The Benefits of Telematics for Electric Vehicles
June 7, 2016
June 7, 2016
It takes more than a team of responsible drivers and a fleet of efficient vehicles to get the most out of electric cars. EVs introduce a set of new variables into the equation, and fleet managers can run into challenges when:
- Putting vehicles into use without knowing their state-of-charge (SOC)
- Making drivers responsible for determining when and where to charge
- Scheduling charging for less-than-optimized times
- Charging vehicles longer than necessary at public stations
The list continues from there. Telematics systems, which enable communication between a vehicle and an established network, aim to solve these issues with more effective route management, energy and charge reporting, GPS vehicle tracking, and battery health monitoring; along with all the other aspects of the equation. Here’s how EV fleets can benefit from telematics that keeps cars in its sights at all times.
Knowing When You Can Actually Go the Extra Mile
“Range anxiety” is real for drivers operating pure electric cars. While there are many plug-in hybrids used in commercial fleets, an EV presents challenges to your team on a daily basis. Knowing a vehicle’s range in real time helps lessen some of these concerns. These two mini test cases illustrate the potential of a reliable telematics platform.
- A delivery is due before 5 PM. Two EVs are charging in your facility and one needs 50 miles of range to make the round trip safely. Meanwhile, the second car is needed to make another short-range (28 miles round-trip) delivery. An up-to-the-minute state-of-charge (SOC) reading makes the vehicle choice clear for dispatchers.
- A Nissan Leaf in the field is needed to pick up a parcel at a location on the way back to your facility. Unfortunately, it will need to charge in order to make it back at the time you need the goods. SOC information reveals whether dispatchers will send it to a fast-charging station or a Level 2 plug in the vicinity.
The ability to go the extra mile is often a concern for EV drivers. While cost comparisons are in electric cars’ favor in most scenarios, viability for businesses is always being tested.
Mapping out an Optimized Trip
Trip optimization will always be a headache for fleet operators because real-world factors like traffic and accidents can change the situation in an instant. However, accurate GPS tracking systems for electric vehicles make their job far easier. While plug-in vehicles need an optimized route, a precise GPS system takes into account all the factors, including:
- Length of route (as opposed to fastest route)
- Proximity of chargers along the way
Comprehensive telematics platforms will know how the same vehicles performed on the same route in the past, supplying your dispatchers with information on the best vehicle to use for this trip. Charging station data will likewise deliver a report on how quickly the cars charged at the plugs in question.
Answering the Accountants’ Questions
Accountants can be a tough crowd to handle after a dizzying day sending your fleet around town, but they need precise numbers to do their job. In the case of government fleets, plug-in compliance reporting is a must. You will need data on kWh from driving as well as charging sent off to bookkeepers.
Tracking becomes much simpler for your team when your information is all stored on a network and vehicles are online at all times. A system of automated reporting is one of the most useful features of advanced data platforms. When the accountants come looking, you’ll have the answers (they may not have to come after you in the first place).
EV Telematics Simplifies the Charging Conundrum
Many more charging conundrums exist, some of which we mentioned in this article’s opening. For example, the power source for each charging station allows for wild fluctuations in miles delivered per hour of charge. Public Level 2 chargers may provide anywhere from 9 miles to 26 miles per hour of charging (most provide between 10 and 20) depending on the power source and the type of charger inside the vehicle.
Solar charging stations create another level of mystery in this department. EV fleets will not lean on public stations for most charging, but managers ideally will have the data available in case one is needed to complete a run in the area.
Improving Customer Service
“My driver couldn’t make it there because he had no charge” is the equivalent of “my dog ate my homework” for fleet managers. Excuses of this nature will make your company look unprofessional. When weighing the benefits of greening your fleet, losing customers is among the uglier “cons” on that side of the list.
On the other hand, imagine what level of service you can deliver knowing:
- Vehicle location
- Battery health
- Odometer reading
- Local charging station performance
With data in hand, your drivers are far more likely to arrive when they say they will and keep your customers happy. This benefit is difficult to overstate.
Greener in Two Ways
There are so many data-driven arguments in this field that it can be easy to forget the main motivation behind switching to electric vehicles for fleet operations: money savings and greener business practices. EV telematics help on both fronts.
Controlling the routes, times of charging and vehicle used for the task at hand means limiting the environmental impact of fleet operation. It’s not only the right thing to do as we aim to lower emissions and preserve air quality for future generations; it’s also something that is viable for fleets with effective tools at your disposal.
Utility providers and governments have attractive incentives available for fleets that turn to a greener system of operation, so there are cost savings for business owners to enjoy. Maintenance and fuel (i.e., charging costs) also typically drop when switching from internal-combustion engines to EVs.