Working with customers that deployed some of the earliest electric vehicle fleets and operated the first EV fleet depots was like a trip back in time to the wild west. The only rule was that there were no rules. Everybody did what they thought best, and no two fleet operators had the same idea of “best.” Smart charging was not a consideration; the focus was on getting the EV fleet charged as quickly as possible. We made things up as we went along, and if they worked, great. If not, on to plan B.
EV Fleet Smart Charging
During those early deployments, we developed several fleet charging solutions and noted what worked and what did not. We also met with those pioneering EV fleet operators to better understand their needs, likes, and dislikes. Out of those early efforts and discussions, three core principles emerged: Flexibility; Dependability; and Financial Payoff. These form the foundational pillars of smart EV fleet charging, and they are as relevant and important today as they were in the early days of EV fleets.
Operators of large EV fleets spread across several locations told us from day one: “all of our sites work the same.” They don’t. Fleet operators need a system that can adapt to the unique needs of each EV fleet depot. Each location’s Fleet Manager needs the flexibility to change system settings on the fly to address needs that change suddenly and unexpectedly or as the result of well thought out EV fleet plan.
A smart EV fleet charging control platform empowers your Fleet Managers by giving them the flexibility to easily set charging preferences based on the specific needs at each charging depot. Our customers have told us they need to be able to control the settings for charging priority, participation in utility DR programs, automatic minimum charging on some or all chargers, and notification of charging issues.
Fleet Managers not only need their EV fleet charging control platforms to deliver this flexibility, they need their platform to accommodate instant overrides of their settings. Business needs change. Chargers malfunction. The system needs to provide the flexibility to change charging priorities and levels as needed.
Fleet Managers can be judged by a variety of metrics, but their top priority is keeping their EV fleets on the road. Your EV fleet charging platform needs to keep you operational when no one is around, when your internet or cellular service goes down, or when vehicle telematics malfunction. Flexibility is important, but dependability is critical.
Whether you need a lot of flexibility or none at all, you need to be able to rely on your charging control platform. Once you configure your charging preferences, your charging control platform needs to operate on a set-it-and-forget-it basis, requiring your attention only when business demands change or notifying you about charging issues before they become problems.
Our experience over the last 10 years has shown us that the average EV fleet charging depot experiences at least one internet communication failure per year. Cellular outages occur even more frequently. Both disrupt fleet charging activities, which can play havoc with your EV fleet operations. Deploying a system with on-site control insulates your fleet charging infrastructure from internet outages that leave cloud-dependent charging control systems vulnerable and make them less dependable. On-site control can also reduce the risk of someone hacking your fleet infrastructure.
Your COO wants to avoid anything that reduces EV readiness and availability. Your CFO wants to avoid adding labor expense, energy expense, or any expense for that matter. In fact, your CFO wants a fleet charging control system that saves you money, which is why your EV fleet charging control system should pay for itself, delivering a high positive ROI with a short payback period. Improving fleet charging energy efficiency delivers benefits for the environment, but companies seldom fund projects that don’t earn a significant return on investment. The shorter the payback period and the higher the ROI for your fleet charging control platform, the better.
The optimal EV fleet charging control platform should be able to grow as your EV fleet grows, which means it has to be cost effective not only when your fleet is small and new, but also when it has grown to be large and spread across several charging depots. If a charging control platform can’t prove itself cost effective when your fleet is small, it may not get the chance to prove itself when your fleet is large.
How do you maximize the ROI on your EV fleet charging control platform? You need a platform which minimizes upfront costs and maximizes ongoing savings. You need a system which cut costs by having the ability to run on a variety of hardware platforms. A fleet charging control platform which can adapt to any utility tariff or customer energy usage patterns, which can shift charging to off-peak hours, which can integrate with other facility energy management systems to reduce overall facility peak load, and which can adapt to the availability of on-site alternative energy sources will optimize charging costs and maximize your monthly EV fleet charging cost savings.
Deploying an EV fleet charging control platform which is supported by one or two of these three pillars will improve your fleet charging operations. Deploying a smart EV fleet charging control platform supported by all three pillars will make your CFO, happy, your COO happy, and. best of all, everyone who relies on your EV fleet happy. Which will make you a rock star…or at least a rising one.