15 Jul 2022
By Jon Leicester
The commercial fleet vehicle market is already substantial, accounting for 3.5 million annual vehicle sales in the U.S. – and it's growing in step with fleet operators' evolving operational and emissions needs. As clean fleet technologyadvances, fleet owners and operators are no longer faced with the challenge of electrifying existing vehicle pools. Still, they are focused on how to manage them at scale. Whether it's school buses shuffling kids to and from school, or box trucks dispatching packages, we all rely on transportation in myriad ways. Electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to carry out the same jobs as their Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) predecessors. Accomplishing the tasks demanded of EVs remains the primary goal for any fleet – electric or not. Fleet operators, therefore, must understand and master the many differences between running ICE vehicles and EVs.
The management and operational dynamics of electricity-fueled vehicles start with a shift from focusing on hardware, to concentrating on software. ICE vehicles are dominated by moving parts, involving everything from conventional engine repair and maintenance intervals, to replacing fluids during a routine oil change. Conversely, EV hardware includes fewer moving parts; software is the core component. Everything from EV charging to energy management, including grid and utility interaction, represents an array of digital transactions and data flows, including real-time charger and vehicle operations data. These all rely on a software-driven connective fabric to work together. Chargers, vehicles, and software all must interact seamlessly for this to work. Fleet operators new to EVs find themselves pressured to 'spin up' electric fleets without a clear path to understanding how these new components function together, much less how to manage the entire ecosystem through new software. An integrated software platform that can provide in-depth analytics is essential to ensuring reliable and consistent operations and, ultimately, achieving their various missions.
As a service-oriented business, fleet charging is a complex system that depends on a wide variety of players to generate value. Software can handle the added complexities of EV fueling, including monitoring charging station health, charge levels of vehicles, energy usage, and so on. An added layer of complexity comes into play when chargers and vehicles from multiple OEMs are deployed in the same environment. This is only compounded when integrated with the installed base of ICE-vehicle fleet management systems, whether off-the-shelf or internally developed. These systems generally encompass all aspects of fleet management, from fuel card data, maintenance reports, or driver assignments, and allow fleet managers to see their fleet's state easily. EV fleet management is no different.
A fleet manager needs access to key operational data on fleet inventory, vehicle usage and status, maintenance levels, and more. Adding EV charging to the mix adds an extra layer of monitoring needs, but using multiple systems to get this information is not ideal. Adding EV charging management into the mix, and a modern, API-enabled system for EVs, should provide fleet managers with in-depth information and analysis about their EV fleet ecosystem, without having to deploy new software or switch between multiple applications or platforms. Integration and real-time data exchange between EV systems and incumbent 'designed for ICE' fleet systems is essential to efficient EV fleet management. By offering a flexible, robust, and scalable API, software companies can help build EV modules into platforms that accept API function calls, making EV deployment much more straightforward.
Above: Deployment with Porterville, California who piloted the Fleet Management Software before EVC rolled it out fully earlier 2022
For fleet operators, this means utilizing telematics devices and platforms that promote fleet efficiency and up-time through the ability to monitor and communicate location, fuel consumption, driver behavior, and similar data. From a business perspective, these advanced capabilities transform how operators manage fleet vehicles by providing reliable operational data, which can then be leveraged to optimize charging schedules, and understand energy consumption and vehicle state of charge. With countless unique metrics, linking EVs with an intelligent route planning system gives drivers and operators the insights required to get the work done.
The way we manage fleets is rapidly evolving. Whether operators are just starting to add EVs to their fleet, or managing several vehicles already deployed, having the foundational support of high-quality software is critical. Through real-time insights into depot-specific data, owners and operators can view everything down to the lowest level of operation. They are able to control various aspects of their fleets, from dynamic power allocation that maximizes fleet readiness, to real-time energy consumption and lower total cost of ownership. By allowing fleets to manage energy, track charge time, and notify managers of potential problems through real-time alerts, software helps to repurpose their chargers for public consumption and more large-scale deployment; successful operation of EV fleets becomes possible. Acting as the digital connective tissue between vehicles, charging stations, telematics, and more, software is the key that unlocks fleet management.
Jon Leicester is Vice President, Fleet at EV Connect. The EV Connect management platform optimizes EV charging by seamlessly connecting utilities, businesses and organizations, charging stations, and drivers.
EV Connect | www.evconnect.com