Are the Conditions Right for Adding EVs to Your Fleet?

 In Greening Your Fleet

It is getting harder for fleet owners to ignore the buzz about electric vehicles. Between battles in legislatures over purchase incentives and flashy new products from Tesla Motors, plug-in vehicles are now a regular topic in mainstream news.

But are EVs right for your fleet? What works in California might not work in Ontario or Pennsylvania. Why? Because:

  • Pricing can fluctuate wildly based on available rebates
  • Charging infrastructure might make it a hassle
  • Electricity pricing might be too high
  • Automakers might not even sell the car near you

To simplify the process, we drew up a checklist for fleet owners wondering whether electric cars will work for an organization in your area.

We also put together a short PDF version of the checklist that covers the main points from this article. You can download that PDF here.

1. Charging Stations

Charging Station Map

The first practical concern in charging. You can’t plug in without available plugs, and they don’t appear on their own. Fleet managers will need to install charging stations in your place of business, but available plugs in your area matter, too. When drivers need to cover more ground or want to charge up during a lunch break, local infrastructure is everything.

To find the stations available near you, the PlugShare website and mobile app is an essential resource. Once you enable location on your device, you can see where available chargers are near you. You will see four available options:

  1. Level 1: This charger is a standard (110v) residential outlet. Best used for charging low-range plug-in hybrids overnight; they are not a great help for fleets.
  2. Level 2: With a Level 2 (240v) charger, battery electric cars recharge between 10 and 20 miles per hour. Solar chargers may be slower.
  3. Fast-charging: This option is the most useful for fleet owners. Able to give electric vehicles an 80% charge in about 30 minutes, drivers can cover a lot of ground with minimal charging time.
  4. Tesla Superchargers: Made by Tesla for its high-performance EVs, these chargers only work on the Model S and Model X. They also deliver 80% charge in 30 minutes.

Because most charging stations are privately owned, pricing depends on local energy costs and the whim of the provider. Companies like ChargePoint, EVgo and Blink bill members directly through apps for time charging. Fleet owners should get a feel for available stations and costs before diving in with an EV fleet.

2. Purchase Incentives

Purchase incentives may be too good for fleet owners to pass up. For example, a 2016 Nissan Leaf SV comes with a manufacturer incentive of $8,000 (available until December 31, 2016). Then you can factor in the U.S. federal tax credit ($7,500) and any state incentives, which can be as high as $6,000. These generous deductions take base models under $10,000 in some states.

Breaking News: Electric Vehicles May Be Dirt-Cheap in Your Area

In some jurisdictions, sales tax is waived for EVs. Of course, fleet managers never have to worry about emissions testing and other tedious regulatory demands when operating vehicles without tailpipes. The Plug In America site has a state-by-state summary of incentives. Where vehicle purchase incentives are not available, charging station incentives often are.

3. Availability

Just because an EV is being manufactured does not mean it is available in your area. In the U.S., states that ban direct sales make it very tough on anyone who wants to buy a Tesla. Moreover, automakers sometimes restrict plug-in model sales to California and one or two other states just to meet regulatory requirements. These “compliance cars” may never make it to dealerships near you.

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Even the 2016 Chevy Volt long-range plug-in hybrid had a short-list of states upon its debut. (The 2017 model is available throughout North America.) When researching a specific electric model, check the fine print on the manufacturer website to make sure it is on sale in your zip code.

4. HOV Lane Access

Is your fleet getting stuck in traffic on the way to or from important jobs? Electric vehicles may be able to fix that with high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane access. In regions all over North America, pure EVs and plug-in hybrids get to use the carpool lane with only one person in the vehicle. On days of high congestion, your drivers can zip right along to their destination.

HOV Access

This incentive has been such a boon for plug-in sales that California’s 85,000 available stickers have already been disbursed by the state Air Resources Board. However, in states such as Utah, New York, Florida and North Carolina, fleet owners still have access to this benefit. As of May 2016, California is still taking applications in case more carpool lane passes are approved.

5. Electricity Prices

Utility Rates for Electric Vehicles - Preview

With the price of oil continuing to set record lows, fleet managers may wonder whether fueling costs are still cheaper for an EV. In most areas, the cost of charging is lower than getting equivalent mileage from a gas pump, even in peak grid hours. Utilities around North America offer special rates for EV customers, especially when charging in off-peak time slots, so add this one to the list of incentives.

In Indiana, EV owners enrolled in state utility programs actually charge their cars for free in the off-peak times set by the provider. Fleet owners concerned with fueling costs can generally set this worry aside.

6. Community Relations

The word is out on fossil-fuel vehicles and how their emissions contributed to respiratory illnesses and premature deaths. If your community is conscious about the impact of fleets on the public health, you can make a positive change by turning to electric cars. Make sure you have decals noting they are 100% zero emissions. There is the noise factor to consider as well.

Joey From Friends

Fleets that make runs into the night can bother local residents who want to relax at home in peace. If your company cars are spotted when people open the window to check on the noise, your brand could take a hit. EVs are silent, so keeping a few in your fleet gives you options late at night and early in the morning.

Conclusion

So do electric vehicles sound right for your fleet? There is enough data to make an informed decision. When you send out your cars on the road, you can even make sure they are performing exactly as planned. FleetCarma’s telematics solution is designed to maximize ROI on EV fleet.

Electric car incentives come and go in some states and may max out entirely on the federal level within a few years. If the conditions are friendly in your area, it’s a great time to plug in.

Download the Are the Conditions Right for Adding EVs to Your Fleet? Checklist

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  • Dudley

    It all comes down to use cases and Total-Cost-of Ownership.

    A full BEV makes sense for some users that need a smaller urban commuter car. They do not work for contractors who need pickups or vans for their daily work. BEVs are not suited for long-haul travel, nor are they practical for towing anything more than toys.
    While a BEV might have lower operating costs in some markets, the high up-front costs take years to get back in returns except when used for high mileage driving. But, there is the dilemma, it is not possible to drive enough miles with a BEV even with fast charging to make the TCO favorable.
    Any market that is propped up by purchase incentives is falsely hiding the costs by making others (the taxpayers) pay for it.

    • That’s a lot of generalisations. The Tesla Model S is definitely suited for long-haul travel, and the Model X can tow.
      FuelIncluded is currently helping a van fleet go electric, with fuel costs dropping from £1500 to £60 per month – what else compares with that?

      • Dudley

        I’ve done several TCO calculations. While certainly a BEV can lower fuel costs per month, it takes years to recover the up-front vehicle purchase costs. By the time the costs are recovered, the vehicle owner will be considering a battery replacement which erases all the lower fuel costs benefits for a number of years. I have run many scenarios including varied fuel costs, varied miles driven, and varied government incentives. The ICE variants (including PHEV and Hybrid) still win in terms of overall costs to operate unless fossil fuel becomes very expensive (above $6/gal).

        If BEVs really made sense for long-haul fleets, then the shipping/trucking industry would replace their fleets with Electric. While some work is being done in that space, Diesel is still the main fuel choice. Diesel and Gas will still be the majority of use for decades simply due to the energy density and infrastructure costs. As I said above, BEVs make sense for local, urban travel.