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14 Oct 21

How to: Choose the right EVs for your fleet

Many fleets are now considering transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs), if not the whole fleet at least part of it. Whether it’s to improve carbon credentials or bolster reputation, the fact that there are way more manufacturers of EVs than ever before has brought prices down. Coupled with the reality that the running costs for EVs are much less than their ICE counterparts means it’s actually possible for fleets to save money over the long-term by moving to EVs.

Fleet electrification is one of the key subjects for discussion at the 2021 Fleet Europe Summit in Brussels in November. Be sure to register.

Choosing the right EV is new for most fleet managers and requires strategy and forethought. It’s not as simple as selecting the model with the longest range.

5 Tips for choosing the best EVs for your fleet

  1. Identify vehicles that can be replaced with EVs - Use telematics, driver expenses claims and fuel card data to identify vehicles that have suitable mileage and usage patterns to warrant the switch to EVs. The key is that the EV’s range should be adequate enough to allow it to fulfil its daily duties without having to be recharged. Alongside gathering daily average mileage, it’s useful to understand journey patterns. This is to identify which vehicles travel the furthest and (therefore) require the longest range. Compare fleet mileage data with the ranges of equivalent electric vehicles. Bear in mind that real-world driving ranges can be significantly lower than manufacturers’ published ranges, which are based on best-case scenarios (even though they are WLTP compliant). In reality, the range will vary depending on weather conditions, driving style and vehicle load.
  2. Charging - charging at public charging points is expensive so the best place to charge is at your own depot, overnight when tariffs are cheapest. If drivers are required to take the vehicle home, you must check that they have a driveway on which to park and install a home charging point. Charge points come in different power ranges, from 3.7kW to over 150 kW ultra-fast chargers. Many home and public, on-street chargers are 3.7kW (16 amp supply) or 7.4kW (32 amp supply). It’s also possible to install 11 and 22kW AC and 20-50kW charge points in places that have a three-phase supply. For most fleets with a mix of cars and vans, 3.4-7.4kW charge points will be sufficient for overnight charging. It’s not always better to select the highest power charge points available as it is substantially more expensive to connect charge points over 22kW to the grid and grid supply may need to be reinforced, which is expensive (especially in the UK). In addition, not all vehicles support ultra-fast charging.
  3. Payload and capacity - most electric light commercial vans (eLCVs) carry 2-2.5 tonnes, gross. When considering the switch to electric, it’s a good idea to reassess van loads and explore the possibility of downsizing. Delivery vans may require plenty of load capacity, depending on their application, but field service vans may not. It’s often the case that Vans get used as mobile storage, which makes them heavier than they need to be. Heavy, bulky, rarely used items should be stored at base and taken out in the van only when needed so that load weight for eLCVs can be optimised.
  4. Calculate break-even point - the more miles EVs are driven, the quicker the leasing or purchase cost will be recouped. EVs become more cost-effective at higher mileage. As a rough approximation, it’s helpful to calculate the break-even mileage point (the price difference between the electric and petrol or diesel equivalent divided by the pence per mile fuel, VED and maintenance saving). If you turn this into the lowest average daily mileage, it can help you select financially viable vehicles to replace. The cost of switching to electric vehicles may not be suitable for low-mileage vehicles.
  5. Purchase price vs whole life costs (WLC) - although the cost to buy or lease electric vehicles is higher than ICE equivalents, it’s crucial to look at the whole life costs. Higher lease or purchase costs can be offset by:
  • Lower cost of electricity compared to petrol or diesel, although currently with rising energy costs, this may not be as advantageous as it could be.
  • Lowering service and maintenance - EVs have fewer service requirements as they don’t use oil, so, therefore, don’t need filters. They use regenerative braking, which reduces wear and tear on brakes.
  • Various government grants and tax incentives.

Whether you intend to move to EVs now or at some point in the future, going through the process as outlined here will yield numerous benefits that will enable you to right-size and optimise your fleet mix. It’ll also help you decide to start small with just one EV or go the whole hog and transition your whole fleet.

Image of an electric van concept, courtesy of Shutterstock.

Authored by: Alison Pittaway