Using Duty Cycles to Effectively Plan Your EV Fleet

 In Green Fleet

Successfully integrating electric vehicles into your fleet is all about understanding and managing vehicle usage patterns.

By adopting EVs, fleets can see substantial cost benefits with savings in gas and maintenance costs – but only with good planning. Uncertainty about duty cycles can prolong the period of time needed to recoup EV investments.

Data collection is the first step to creating the accurate ROI projection, range requirement, and charging plans needed to move forward with plug-in vehicle investments. In order to ensure that the right vehicles are being purchased and used correctly, fleets must first understand the demands they put on their cars in ways they may not have needed to in the past.

P.S. We recently held a webinar on maximizing the ROI of fleet electrification. It covered how to integrate EVs into your fleet with confidence, how to maximize an EV’s workload, and how to optimize charging. You can download the slides or watch the recording here.

Understanding Drive Patterns

Fleets need to know the distances their vehicles tend to travel in order to ensure that they buy the right EVs.

And when it comes to plug-ins, knowing the annual daily driving distance of the average vehicle in the fleet isn’t enough. Ensuring that EVs like the Nissan LEAF, Smart ED or BMW i3 can meet range needs—and reach a full state of charge in time to be available again the next day—requires a detailed analysis of duty cycles. Such an analysis measures:

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  • Distance traveled
  • Fuel Consumption
  • Times
  • Locations

Bringing Predictive Analytics into the Picture

But how do you use this driving data to accurately predict the viability of an EV? How can you say with any certainty what the state-of-charge of a Nissan LEAF you don’t yet own will be at the end of the day?

Thanks to predictive EV modeling software developed to interpret driving data culled from existing gasoline vehicles in a fleet, managers can overlay prospective electric vehicle models to see how they would function as part of the fleet.

Duty cycle analysis with Nissan Leaf

EV Suitability Assessment sample

The software looks at your usage patterns and tells you:

  • How often each plug-in vehicle model will meet your range needs
  • How much gasoline/energy/dollars it will save
  • How much it will cut emissions,
  • For PHEVs, miles traveled on electricity vs. miles traveled on gasoline

EV modeling allows us to easily compare nearly any plug-in vehicle on the market based on emissions, suitability and ROI, greatly simplifying the process of choosing the best car for your fleet’s uses.

A Plan For EV Charging

It’s important to create a plan that both puts drivers in the best position to charge, and monitors fleet activity to make sure that they actually are. Studying the duty cycles of the existing vehicles in your fleet can tell you what kinds of charging infrastructure to install and where to put it. It can also help you plan to utilize existing public infrastructure wherever practical.

Opportunity Charging

In some cases, fleets may find that their vehicles spend a large chunks of time parked at or around certain locations. Say you’re a taxi company interested in adding a few Nissan LEAFs to your fleet, but you’re sometimes called upon to drop customers at an airport 40 miles away. If that airport offers viable DC fast-charging access, it could allow for your company to save gas costs from trips that might otherwise have to be made with gasoline vehicles.

Occasionally, a fleet may find that PHEVs are the only electric-drive options that meet its range requirements. In these situations, finding commonly accessible public charge locations can bring a significant boost to all-electric miles and improve the cost proposition of the investment.

Imagine a bail bonds company with a fleet of six Toyota Prius Plug-ins that rack up 70 percent of their miles shuttling back and forth to the local jail. On 20 percent of trips though, the Prius Plug-ins must travel 12 miles to the county courthouse, fully depleting their electric ranges. If there’s public charge access at or near the courthouse, this fleet can potentially double its electric miles on those trips.

In some cases, larger fleets that cover a lot of ground may decide to install their own charging infrastructure off-site, giving  drivers the opportunity to add electric range before heading back to home or to their next stop. For these fleets, finding the best locations for auxiliary charging stations is essential to recouping the added investment.

PHEV Charging

Fleets must put PHEVs in positions to be recharged and prevent gasoline use as much as possible.

Plug-in Compliance Reporting

In California and the 16 other states that have signed on to follow the California Air Resources Board’s clean air regulations, fleets are eligible to accumulate credits for cutting emissions under the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). These credits can later be sold to help offset the cost of adopting plug-ins, but in order to do that, fleets must first submit compliance reporting to demonstrate how much they have cut emissions.

Collecting detailed usage data from your fleet before deploying EVs and PHEVs is the first step towards documenting those emissions cuts.

The Details Matter

To get the most out of each dollar you invest in plug-in vehicles, you need to know not only how far they have to go each year but how they’re going to get there. Limited-range EVs need to ensure that they have the range needed to get where they need to go and back—or that they have charge access to add the necessary miles to complete a trip. Between duty cycles, fleets need to ensure that their EVs have enough time to recharge before the next shift.

Optimizing PHEVs requires knowing how much time they’ll spend parked at a location with charge access and how many electric miles these charge periods can add to each duty cycle. A Toyota Prius Plug-in may only get 11 electric-only miles per charge, but for fleet vehicles that typically travel short distances and spend a lot of time parked at locations with access to charging, a short range PHEV could be sufficient go almost entirely gas-free.

We recently held a webinar on maximizing the ROI of fleet electrification. It covered how to integrate EVs into your fleet with confidence, how to maximize an EV’s workload, and how to optimize charging. You can download the slides or watch the recording here.

Maximizing the ROI of Fleet Electrification Webinar

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