Fleet Charging: The What and How to Ensure Your Success.
September 18, 2020
Ready, set, recharge! The emerging concept of electrification in the alternative fueling space is sparking attention. Many are attracted to the fact it has zero tailpipe emissions contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases. However, like any technology, it’s not just the vehicle you need to understand, but the charging space and infrastructure associated with it as well. To first understand electric vehicles, read this blog, but to plug into the fleet charging space, keep reading as we break it down…
Onsite EV charging requirements, selections and considerations
Fleet charging solutions work best if tailored to your fleet’s specific application. Today, most battery electric vehicles are primarily charged onsite due to convenience and cost. Many electric fleets operate in a return-to-base model that lends itself well to onsite fueling. However, these fleets will also emphasize the importance of identifying proper infrastructure upfront, so that charging can provide cost savings as expected. From power lines to transformers, meters, electric panels and chargers – there’s a lot to consider.
Where to start?
Prior to committing to an onsite fleet charging model, creating an estimate of the necessary energy consumption for your EV fleet will allow you to determine if enough energy supply is available based on the days/times charging is necessary. After creating an estimate and determining if it’s feasible, there are three methods of charging available for EVs fleets: plugin, overhead and wireless.
Plugin EV charging
Plugin EV charging stations are the most common station type for EVs. This is a manual recharging option that utilizes a conductive system where conductors in the charging plug and vehicle allow for the transfer of power once plugged in. With this charging method, medium- and heavy-duty fleets can customize their onsite infrastructure to include level 2 or DC fast charging options.
Level 2 charging models are most prevalent for stations where EVs are capable of charging over long periods of time. For medium- and heavy-duty fleets operating on a return to base pattern, level 2 charging is common because of the ease of overnight charging. It also results in reduced cost from charging at a lower power supply for a longer duration of time. Fleets can still benefit from the reduced costs while using additional voltage, 240V compared to 120V, which allows fleets to charge in a realistic time period.
Conversely, for fleet vehicles that are only onsite for short periods of time and therefore have reduced charging windows, DC fast chargers may be necessary to quickly satisfy charging needs. One important consideration with DC fast chargers is that the charging ports vary depending on vehicle manufacturers and standards such as CHAdeMO and SAE Combo CCS. The good news to this, however, is that onsite infrastructure can be built to meet the specific needs of your fleet, eliminating charging port complexities.
Overhead EV charging
Overhead fleet charging is an automated option that also utilizes a conductive system. Fleet drivers simply drive up to the charging station and then, using a pantograph, connect their EV to a DC fast charger. This can be done using one of two pantographs: a pantograph up which extends from your EV, or, a pantograph down which extends from the overhead unit, shown respectively below. This allows fleet vehicles to recharge utilizing higher power levels than plugin charging permits. Today, this is most frequently used in transit buses; however, has opportunities for expanded applications in the future.
Wireless EV charging
Wireless fleet charging is another automated option for EV fleets but is non-conductive. Instead, power is transferred from a grounded transmitter to a receptor on the bottom of an EV. However, there are two important considerations with this infrastructure selection. The first is that a retrofit of a receptor coil to your EV is necessary since manufactures are currently not producing models with one preinstalled. The second consideration is that the power range offered through this charging type is less than both overhead and plug-in charging offer.
Schedule EV charging accordingly
Now you know your onsite charging station options, but the question remains of when. Your EV fleet’s electric costs are affected by demand cycles. Depending if your fleet fuels during peak, partial-peak or off-peak times, the cost of electricity can fluctuate accordingly since it is often billed on a time-of-use basis. At times when electric use is high, for example in the late afternoon, prices will be as well. Using this knowledge to your advantage, you can leverage that to promote refueling during non-peak hours such as overnight.
Considerations to maximize charging
Some fleets, especially transit, have found benefits in doing warm-up periods prior to beginning their route. For this, the transit drivers start their bus, let it run and bring the air conditioning to the desired level. Then, they top of their charging prior to deploying onto their routes. This not only saves them electric consumption during their route but extends the range of their EV.
Furthermore, other fleets have recognized the important factor terrain can have on their charging. Fleets who deploy from higher elevations often don’t fully charge their EV. This is because EVs have regenerative breaking which allows them to recapture the energy used from breaking.
On route, opportunity EV charging considerations
Despite having an on onsite charging station, it may not always be an option for your fleet. Even though there is currently very little fleet demand for opportunity charging at public stations, depending on the length of routes, it may sometimes be necessary. This can also serve as an advantage to fleets seeking to increase their daily useful range by being able to travel further without having to return to base to charge.
However, when transitioning to include opportunity charging for those necessary situations, there are a few important considerations. The first is preparation: knowing where to locate charging stations. For reference to what stations currently exist near you, view this map which can be filtered depending on if you are seeking level 2 or DC fast charging options. It is likely DC fast charging locations will be your station of choice since they are located near busy traffic corridors and provide a fast, recharging option which allows your fleet to get on the road faster. However, level 2 may provide sufficient charging depending on how many additional miles your EVs need.
With DC fast charging, an additional consideration remains if your fleet is operating on CHAdeMO or SAE CCS charging ports. This will require an extra step of planning to ensure the DC fast charging station you stop at to recharge has the appropriate infrastructure to meet your fleet’s needs.
To relieve the financial burden of constructing a new onsite electric charging station, many seek out available funding. Even though many available grants and incentives are intended for the purchase of EVs, there is funding, at the state and federal level, available for the installation of charging infrastructure as well. For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation has grants available for charging infrastructure through their Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program. Furthermore, public EV charging station owners are eligible to generate Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits which can then go towards future EV charging builds or lowering comprehensive costs.
You now know the available options for onsite charging, considerations for on route charging and funding opportunities, so what are you waiting for? Contact us today for help recharging your fleet’s alternative fueling strategy!