Infrastructure Planning for EV Fleet Charging

Electrification is no longer just a trend for passenger vehicles. Private and public fleets are rapidly going electric, and some reports estimate there will be more than 4 million electric vehicles (EVs) in U.S. fleets by 2030.  

It’s exciting news for sustainability advocates, but electrification can present substantial challenges to fleet managers if they don't have the right guidance. A new EV fleet will require its own EV fleet charging infrastructure, demanding an operational overhaul. If not handled carefully, the EV transition can easily land in a ditch.

With a clear plan and an experienced partner for an EV fleet transformation, fleet managers and operators can navigate safely through this pivotal change. In this post, we’ll cover the key steps for planning your fleet charging infrastructure.  

Why Electrify Your Fleet?

Before moving forward with fleet electrification, you will likely need to justify the decision to your internal stakeholders. Or maybe you yourself need more convincing. Either way, the clearest benefits of fleet electrification include:

  • Saving on fuel costs: Electricity is much cheaper and more price-stable than gasoline, leading to big savings for fleet operators.
  • Reducing maintenance expenses: On average, EVs cost half as much to maintain as their gas-powered counterparts. This can lead to massive savings over the total life cycle of a fully electric fleet.
  • Hitting emissions reduction targets: A typical all-electric vehicle emits 78% fewer greenhouse gasses than a similar gas vehicle from cradle to grave, making fleet electrification one of the most impactful moves a company can make to achieve its sustainability goals.
  • Improving corporate reputation: Consumers are increasingly demanding that companies take sustainability seriously. Adopting EVs sends a clear message that your organization is listening.

Each of these benefits may carry different weight for different fleet operators. What’s important is that you clearly understand your rationale for the decision and create goals around it. Without a strong underlying set of goals, you’re liable to get off course or abort when you encounter difficulties. Likewise, your specific goals will help shape how you approach the planning process.

Fleet EV Charging Basics

Planning for the charging needs of a new EV fleet is a large undertaking. Initially, it requires a detailed review of your vehicle schedules to understand how factors like vehicle size, shifts, route miles per day, and dwell time will affect your charging needs.

This information will help you determine the best vehicles for your fleet. More importantly, it will guide your decisions about how many Level 2 vs. Level 3 DC Fast Chargers to deploy. Having the right mix of charger types can make the difference between an optimized fleet routine and a bottleneck of charging needs and costly delays.

Additionally, leveraging an EV charging management platform with telematics will enable you to track important data like vehicle status, battery state, and charger availability. This information can empower fleet managers for smart decisions about fleet schedules, driver training, and energy management.

But, as important as these basics are, perhaps the most critical element of establishing a successful fleet EV charging system is effective infrastructure planning.  

Factors to Consider When Planning Fleet Charging Infrastructure

Your decisions about EV fleet charging infrastructure will determine the return on your investment and the impact of this crucial sustainability initiative. A successful implementation involves the following seven steps.

1. Fleet and Site Assessment

Evaluating the specifics of your fleet and site transition is the first step that will shape all the others. Here, you must determine the number and types of vehicles going electric, alongside the battery capacity and range of your selected models. Comparing this to the daily mileage and operational patterns of your fleet will ensure you choose the right vehicles for your operational needs.

At your home base, you must also fine-tune the details of your fleet charging infrastructure plan. Identify potential locations for the charging depot, considering proximity to power sources and existing electrical infrastructure. Likewise, you’ll need to assess space availability for charging stations and parking, and consider the costs involved in trenching for new cables and expanding electrical capacity.  

Site planning also involves evaluating the need for renewable energy assets like solar and battery energy storage that can provide cheap, emissions-free energy with which to power your EV chargers. Additionally, this is the time to consult with utility providers to ensure adequate power supply and discuss potential upgrades.

2. Financial Planning

It’s critical to conduct a detailed cost analysis and create a realistic budget early in the process. You’ll need to estimate the total cost of transitioning, including vehicle procurement, charging infrastructure, and potential site modifications. This includes weighing the potential long-term costs of spending less on initial upgrades, as the cheapest path is not always the best in the long run.

