Largest ever trial of fleet e-LCVs reports its findings
The world’s biggest ever trial of electric commercial vehicles has found that fleets will have to deploy digital tools to solve charging issues.
The Optimise Prime project monitored the experience of over 8,000 electric vehicles operated by two of the UK’s three largest fleets – the Royal Mail and Centrica – as well as Uber.
The vehicles were used by service engineers, for parcel delivery and ride hailing, and found that electric vehicles could cover the range requirements for all three types of application.
The trial also investigated home, depot and on-the-road charging, working with fleets and electricity distribution networks to identify the solutions that businesses will require to minimise the cost of transitioning vehicles to battery power.
To optimise charging, fleets will have to create a schedule that recharges batteries within the existing connection capacity (Available Supply Capacity – ASC), to avoid or reduce the cost of upgrading connections. In addition, fleets can use technology to reduce the cost of charging, by charging when electricity is cheapest. And in the longer term vehicle-to-grid load shifting presents an opportunity for fleets to generate additional revenue.
Before any EVs join a fleet, the project advised that analysis of telematics data from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles allows fleet managers to estimate the electrical demand once the whole fleet is electrified. This provides a benchmark for future electrical requirements, total site electricity capacity and, from an operational perspective, the number and speed of charge points that a depot will require.
“For example, for a depot-based fleet model, telematics analysis will uncover the appropriate times for charging that can meet the range requirements for the following shift (e.g. overnight, ready for the next day,” said a report by Optimise Prime.
A smaller ratio of chargers to vehicles, as well as faster chargers, will give fleet operators more flexibility, but involve extra cost.
For home-based charging, Centrica found that 25% of properties with off-street parking were unable to install a wallbox charger because of power contraints.
Storage and smart charging
Where ASC at depots is an issue, Optimise Prime said investment in on-site solar/wind power generation and battery storage could allow fleets to install more charge points while reducing capital expenditure on infrastructure upgrades.
Smart charging can also significantly reduce the need to reinforce power networks by lowering the requirement to charge at times of peak demand.
“For example, the tariffs at Royal Mail depots during the project had five different time bands during the weekdays, with the cheapest rates between midnight and 06:30, allowing the vehicles to recharge overnight at low cost. The most expensive time bands were 11:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 19:00.”
The project was led by Hitachi Europe, where John Whybrow, Optimise Prime Business Lead, said: “Our work alongside key partners in this trial has shown that the ambitious EV rollout is possible, and with the use of data, we can overcome the challenges being faced by businesses such as costs and charging availability.”
Hitachi has put together a comprehensive guide based on the experiences of Optimise Prime which considers business needs, site constraints (both physical and electrical) and the management of changes to business processes.
Ian Cameron, Director of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “We set out to come up with practical solutions to cut the cost of fleets going electric and that’s exactly what we have done – along with a mass of insights and learnings to help fleet managers. Just one example is how using smart charging can go a long way to lowering your up-front costs.”
CASE STUDY - Royal Mail
Operating the UK’s largest fleet, Royal Mail is pursuing an ambitious electrification programme. The initial EV models it chose had a range of 130km (80 miles) and no Direct Current (DC) charging, which limited the speed of charging. This was suitable under normal circumstances, but proved problematic at times of peak delivery demand at depots that had adopted alternate-day charging (i.e. two EVs per charge point). These vehicles were unable to fast charge at public chargers and were therefore unable to complete two consecutive shifts on the same charge. Longer-range vehicles will solve this issue.
Royal Mail decided to install 7.4kW single phase chargers for overnight charging. Initially, it pursued a one-to-one ratio of vehicles to charge points to enable overnight charging without the need to unplug vehicles. However, space constraints at some depots meant this was not possible, leading to operational solutions, such as charging every other day (and having staff swap EVs later in the evening).
The company has now introduced a strategic target to reduce the charge point to vehicle ratio to 1:2 across the fleet, which will require depot managers to put in place new business processes to manage alternate day charging, with charging schedules defining when and where each vehicle should be plugged in.
Images: Shutterstock, Royal Mail