The 6 Biggest Concerns for Fleets When Buying Electric Cars
The case for adding electric vehicles to a fleet has been made several times here and on other websites. Whether the goal is reducing operating costs, cutting emissions and noise in the community, or improving fleet safety, there is good reason to consider electrifying company cars.
Yet there are many factors to consider before adding EVs to a fleet. Among other things, you will want to explore:
- The difference between plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and pure electric cars (BEVs)
- Incentives that reduce the price and other benefits when buying an EV
- The situation with public charging stations
In fact, there are some concerns to take into account before switching from a gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicle to a plug-in model. Here are six things fleet managers should research before making the purchase.
1) Battery Degradation
Whether the concern was genuine or a rumor meant to stoke confusion about the segment, talk of extreme battery degradation was common in the early days of hybrid and EV releases. Several years later, these fears have mostly been quieted.
In fact, many electrified models have been exemplary when it comes to retaining full battery power. A survey by Plugin America of first-generation Tesla Model S owners (2012 model year) showed degradation around 5% after 50,000 miles.
The Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid has a perfect record on another count. GM has gone on the record saying zero (0) Volt battery packs have been replaced due to general capacity degradation since the car entered the market in 2011.
Still, degradation of 10-15% is common in models like the Nissan Leaf after several years of operation. If buying used, fleet owners should look at the total charge capacity, which may fall below 80 miles on some first-generation EVs.
P.S. we put together a short PDF cheatsheet that covers the main points from this article. You can download the PDF here.
2) Range Anxiety
A study released in the summer of 2016 by MIT found 87% of cars in the U.S. could be replaced with all-electric models capable of 73 miles on a full charge and handle daily driving without issue (and without charging). So it’s fair to say range anxiety is overblown for the general car-buying public.
But is an electric car’s real-world range appropriate for your organization’s needs? The answer will depend on:
- Frequency of trips
- Location of charging infrastructure
- Driving conditions
- How drivers operate vehicles
If your fleet strictly makes highway runs for long distances, low-end EVs will not be up for the task, though plug-in hybrids would be. Check on the full lineup of battery-powered models available in your area before writing off the segment because of range concerns.
3) Recouping the Electric Car Premium
Whether you are leaning toward a plug-in hybrid or all-electric model, the procurement cost is higher for this technology. Fleet owners looking at the total cost of ownership will get the full picture by factoring in maintenance costs and prices of electricity versus gasoline in the area where you operate.
Other points that should be considered include:
- Plug-in incentives, which could reduce purchase prices by $10,000 or more
- Short- and long-range fuel price forecasts
- Efficiency gained by avoiding traffic with HOV lane incentives
- Electricity discounts with EV programs from utilities
Governments hoping to limit emissions are working with utility providers to offer special charging rates and purchase incentives. Just because you see a high sticker price does not mean you will necessarily pay a greater amount in the long run.
4) Charging Issues
It would be inaccurate to say there are no issues with public charging as the situation stands. Whether fleet owners have to juggle multiple provider accounts or send drivers out of their way to ensure the vehicle is fueled, these concerns should be put to bed if your daily routes require public charging.
A survey of PlugShare or ChargeHub options is the place to start. For more peace of mind, we recommend visiting the stations on several occasions to see if they can be depended on for your company needs. Red flags to watch out for include:
- “No status” or out-of-order alerts
- Regular blocking by gas-powered cars (ICE-ing)
- Varying charge speed (esp. with a solar charging)
Keep in mind that charging infrastructure has improved by many degrees in the past few years and will continue to do so. Still, the better future of charging may be too far away if an EV purchase is on your radar today.
5) Cargo Capacity
The first generation of electric vehicles featured some awkward battery placement, which could limit cargo capacity for fleet owners. A car’s feasibility for your organization will depend on the uses you intend for it.
If tall and bulky items are typical cargo, the Kia Soul EV would be a good solution. The Ford Focus Electric’s fold-down seats (pictured above) and hatch styling are better for long items. In the Tesla Model S, the sedan’s impressive capacity (63.4 cu ft) is possible because of the battery placement on the bottom of the vehicle, which allows for front and back “trunks.”
Before buying a plug-in model, keep in mind the car may have different cargo specs than the gasoline version due to battery placement. The Focus Electric, Soul EV, and Fusion Energi are three examples.
6) Training Drivers
Good driving skills are important in any car your employees operate, but the issue is magnified when plug-in vehicles are part of the fleet. Drivers who accelerate too quickly, brake suddenly, and overdo it on heat and air conditioning might suck 20% of a car’s range out of the battery in a few hours.
Fortunately, electric cars come with displays that tell drivers if they are braking and accelerating too quickly. However, these displays will not help during highway driving when high speeds and little braking are the norm.
Your team has to approach EV trips differently than it does in gas cars, so it should impact which runs are made in plug-ins versus those done in efficient ICE vehicles.
Address Your Concerns First
There is data on every aspect of EV operation if you want to see how one or several could benefit your fleet in the near future. With telematics capabilities now covering EVs, fleet owners can answer the overwhelming majority of questions before you buy, then monitor vehicles every mile of the way once they are in service.
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