Top EV Fleet Charging Challenges (+ How to Beat Them)Apr 10, 2023 | 8 MIN READ
We listen to motivational speakers. We share quotes about adversity. We work on the voice in our heads that says we can’t. And though we might mock the poster of the kitten hanging from a tree limb, we still admire its perseverance. A lot of things in life come with challenges and few things are more true than that sentiment when it comes to major changes.
It’s not that challenges don’t exist, it’s that we have the capacity, now, to diminish or mitigate them and improve outcomes and reap the rewards. EV adoption has grown steadily and progressively, in large part, due to technological advances. For that reason, wider adoption of fleet electrification isn’t far off and the technology is making it easier than ever.
- What is an EV Fleet?
- Why Move Toward Fleet Electrification
- Top EV Fleet Charging Challenges
- How to Combat EV Fleet Charging Challenges
What is an EV Fleet?
From city services (and the federal government) to florists and major corporations like FedEx, plenty of the services businesses and consumers rely on require the existence and maintenance of vehicle fleets. Fleets consist of anything from 5 vehicles to hundreds, maintained across multiple locations or even multiple states and, up until about 20 years ago, were wholly composed of gas-powered vehicles. Then, in 2003, FedEx introduced hybrid vehicles to their fleet.
Since that time, advances in electric vehicles and charging stations, as well as greater pressure to be more proactive in combating the climate crisis, have enabled more and more businesses to make the shift. Over the next ten to twenty years, it’s expected that nearly half of new car sales will be electric and, with the benefits fleet managers are seeing, electric fleets may help lead the way.
Why Move Toward Fleet Electrification
As noted above, carbon emissions and environmental impact are growing increasingly important for corporations. That push is coming from the government as well as consumers with Gen Z and millennials demanding more climate action from the businesses they both work for and support as customers.
However, it’s not just an external push that’s driving the shift. On top of those demands, sustainability directors and fleet managers are quickly realizing that there are additional benefits to fleet electrification including:
They’re more efficient- Straight from the power source, EVs convert more than ¾ of the energy supplied into power compared to gas vehicles which are lucky to convert about ¼ of the energy. That’s a lot of wasted fuel (and power).
Better mileage in stop and go traffic- Currently, when it comes to mileage, EVs are far superior when it comes to the kind of road travel that most fleets require– frequent stops and shorter trips. Because EVs don’t use electricity to idle while stopped, for example at a traffic light, and because they recover energy when braking, they’re just far smarter about power usage.
Continued advancement- We’re in a bit of a sweet spot right now for EV development. While small changes in combustion engines and smarter cars are making small gains in improving efficiency, EVs are hitting their stride. Just over 5 years ago, range anxiety was a primary adoption obstacle, but ranges are increasing every day and still improving as the tech improves. Additionally, while the cars are improving the charging stations are as well. In fact, the infrastructure is undergoing widespread investment and the best is yet to come.
Lower maintenance costs- EVs require less maintenance than traditional vehicles. There’s some misconceptions about this as hybrids often require as much maintenance as traditional vehicles; however, fully electric vehicles do not. Not only do the main components (battery, motor) require less maintenance, but there are fewer fluids, less wear and tear on brakes, and fewer moving parts than in a car with a combustible engine. Oil changes, for example, are gone.
And, on top of all of those benefits, not only do you take steps to meet sustainability targets, but public perception and entity reputation increase based on these visible steps.
Top EV Fleet Charging Challenges
Fleet management and logistics are already a challenge for fleet managers. Between scheduling drivers, managing vehicle maintenance schedules, creating and modifying routes, and more. For many, adding in electric vehicles seems like a lot. While there are challenges, there are also ways to mitigate those so the benefits outweigh any short term obstacles.
Route management- Regardless of the vehicle type, fleet managers have to plan routes. However, route management can become more challenging when it comes to range anxiety and the potential need for charging while en route.
Charging schedules- Much like vehicle maintenance, EVs need charge time. Fleet managers will have to plan and monitor both charging stations and vehicles. If you’re in need of a quick charge but have no DC fast chargers available, juggling access to the right chargers when they’re needed is key. Similarly, fleet managers will need to ensure that vehicles are ready to go when they’re needed and that means monitoring the charge status of the vehicles as well.
Power management- Power to charge vehicles comes from the grid and, during peak times, charging may be throttled to accommodate other demands. For this reason, planning on fast charging all vehicles at once isn’t the best strategy. That means, at times, there may be limits to flexibility when it comes to last minute changes and emergencies. On top of managing the vehicles and routes, fleet managers will need to be mindful of the grid as well.
