Four Requirements of Unprecedented Uptime
By Michelle Downing, Head of Commercial Operations & Fleet, Americas
One of the biggest barriers to adopting EV (electric vehicle) fleets is the fear of downtime. EV fleets across Europe have cracked this problem and have been operating at >99% uptime for several years. In North America, we have seen the current EV charger reliability operating between 60 – 70%, and we now have the opportunity to catch up. We understand that there are several challenges that commercial, transit and school bus fleet operators have when it comes to uptime. We have identified four requirements to achieve and match the uptime levels of Europe.
01. Depot Setup & Execution
"Electrifying" is a complex process and is more than just installing chargers and procuring EVs. The first step is to gain an understanding of the site layout and power capabilities in tandem with fleet goals. The design phase is critical to recognize connectivity requirements, communications protocols of chargers and whether load management will be sufficient to reduce the risk of overloading site supply. All site requirements must be cataloged and considered; depot managers should bring comprehensive data to the discussion. Understanding usage trends, not just for vehicles onsite but for sitewide energy, is critical and gives an eye toward annual electricity consumption patterns. This analysis highlights any associated implications for allotting available power to vehicle charging.
02. Software & Monitoring
A charge management system combining software and monitoring is the first line of defense against potential issues that threaten unprecedented uptime. Software monitoring allows remote diagnostics and interventions to flag and resolve issues, respectively. If a problem cannot be resolved, monitoring allows the charging partner to dispatch a technician to the site in alignment with the standard license agreement (SLA) a partner has agreed to. This automation reduces downtime as the system proactively addresses down chargers while vehicles are on route; there is no need to wait for a driver to plug in to identify the issue.
Maintenance solutions are essential to preventing or correcting charger downtime but look quite different at an electric depot than at legacy gas and diesel-fueled stations. Thus, a unique skill set is needed, and heavy investment in workforce training is required in the absence of a dedicated maintenance partner. Easing this burden, depots are opting to procure O&M packages that include onsite maintenance. These packages should contain planned preventative maintenance, reducing the need for onsite interventions and providing prompt service when a charger experiences faults that cannot be corrected remotely.
04. Additional Skill Sets
Skillset variance from fossil fuel-based depots is not just limited to onsite maintenance to reduce charger downtime but spans the entire operation cycle of the electrified depot. Parties, both on and offsite, need to be able to bring to bear a variety of technical supports:
Trained electricians must be prepared to support any load or facility requirements as the electricity demand increases.
OCPP (Open Charge Point Protocol) specialists must understand the interoperability of the protocol, diagnose faults and assist in preparation for future state applications such as monetization or Vehicle-to-grid (V2G).
Network engineers must deliver robust connectivity so that software can seamlessly monitor the estate.
Software engineers must drive the charge management roadmap for the abovementioned future applications while checking for any bugs in the system, software and cybersecurity updates and other platform challenges that may arise.
Together, these requirements will move the North American market past today's low reliability rates. As electric depots begin to scale their operations and explore new use cases, it will be essential to partner with a provider capable of customizing a solution that ensures each of the above pillars is fully covered while meeting the depot's present and future needs.