Beyond the technological advancements considering vehicles running on unleaded gasoline or diesel, alternative-fueling technologies still very much have a place in the fleet space and are continuing to see technological advancements as well.
Whether in helping to reach corporate sustainability goals or reducing their overall carbon footprint, fleets are finding applicability that makes alt-fuel vehicles essential for their business. Not only that, but several automakers have announced initiatives to move heavily into vehicle electrification. So, for some fleets, it may not be a case of “if” but “when.”
Because this space is expected to expand for fleets in the ensuing years, professionals in the alt-fuel space recommend managers who are looking to introduce “greener” vehicles to be mindful of their applicability and identify the best ways that these assets can more seamlessly fit into their operations.
“It's important for us to understand all of that. And we can do that in a dynamic way by tying into routing and scheduling systems. But when we design their overall fueling system, we want to make sure that we understand what the peaks and valleys are for the company,” said David Peterson, director, fleet at ChargePoint, who spoke on the idea of how fleets might introduce EVs into their operations.
Being able to share this information that is specific to the fleet with potential OEMs, alt-fuel vendors, and other key fleet partners will help in making things easier for fleet operations.
“Fleets should think about electrification as a system and once they figure out the vehicle that they want, or the set of vehicles for the use case that they're looking at, they should start the conversation with us about how to design the right fueling system,” said Peterson. “And that's from a hardware, site design, software and support standpoint. The full picture needs to be considered to ensure a seamless transition and smooth continued operations. Otherwise piecemealing the process will not yield the best results.”
And while the growing portfolio of EVs is helping to bring them to the forefront of fleet utilization, not every fleet has been as invested in incorporating EV vehicles into their operations, though it hasn’t been due to a lack of interest necessarily, but applicability and vehicle availability.
“It's not that fleets that are utilizing medium- and heavy-duty vehicles haven't been proactive about incorporating battery-electric vehicles, in fact they are,” said Peterson, “They've been actively trying to figure out how to transition their fleets or segments of their fleets into electric technology, preparing for a greater availability of vehicles in the near future.”
The engagement in this space is expanding however, as mentioned earlier with OEMs creating products for this segment. For example, Ford announced at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March 2020 an all-electric version of the Ford Transit that will hit the U.S. market for the 2022 model-year.
So once the available vehicles match the applicability, a fleet landscape with more EVs may be commonplace, but it all starts with being prepared to manage vehicles with varying fuel types.
“Once you start asking the fueling question, then you are asking the big question, which is, I have a fleet today that already uses gas, diesel or both,” said Peterson. “Now fleets are adding another fuel like electric fuel, or even CNG or hydrogen. How are fleets going to manage different fuel types, in such that it is not creating a whole new problem? You may have a mixed fuel fleet now, so what do you need to do to make sure you are managing your entire mixed fuel fleet in an optimal way?”