Proper planning at this stage includes providing a total cost of ownership (TCO) comparison for EVs versus internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. This should cover the costs associated with electricity, maintenance, kilowatt-hours-to-diesel-gallon equivalent, and potential downtime for charging.

Providing a realistic view of these costs and potential long-term savings will help you provide a clear cost-benefit analysis for investors and explore other financing options, grants, and incentives for your EV fleet charging infrastructure.

3. Environmental and Community Impact Reporting

Presumably, sustainability initiatives are one important motivation for your EV transition, and it’s critical to align planning and deployment with the company’s sustainability goals. Be sure you’re set up to monitor and report on the reduction in carbon emissions and other environmental benefits.

Community engagement is another vital aspect of this sustainability initiative, as this is your opportunity to “go public” with these goals. Inform the community about the transition and the benefits involved, and take the time to address any concerns or questions from stakeholders and the public.

4. Installation and Deployment

With the groundwork laid, you can effectively move forward with installation. Be sure to obtain necessary permits and comply with local regulations for installing charging infrastructure. You must also adhere to any local or universal safety standards and codes.

This is where a reliable vendor is invaluable. The right provider can offer not only charging equipment but also turnkey installation, software data management, and maintenance services. Before you choose a partner, be sure to evaluate warranties, support services, and equipment reliability.  

5. Operational Integration

Fueling EVs is an entirely different animal than topping off the tanks on your diesel trucks. EV fleet charging infrastructure must be fully integrated into your operation, and that requires fleet management software to monitor and manage charging schedules, vehicle status, and energy usage. As noted, you should also consider telematics for real-time tracking and diagnostics.

Integration also includes preparing your staff for the transition. Before launch, you must train fleet operators and maintenance staff on EV operations and safety protocols. Once online, it’s essential to provide ongoing support and resources for troubleshooting and maintenance.

6. Testing and Optimization

As you prepare to go live with your EV fleet, you might also consider conducting a pilot test with a small subset of the fleet to identify potential issues. This allows you to collect data on performance, energy consumption, and operational impact before diving into the deep end.

You can use pilot test data to optimize charging schedules, energy use, and operational efficiency. That way, you can adjust your infrastructure and processes based on feedback and performance metrics and be better prepared for the full deployment of your EV fleet.

7. Long-Term Planning

Finally, all managers and stakeholders must recognize that fleet electrification is not a short-term project. This transformation has long-term ramifications, and thorough planning up front can help make the most of the change.

Don’t wait to plan for future fleet and charging infrastructure expansion. Consider building in additional charging capacity from the start rather than adding it later.  

After launch, stay updated about advancements in EV technology and infrastructure. Regularly review the performance of your fleet and charging depot and be prepared to adapt and upgrade infrastructure as technology and needs evolve.

Contact PowerFlex to Get Started With Fleet EV Charging

As you can see, there is a lot involved in planning for fleet charging infrastructure and making an effective transition. We’ve provided an overview, but each of the above steps includes layers of complex details.

It may be in vogue to buy charging equipment directly from the manufacturer and attempt to DIY the process of planning and implementing infrastructure. But taking this route too often leads to confusion and buyer exhaustion. The wrong choice may lead to starting over a few years in — after you’ve already spent tens of thousands on the project.

A better path is to start with a partner who fully understands the needs of your business and how to match your charging equipment with those needs, both up front and over the life of your EV fleet. PowerFlex helps fleet teams plan fleet charging infrastructure, leverage incentives to minimize costs, seamlessly integrate charging equipment into operations, and effectively manage energy utilization for the long haul. We also offer PowerFlex X™ Fleet+ for comprehensive fleet tracking and management to get the most out of your EV fleet transition.

Ready to get started? Contact PowerFlex today to plan your EV charging infrastructure and electrify your fleet.