Every fleet manager, regardless of how their fleet is powered, dreams of 100% uptime and efficient operations. Then they wake up to an imperfect world, one where reliability is a big concern.
All vehicles need fuel to operate, and EVs are no different. No fuel means no go. No go means the things that need to get done don’t get done. And if “no go” happens often enough, it means the fleet manager is looking for a new job.
EVs present a special case because it takes a more time to fuel an electric fleet than one that runs on liquid fuel. Liquid fuel sources are plentiful. Electric vehicle charging stations are not. If your liquid fuel is running low, you can send your fleet to a nearby station and pay retail. If your charging station is out of commission, you’ve got a problem. Consequently, the prudent EV fleet manager needs to do everything possible to ensure that charging proceeds without a hitch.
Let’s take a look at the ways a fleet manager can increase the reliability of his EV charging infrastructure.
The cornerstone of a reliable charging system is continuous, intelligent monitoring. As Peter Drucker famously wrote, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” Sure, a fleet manager could easily jump into the cab of every charging vehicle to confirm that all’s well, but who has the time for that, particularly for a larger fleet? And, by the way, a lot of EV charging occurs overnight. I’m not sure a lot of fleet managers are going to rush to sign up for the 2 AM onsite vehicle charging inspection, much less the 3 AM or 4 AM checks. Fleet managers need a system that automatically monitors the entire charge cycle, from vehicle plug-in to full charge, and alerts the fleet manager of issues before they become problems.
Not every problem is caused by the charger. A very common source of charging failure error that we’ve seen (especially in newly electrified fleets) is the failure to connect the vehicle to the charger correctly at the end of the route. Equally common are failures during charging. These failures to charge could be the result of charger issues or problems with your source of power. Whatever the issue, without monitoring, the only visibility into charging happens when the driver gets into the cab.
Continuous monitoring and real-time alerts are integral parts of charging control software. A good charging control platform should be part of your initial EVSE specs. If your EV fleet is already in operation and you don’t have charging control software that provides real-time notifications of charging issues, you need to get it.
It may seem obvious, but it’s difficult to charge an EV fleet when the power’s out. For mission critical uses, an EV fleet depot might want to include a backup generator so charging can continue even if your primary source of power goes out. If you do employ an onsite generator for these kind of power emergencies, your charging control platform has to be able to recognize the shift to a generator as your source of charging power and automatically reconfigure your charging activities to keep power usage within the generator’s capacity. Even if you don’t have a backup power source, your charging control platform needs to have the ability to recognize a power outage and automatically recompute its charging strategy so that once power is restored, charging is automatically accelerated as needed to ensure your vehicles are ready to roll when you need them.
Most charge management systems rely on a cloud-hosted platform to control charging. In a web centered world where most companies are outsourcing their IT infrastructure, this seems like the logical next step down a proven path. However, the internet goes down even when power sources are still up and running. If your EV chargers are waiting for instructions from an internet-based control platform and the internet goes down, those chargers keep waiting. And nothing happens. EV fleet reliability needs fleet charging to continue whenever EVs are plugged in and power is available. All chargers give fleet managers the ability to set charger behavior when communications are down, but how do you pre-set charger behavior when you don’t know how many vehicles will be plugged in for charging when communications go down? Or when you don’t know how much time will be available for charging before the vehicles are needed? A hard-wired communications link between your chargers and an onsite charging control platform eliminates dependence on internet-based communications that can go down and increases the reliability of your charging infrastructure.
The simplest things can trip up your fleet. A charging problem makes an electric vehicle unavailable. There are external issues you can’t control. And there is human error, which you can control through training and documentation. Human error (also known as a PICNIC problem: Problem In Chair, Not In Computer) always declines as operators gain experience driving and charging EVs. The more you make the effort to train those who work with your EV fleet on the steps to proper charging, the greater the dependability and reliability of your EV fleet.
And, at the end of the day, that is all fleet managers want, fleet charging infrastructure they can rely on. It’s there for the taking. Reach out and grab it.