to make recommendations about the appropriate insertion points of where EVs make sense when you compare it to the needs of a fleet and, ultimately, the needs of the operator to do their job,” he says.
Key Considerations Regarding EV Upfits
When upfitting a commercial EV, Davis says it starts with understanding what the operator’s needs are from the vehicle, and how the needed functionality can be provided without reducing the EV’s effectiveness. “If you suck out all the life of the EV to run ancillary tools or equipment, you take away from its value.”
Holman looks at two important factors. One is weight management of the upfit, taking into consideration that EV batteries contribute a significant amount of the overall gross vehicle weight (GVW), says Davis. “With new EV upfits, there’s a greater lens on component weight and durability. This helps with range but also ensures compliance with federal regulations and state regulations with weight.”
Another factor Holman looks at is how to power tools and other accessories. With internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, you can run equipment such as generators and air compressors off the vehicle. However, EVs need a different approach.
“We could tap into the EV itself to power these items but then you begin to sacrifice battery range and performance,” said Davis. Instead, oftentimes what we’re doing is making alternative recommendations for supplemental power sources that we can add to the vehicle that support those accessory components and don’t take away from things like range. And then it’s really about where to drill, where not to drill, and how new mounting options play into getting upfit into the vehicle without damaging the critical component.”
A Broad Range of Automotive Services
Holman doesn’t just offer fleet management solutions, as its comprehensive portfolio also includes upfitting and upstream manufacturing, says Davis.
Having a large staff of engineers within its business allows the company the opportunity to collaborate with OEMs regularly, says Davis. It also gives Holman an early insight into new products that are being developed, such as Canoo EVs, or different aspects such as 3D modeling, wiring diagrams, and overall vehicle documents from a design perspective, he adds. “When we have that ability to get early visibility, we can then start to modify our current components or develop innovative new components that fit into unique spaces like the Canoo van itself.”
Davis notes the importance of a tri-party partnership between Schindler, OEMs, and Holman. “When the three of us put our heads together, we can take what started out as new ideas and turn them into a functional reality that can go out to work and complete a job.”