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  • Camren Cooley

Lessons Learned Operating Mixed ICE + EV Fleets

Integration Challenges... The New Norm?

Over the next 6 years, it will be common for most businesses to run mixed fleets of ICE + EVs as governments ramp up their climate policies and the commercial EV truck industry continues to innovate and bring new products to market.

So what does that mean for companies and fleet managers that have to operate two very different types of vehicles for that span of time?

For starters, having a well-thought-out EV strategy is critical to your success! Here's some early feedback from companies that have been operating mixed fleets for the past year and the two of the biggest challenges they've faced, and how to solve them:

  1. Charging & Fueling Integration

    1. Helping drivers identify and locate the most cost-efficient charging solution.

    2. Maintaining secure, data-rich, and convenient ways to pay for fuel/electricity.

  2. Data Integration

    1. Difficulty using existing fleet software to manage EVs.

    2. Reporting and KPIs - maintaining back office integrations, accounting reporting for aggregated expenses and billing.

Charging & Fueling Integration

Your Charging Solution plays a key role in maintaining convenience, security, data richness, quick turnarounds, and driver efficiency. This is why choosing the correct EV products and charging strategy before a rollout is critical (even if that means using multiple products from multiple manufacturers to achieve the results you need for ROI).

Let's break that down further...

There are many types of fuels in the commercial truck industry - diesel, gas, ethanol, hydrogen, and electricity. Each of these brings its own complexities for proper operations planning and cost management. But for the sake of this article, we're going to focus on "gas fuels" vs "electricity" as the delivery methods of electricity change the game.

For gas fuels, we know that gas can be purchased almost anywhere that makes the most sense for that fleet's logistics and budget. If you're a regional business in an approved city "zone" you may be able to have fuel storage tanks on-premise allowing you maximum control of your fueling expense. Alternatively, you may want to use a refueling depot or perhaps logistics dictate that refueling in the field at a gas station is a better choice. All of this of course depends on the type of fleet you have, your rate of consumption, and if you have a contract with a fueling supplier or fleet card provider. In any of these scenarios the "gas" is delivered in volume and then sold at a delivery point by simply transferring the contents from one container into another. But electricity doesn't work that way.

For EVs the options of "where" to charge are similar, on-premise, a depot, or in the field at a public charger, but the costs and operational advantages vary greatly. Unlike gas fuels, you do not need to be in an approved "zone" and jump through hoops with the EPA to have on-premise charging. You can easily set up charging on-premise at your business, regardless of the type of zone or where your business is located. This opens a door that may have been previously closed - a game changer! Now you can charge your fleet overnight when electricity is at its lowest cost adding even more savings to the ROI equation. The efficiency principle of EV operation is to always charge the vehicle during its idle time - which is usually overnight.

Another option is using a charge depot, which might be more convenient if your operations are spread out over a larger geographic area (or closer to your employee's homes making their commute easier for example). And of course, there's the option to charge in the field at a public DC Fast Charging station - which would be the most costly option long-term and really should be thought of as a last resort or an emergency back-up plan.

Will Fleet Cards Solve My Fueling Integration Problem?

It depends on the type of fleet you have, your budget, and driving patterns. So this begs the question, should you use a fleet card management provider to handle both your fuel and EV charging purchases? That depends on the type of EV fleet you require and its charging needs, and which charging strategy you've chosen - both of which should be determined based on maximizing the ROI on your EV fleet. Something that should have been considered long before any EV shows up on site.

For many regional fleets, a fleet card may still be a great strategy for "gas" drivers, but it's going to end up being the backup for your EV drivers, not the primary. Why? Let's dig in a bit...

Using a specialized fleet card management provider could offer a single platform to manage both types of purchases, simplifying the payment and reporting process while offering cost savings through volume discounts. Most fleet card providers have begun partnerships with the major EV charging companies out there today that make this possible.

The problem is that not all EV charging companies have fully deployed charging stations in every part of the country. So depending on where in the country you operate you may have a limited selection of EV charging providers. Not to mention the horrible reliability of public EV chargers. Anytime you have an amenity that is shared publicly there's always a high chance that it will be abused and mistreated by the general public.

