Why Choosing Slow EV Charging Stations Can Make Sense for Your Fleet Vehicles
When the City of Seattle embarked on a massive expansion of its plug-in fleet several years ago, it opted to avoid costlier charging stations (EVSE) in favor of what Green Fleet Program Manager, Andrea Pratt, called “slow and dumb” chargers. For the purposes of the overwhelming majority of plug-ins in the fleet, networked “smart” chargers, which can log charge data and schedule charging remotely, simply weren’t worth the extra cost.
As valuable as data monitoring and charge flexibility are to fleets, “smart” charging stations are just one way to get those features. And when most fleet vehicles out of use most of the time, faster-charging speeds usually aren’t beneficial.
Cutting Cost Without Losing Functionality
The most compelling argument for installing no-frills charging stations is, of course, cost.
Level 2 charging stations can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $5,000. DC fast chargers—capable of adding 100 or more miles in less than an hour—start at more than $5,000 and can set you back tens of thousands of dollars—depending upon model and installation costs.
The two biggest factors affecting a basic Level 2 wall-mounted station’s cost are speed and network capability. A Level 2 unit’s maximum charging speed can vary widely, anywhere from 3.8 kW to 19.2 kW depending on the unit and the capacity of the car it’s attached to. For most fleets, even the slowest Level 2 chargers will do fine.
According to FleetCarma data, more than half of fleet vehicles travel no more than 40 miles in a day, with just 15 percent ever exceeding 70 miles. A 16 Amp, 3.8 kW charge rate can fully replenish a 2017 Nissan LEAF’s 30-kWh battery in under 8 hours. Most basic, low-cost charge stations provide speeds of 7.2 kW or 7.7 kW, and getting any more than that will typically cost at least a few hundred dollars extra. Using telematics to calculate the daily mileage of your vehicles before investing in EVs is a good practice regardless, but knowing how fast you’ll need to refill them each night can also save you a little when selecting EVSE.
Opting for a network-ready charge station is an even costlier choice. The least expensive connected smart chargers available at most online retailers start at around $700 and are marketed for home use. Most EVSE makers charge a premium of at least $300 for network and data collection features compared to comparable non-connected models.
Tracking charge data and the having ability to pre-set charge schedules can be extremely valuable to fleets, but “smart” EVSE aren’t the only route to either.
You Don’t Need a “Smart” Charger to Charge Smart
Most network-ready charging stations offer users the ability to delay the start of charging or set it remotely using an app. These features allow owners to take advantage of lower evening utility rates without having to be physically present to plug in their vehicles. Fortunately, you don’t actually need a networked charger to do this.
Nissan, Chevy and nearly every other major EV maker offer the ability to set charge timers from the center console—or remotely, using the cars own vehicle management software platforms. From a practical standpoint, there’s no need to buy a networked charging station just to get these features.
On-Board Telematics Software Offers More Comprehensive Data
Most of the leading EVSE manufacturers offer the ability to collect and monitor data recording charge events—for a price. In order to gain these kinds of features, you’ll generally have to spring for a network-ready charger and in some cases you’ll also have to pay a monthly fee. What’s more, the types of data you can collect from smart EVSE are limited to events that take place while the vehicle is plugged in.
With on-board telematics products like FleetCarma, fleets have the ability to record a wider variety of data points you can’t get from smart EVSE, including:
- Driving Efficiency
- Trip Details and Destinations
- Auxiliary Power Loads
With driving and charge events all logged in one place, fleets can utilize comprehensive data sets to create custom analytics—or take advantage of FleetCarma’s extensive pre-configured analytics capabilities.
Get the Most From Fleet Charging Infrastructure
Any decisions about which models of EVSE to purchase should be grounded in a firm understanding of what your fleet’s needs are. (This is even more true when purchasing plug-in vehicles themselves.)
In some cases, there’s simply no getting around the need for more expensive charging equipment. Plan on selling electrons to the public while your cars aren’t hooked up? You’ll need a networked charger with RFID-reading capabilities. Need to top off vehicles quickly for rapid turn-around use? You may need to spring for a DC fast charger. Or perhaps you share parking access and want to ensure that only your vehicles can use your EVSE.
There are any number of reasons you might decide a blazing fast, top-of-the-line, networked charging station is the best fit. For most fleets though, the potential to save money and increase ROI by passing on expensive, option-rich EVSE models in favor of stripped-down, cheaper units is worth considering.