4 Fleet Safety Tips for Electric Vehicle Fleets
Last week, we looked at how electric vehicles can improve overall fleet safety, debunking the myth that gasoline cars are safer and less likely to ignite vehicle fires. We also looked at how electric vehicles can save businesses money on insurance costs and losses due to accidents.
Now that we have a better understanding of how EVs can impact fleet safety, it’s time to ensure a successful implementation.
How can you be sure you’re choosing the safest vehicles, encouraging safe driver behavior, and deploying charging stations correctly?
This week, we look at 4 ways to maximize the safety of EV fleets.
1) Pick the Safest EV Fleet Models
All mass-market vehicles approved for U.S. roads must meet the highest standards for safety, but some are still safer than others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are the most widely recognized crash testing bodies. Though neither group has yet rated every plug-in vehicle on the market, we can compare the safety ratings of those models that have been reviewed by one or both agencies.
Below are the safety ratings of some of the more popular plug-in vehicles on the market, as well as a Kelly Blue Book True Cost estimate of how much each car costs to insure over the course of five years.
(Insurance estimates are for consumer auto insurance plans, not fleet policies. We include them here simply as a point of comparison.)
2) Reinforcing Safe Driving Habits With Telematics
Due in part to the newness of the technology, fleet electric vehicles require managers to collect and analyze data for a variety of purposes. But beyond maximizing electric miles and optimizing charge cycles, vehicle telematics also provide the opportunity for managers to monitor factors like speed, give drivers feedback, and reinforce safe driving habits.
To get the most out of your plug-ins, you may consider coaching drivers on efficient driving habits. These won’t add significantly to your transport time and can help lower your fuel costs. As it so happens, best practices like steady acceleration, maintaining proper distance, and minimizing brake use, are both the most efficient and the safest driving habits.
In training and providing feedback to employees during the early stages of plug-in vehicle deployment, managers have an opportunity to highlight safety alongside electric vehicle education. Education should also include EV-specific safety procedures, such as what to do in the unlikely event of a vehicle or charging station fire.
3) Safer Charging Stations
Many (if not most) of the reported fires associated with electric vehicles in North America have come as the result of damaged or improperly installed charging equipment.
Safe plug-in vehicle charging begins with site selection and design. Charging stations should be positioned conveniently to reach the charge port of any vehicles that might be using them. Select locations that are protected from weather, particularly lightning strikes. Damage from lightning and other elements like humidity or high heat can lead to the failure of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, which act as fail-safes in the event that charging equipment or wiring functions improperly.
Another important element of site selection is security. Like all electrical infrastructure, charging stations are potential targets for copper theft and other forms of vandalism. Where possible, ensuring site security can prevent safety incidents resulting from damaged equipment.
Look for contractors in your area who are certified by the charging station manufacturer to install your equipment. Schedule routine inspections of the equipment and alert your inspector if you suspect a station has been damaged or isn’t functioning properly. Train your employees to recognize signs of damage and report them immediately.
For more information on planning and best installation practices, contact the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program, which provides expert technical assistance to fleets and other charging infrastructure stakeholders.
Finally, be sure to have fire extinguishers on hand that are rated for electrical fires.
4) Avoid Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs)
As we addressed in last week’s post, modern mass-market electric vehicles tend to be safer than their gas-fueled competitors. But that isn’t true of a submarket of plug-in vehicles known as neighborhood electric vehicles (NEV). In recent decades, states have established a separate set of safety standards for small, low-speed vehicles that travel only on roads with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. (Some states set the limit for these vehicles as high as 45 mph.)
In test after test (and in gruesome real-world crashes), NEVs have proven to be dangerous when operated on common roads with a normal traffic flow—even at low speeds. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has determined several of the most popular NEV models to induce serious or fatal injuries to drivers in certain types of low-speed collisions with conventional vehicles.
Regardless of the speed at which they travel, accidents involving NEVs and regular cars tend to distribute impact to the NEV, which has a low mass and therefore absorbs more force from a collision. Furthermore, NEVs are exempt from the rigorous safety standards most passenger vehicles are held to, rendering any particular model’s level of safety unknown at best. Unless operated in a closed area that isn’t populated by normal vehicles, NEVs are a major risk to drivers and passengers.
Most Safe-Driving Practices Are Universal
Electric vehicles are unique in many ways, but at the end of the day, plug-in fleet safety is about managing risk and prioritizing the right habits.
One of the fundamental keys to safety in any fleet is maintenance. Implementing maintenance protocols that are responsive to the needs different vehicles and how they’re used allows fleets to get the most miles from their cars at the lowest cost. Simple factors like tire inflation, checking for brake pad wear, and regular wiper blade replacement, can all contribute to a safer fleet.