On-Premise Charging or Off-Premise?

There are many advantages of having EV Chargers on-premise vs using a fleet card and relying on public charging. For example:

  • Less Cost - Fleet cards for EV charging can be more expensive due to added transaction fees and you're paying higher costs for electricity than you would if using your own charging system.

  • Employee Productivity - There are significant gains in productivity and efficiency in having the vehicle "refuel" on-premise while workers carry on with other tasks, versus having them make a special trip to an EV charger in the field and wait for it to recharge.

  • Up-Time - Increased up-time and ready for use rather than gamble with public charging systems.

  • Flexibility - Charging schedules that can be optimized to your operations and logistics needs vs risking the availability of public chargers. There is simply less risk of downtime.

Of course, the disadvantage is the upfront capital cost of installing the on-premise charging system. But chances are if you can afford to invest in an EV fleet you can also afford to install the required charging infrastructure. Especially today as there are many tax incentives and rebates that make it very affordable and a better overall solution. But it all comes down to careful ROI analysis to determine which fueling source is best for your EV fleet.

The next issue is getting that data for charging and refueling into a single report. Read on...

Data (Software) Integration

Legacy ICE FMS vs EV FMS

What does the future of FMS look like and will you end up having to manage two separate Fleet Management Systems (FMS), one for legacy ICE and one for EVs?

Because commercial EV trucks have on average 600% more telematics data, the FMS data is very different from legacy FMS platforms making integration a challenge. You need software that can track power consumption rate, state of charge, a slew of new EV truck telematics, repairs status and expenses, maintenance schedules, and a host of driver activities.

Luckily the major legacy FMS vendors are quickly adding and building new features and ways to integrate data from EV fleets. But not all FMS vendors are aggressively on the EV support path. Those that are trying to pivot to include EVs still have a tough road ahead as some EV manufacturers may not have API's or even want to share all the telematics data from their products with 3rd party vendors (i.e. legacy FMS) - vendors they see as competitors on the software side of their business. Because let's face it, automotive manufacturers of the future are not just selling vehicles, they're selling feature-rich software that runs those vehicles which is the foundation of their competitive advantage. Why share that with a 3rd party vendor? Hmmm...

Today, EV truck manufacturers are faced with a difficult decision - "do we integrate with legacy FMS vendors or do we go the Tesla route and maintain end-to-end control over our products for quality control and end-user satisfaction?" From the start Tesla has controlled their products and customer experiences end-to-end (production, sales, charging network, software updates, telematics reporting, and the list goes on). Some of the larger EV truck manufacturers might need to use that same playbook, leaving fleet managers operating two fleet management systems for the time being until every vehicle is an EV.

But there are ways to make reporting and data aggregation easier in the meantime.

Fleet Data Aggregation For Reporting And KPIs

How do you aggregate data for a single fleet view of reporting and KPI's?

There are a number of ways to aggregate data between legacy FMS and EV FMS (Fleet Management Systems). API, Custom Code, File Transfer, and Cloud being the most popular.

  • API Integration: This involves creating an application programming interface (API) that allows data to be shared between the two systems seamlessly. This approach ensures that data is transferred in real-time with minimal errors.

  • Custom Code: Middleware can also be developed to enable data exchange between the two systems. This approach will require creating a custom codebase that can handle the data mapping and communication between the two platforms.

  • File Transfer: Another option is to use file transfer protocols to transfer the data from one system to another. This can be achieved through a scheduled task or by manually exporting and importing the data.

  • Cloud-based Integration: Cloud-based integration services like Zapier, Microsoft Power Automate, or IFTTT can also be used to connect the two systems. This method enables you to automate the transfer of data without the need for manual intervention.

By using one of these solutions you can then generate reporting and KPIs that you need to efficiently operate your mixed fleet. It is essential to plan ahead and include this as part of your EV strategy and assess the integration method that suits your business needs before deciding and choosing an EV product for your business.

It all starts with a Master EV Plan!



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