EV Procurement: A Culture Shift for Light-Duty Fleets in 2019

January 31, 2019

The new year has begun, and it’s poised to be an expansive one for sales of light-duty electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States. Increasing numbers of medium- and heavy-duty EV models are coming online. But for now, the light-duty sector offers the most available options from established auto manufacturers, making 2019 a prime opportunity for fleets to incorporate light-duty EVs into their vehicle procurement plans.

EVs may come as either plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or battery electric (BEV), where PHEVs use a combination of a battery to power an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. These vehicles usually are able to travel 20 to 40 miles on the battery alone, and can be plugged in to charge. A BEV however, is powered solely by a battery that drives an electric motor, and must be plugged in to charge. Range has historically been limited to 60 to 120 miles, but that is changing, as we see more models coming to market with a range of 200 to 300 miles.

In 2018 the U.S. saw a record 361,307 light-duty EVs sold, up 81% from 2017, making 2019 a prime opportunity for fleets to incorporate EVs into their vehicle procurement plans.

2018 Light-Duty EV Sales Up 81% over 2017

From January 2018 through December 2018, the U.S. saw a record 361,307 EVs sold, up 81% from the year prior, according to InsideEVs Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard.

With more vehicle options available today at a variety of price points, it’s becoming easier for fleets to purchase EVs. Fleets who have experienced the technology-rich ride of an electric car know how fast and smooth acceleration is, and how responsive the vehicles are. The cars are quiet, save money on fuel costs, and require less maintenance than conventional gasoline cars, not to mention their incredible greenhouse gas reduction benefits.

Challenges to EV Adoption

So why aren’t more fleets buying more EVs? While the EV market is growing, it still represents a very small percentage of overall cars on the road. Challenges to market growth often include the initial cost of EVs, the range vehicles can travel, the availability of charging infrastructure, and a lack of knowledge and understanding how EVs can benefit fleets. Other frequently encountered challenges are as follow:

Challenges to EV market growth include initial higher cost, vehicle range, charging infrastructure, as well as lack of knowledge and understanding about how EVs can benefit fleets.

  • The need for more outreach and education remains a key sticking point — not just for fleet managers, but for drivers, fleet technicians and mechanics.
  • Often, dealerships can’t explain the EV technology when fleets call for information.
  • EVs and EV charging infrastructure add complexity to how a fleet operates.
  • Installation of EV chargers requires another level of education beyond the vehicles.
  • For fleets who aren’t planning on installing their own EV charging, range anxiety and the perception of a lack of convenience for “fueling” run high.
  • The cost of electricity fluctuates depending on the time of day vehicles are charging, and therefore there is a hesitancy to take on the task of monitoring when vehicles should charge.
  • Federal, state, regional and local grants and incentives are widely perceived as necessary for both private and public fleets to reduce the upfront cost of purchasing electric vehicles.
  • Cash constrained public agencies and local governments use budgeting and procurement processes that aren’t designed to incorporate lifecycle, or total cost of ownership, making it imperative that funding is available to pay down the price differential between an EV and a gasoline model.
Answers for Fleets Exist

While these barriers may be daunting, solutions do exist. However, the reality is, for EV adoption to take off, everyone needs to work together. Continued government initiatives in the way of funding, HOV lane access, and availability of public fueling infrastructure remain top priorities. Many states and cities are implementing incentives and strategies to encourage the transition to EVs. And of course, as adoption proliferates, there is more and more good information available regarding EVs and infrastructure.

Financial incentives, HOV lane access, and availability of public charging infrastructure are solutions that encourage EV adoption.

So what can fleets do to ensure successful procurement, deployment, and operation of an EV fleet?

Procurement:

  • Analyze current fleet operations in order to develop a strategy to purchase and deploy light-duty EVs
  • Examine existing motor pool fleet data, look at parking lot layouts, identify existing electrical infrastructure and building codes to determine the number and type of EV chargers required
  • Determine the total power demand necessary to charge EVs, and work with staff to understand the electrical loads and potential service upgrades to support future deployments
  • Evaluate existing EVs and EV charging equipment on the market to determine those that meet the specifications required to support the fleet’s operations
  • Determine what incentives, grant funding or rebates are available, including the federal Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit, Volkswagen settlement funds, and possible tax credits
  • Engage drivers, maintenance staff, and other stakeholders early in the process to ensure there is technology acceptance and a smooth operating experience

For those considering fleet deployment of EVs there is great momentum in 2019, with good information and help available to ensure success and ROI.

Operations:

  • Implement training programs for drivers to familiarize them with the vehicles
  • Deploy fleet management systems that prioritize EVs where-ever possible, defaulting to the electric models in as many instances as possible to ensure consistent use

We’re looking at some great momentum for light-duty EVs in 2019. As the EV numbers for 2018 show us, we’re headed in the right direction. The trend is expected to continue, as more EVs come to market with longer driving ranges, and as more public fueling infrastructure is built out in our cities and along our highways. We know we need to decarbonize the transportation sector and embrace EVs as part of the solution. For those considering EV deployment in your own fleets, the help and information is out there to ensure success and ROI.