Electrifying Americas' Fleets - a Blueprint From Europe
Words by: Tim Weaver, President of the Americas at EO Charging
2022 is a pivotal year for America’s adoption of zero-emission transportation. While some remain apprehensive about phasing out combustion-engine vehicles as a whole, businesses with an eye on cost savings (as well as carbon emissions) are quickly laying the foundations for a large-scale electric revolution, with commercial vehicle manufacturers racing to catch up with that demand.
Nowhere is this impending change more evident than in the world of vehicle fleets. McKinsey projects that commercial and passenger fleets in the U.S. could include as many as eight million EVs by 2030 and we’re seeing daily announcements from retail and logistic giants like Amazon, FedEx and DHL, committing to the shift.
These global corporations and their partners already have some of the most advanced EV fleets in the world. They’ve spent the better part of the last decade piloting, designing, and investing in the opportunities and challenges associated with fleet electrification, often supported by the progressive government practices and policies on EVs in the UK and Europe.
With the tide now turning throughout the Americas, we’re seeing these large fleet operators return to the continent with valuable experience of the electrification process from their European activity. We’ve witnessed four key lessons already translating well to the markets here:
01. Fleet charging is an entirely different beast
Public and home charging solutions cannot be replicated for commercial EV fleets.
As fleets in Europe first began to transition to electric, plans for appropriate charging solutions – everything from design and installation to hardware and software – were often just copied direct from the how-to guide on public and home charging. This created significant problems for fleet managers that were dealing with a fundamentally different challenge.
However, the insights gained from this mistake around depot disruption, uptime requirements, robust hardware needs, utility challenges, and unique software applications, eventually gave way to specialised products, services and providers that were all focused on the unique needs of EV fleets.
This evolution to fleet-specific providers has been picked-up by the U.S. market and helped to ensure smoother adoption processes, and more effective EV fleet operation.
02. Scalable utilities power adoption
Investing in scalability at the start of the electrification journey saves time, resource, and money.
Many early adopters of EV fleets in Europe began the electrification process with vehicle procurement, only turning to the infrastructure required to power the EVs once the vehicles had been secured.
As EV fleets scale, depots often need utility upgrades that require more time and planning than the buying cycle for the EVs themselves. Sophisticated fleet operators in Europe learned some painful lessons and began to engage in depot electrification well ahead of time, ensuring all required on-site charging infrastructure was in place at the time the vehicles were commissioned. We’ve seen fleets in the United States and Canada, specifically, move quickly on infrastructure as a priority as a benefit of this key learning. Additionally, the critical inclusion of active load management and futureproofing depots is now standard in the design consideration process.
03. Big challenges require innovative solutions
Progressive government policy and incentives are an integral part of Europe’s carrot and stick approach to zero-emission transportation, acting as a catalyst for EV fleet adoption across the European market.
This growth is amplified when national, regional, and local policies stack up together. A heatmap showing the development of electrified fleets in Europe would demonstrate the effectiveness of layering; a) local zero-emission zones, b) local and national grants, vouchers, and rebates for vehicles and infrastructure as well as c) complimentary energy pricing from utility providers.
Europe has shown that multiple levers need to be pulled by all levels of government to advance the pace of conversion for commercial fleets. The United States has seen significant progress in 2022 where multiple layers of policy are driving increased adoption planning and purchasing.
04. Supply catching up with demand
An effective EV fleet does not exist if it doesn’t have access to the right vehicles and at scale.
After years of testing commercial EVs, fleets in Europe finally started to make the shift and began to demand vehicle availability at scale. At first, neither the traditional manufacturers nor the newcomers to the space were able to immediately answer that call. It’s only in the past several years that commercial EVs have started to be produced in meaningful numbers.
Based on what happened in the UK and Europe, OEMs of all sizes in the U.S. have accelerated their commitments and investments for providing zero-emission vans, trucks, and buses and as a result, the order books and delivery timelines are much more closely aligned.
Of course, there is a long list of localised conditions that make the implementation of EV fleets in the U.S. and the rest of the Americas quite different from anywhere else on the planet however, a tremendous blueprint for adoption has been drawn up and revised many times in recent years throughout Europe to the benefit of the Americas and elsewhere globally.