Depot management- The logistics of keeping fleet vehicles where they need to be can be time consuming. Then, factor in where the charging stations are placed and, potentially, even more specific requirements about where vehicles need to be so they are charged for the next trip.
Utility issues- How strong is the utility infrastructure near your primary charging location? If it’s in need of an upgrade, this could impact your charging. Further, energy rates are sometimes volatile so budgeting for power can be difficult.
Training and Administration- From training drivers and hosts on the hardware and software/apps to learning the ins and outs of charging station administration, for some this can be a challenge. Further, drivers will need to learn about battery/power management when they’re driving as well as tips and tricks to get the most out of their battery.
Choosing the right EV charging stations- From different hardware to tailored solutions and robust management options, not all EV charging solutions are the same. You want a solution that helps you overcome these hurdles, meets your needs, and helps you improve fleet performance.
How to Combat EV Fleet Charging Challenges
All change comes with challenges, that’s why there are masters programs in change management. Some obstacles are to be expected, but ideally you’ll want to make sure you’re partnering with an EV charging solutions provider who is not just familiar with the challenges, but has worked to develop a solution that combats those challenges and future-proofs you, and the technology, to help prevent new problems from cropping up.
First and foremost, when you’re charging fleet vehicles, your chargers will get significantly more wear and tear than even public chargers. When it comes to ensuring the availability of charging stations to keep your fleet on the road, you’ll not want to worry about the quality of the cabling or the connectors. Having confidence in the hardware, software, and network of your EV charging provider is essential.
Additionally, you want to know that you’ve got some flexibility in the charging stations as well. Multiple connectors? Level 2 and Level 3 co-mingled in one solution? That means you’ve got options and, as you know, options matter.
White having reliable hardware designed for your situation, when it comes to the logistics of managing your EV fleet, you also want a software solution and network that are going to provide solutions, not problems. That means staying flexible when balancing power needs and grid capacity. It also means being able to adjust your charging stations based on the time you have to charge your fleet, how many vehicles are charging, who is charging, the cost of electricity at peak/non-peak times etc.
For example, let’s say your driver Jeff has a route at 6am and Grant has a route at 8am. With the control provided by NovaCHARGE’s ChargeUP charging platform management system, you could throttle the charge on Grant’s station until Jeff’s vehicle is fully charged. Further, you can maintain that kind of flexibility among a wide variety of variables from driver and vehicle to time and day. It’s unparalleled control, all from one solution.
That’s the smart power management difference with ChargeUP. Fine-tuning power consumption during “peak” periods means you can decrease other challenges like grid demand. In turn, you minimize the impact of that demand, lowering TCO, and ushering in significant savings.
Another challenge is worrying about the administration and maintenance of charging stations. One goal of electrification is to, hopefully, simplify your fleet, making it more efficient. But, if that simplification adds to the administrative plate, that’s a problem in itself. You may have heard about reliability issues, about downtime, about charging stations that just don’t work. No one wants to sign up for that. It’s a problem that, on any given day, could quickly spiral out of control creating a domino effect and multiple problems down the line.
However, when you have an application like ChargeUP, which offers a portal for hosts and owners as well as a mobile app for drivers, you have visibility and transparency when you need it. And, with 99.999% guaranteed uptime, you can handle charging station management from anywhere at any time.
Still think that’s a lot of maintenance? What if you had help? What if you had an assistant that was capable of monitoring the status of your stations? NovaCHARGE’s NovaBOT is an AI-driven assistant that checks the status of your charging stations in real time, providing Level 1 support and troubleshooting for issues, escalating when necessary. And, with customizable alerts and reports, you can keep track of ongoing issues that may impact your EV fleet management and efficiency.
And, with our network solutions future-proofed, you won’t have to worry about upgrades, updates, or outdated technology. We’re solving tomorrow’s problems today.
Our philosophy and work ethic thrives on the belief that for every challenge out there, there’s a solution. Electric vehicles were designed to be a solution and, up until now, they’ve presented significant challenges for those looking to adopt the technology and electrify fleets. And today? There are solutions.
NovaCHARGE is, first and foremost, in the business of EV charging infrastructure, but we’re also in the business of creating solutions. We’re putting years of industry experience and meeting the challenges of EV adoption and EV infrastructure head on. If you'd like to talk about how we can help you electrify your fleet and drive into the future, be in touch.