Four Factors for Choosing the Best Commercial Electric Vehicle
May 3, 2021
As we enter into the new transportation era, what I like to call electromobility, and fleets are transitioned away from fossil fuels and CNG and looking toward fleet electrification, we must recognize differences in the purchase process for electric commercial vehicles. Commercial electric vehicles - while exciting as they bring new technology and greater efficiency, also bring a new set of considerations and criteria that should be understood and applied when looking for the best commercial electric vehicle for your fleet.
Electric vehicles will need the optimal combination of bus type, battery size, seating capacity, and charging infrastructure to ensure a seamless transition in operation. We have identified four factors that will help you find, or even build, the perfect vehicle for your fleet.
1. Fleet Goals
First, you’ll want to look at your current fleet and determine where you want to make improvements. Consider vehicle performance, operating costs, route efficiency, serviceability for the customer, reporting, and telematics. Great questions to ask dealers or suppliers during your vehicle search include:
• What is the total cost of ownership for electric compared to other gas or cng powered vehicles? Here you’ll want to understand how the overall efficiency of electric vehicles contributes to a lower cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle due to reduced maintenance costs, eliminating fuel costs and other key factors.
• How can you adjust your current route to best fit your customer needs? This will be important as you consider route ranges and charging infrastructure, so it’s good to determine your route goals first. Will this then require more vehicles based on charging time and route requirements?
• What kind of reporting and telematics come with the vehicle and charging infrastructure? Make sure if you make the switch that you are able to track as much as you can with the vehicle including performance, efficiency, and vehicle health. The same is true with charging infrastructure.
2. Route Requirements
Route requirements are usually the primary driver in the decision for the type of vehicle you choose. Understanding and measuring your current route requirements will help you make a better decision. By measuring distance, frequency, break times, location of chargers, area landscape and climate, you’ll get an idea of the type of battery and charging needs you’ll need. This information, coupled with how long you need to charge, weighed against how long you can have a vehicle out of operation to charge, will also play a pivotal role in the battery size you choose.
For example, if you choose a vehicle that uses an 89 KWh battery with a 50 KWh charger, then it will take 1.78 hours to charge. Or, if you use a larger battery, say 129 KWh, and a 50 KWh charger, it will take 2.58 hours to charge. When the service best practice is to only charge once or twice per day, to be mindful of downtime for customers, can your bus be down for that long? Or will you need to add an additional vehicle to account for charge time and meet service requirements?
Your fleet’s location and climate are two of the most critical components that will affect your electric vehicle purchase decision. Coastline fleets require vehicle bodies that are resistant to salt and moisture in the air. Composite bodies are the ideal option as they are salt and moisture resistant, creating more durability with a lighter shell and resulting in higher efficiency. However, aluminum bodies are better suited for dry states and customers looking to keep purchasing costs low.
The temperature of the operational environment is a significant factor, as well. Warmer climates that will require an air-conditioned unit to be used during operation suffer a 20 percent decrease in operational miles that must be considered during planning. Seasons of high temperatures should also be considered for air-conditioning usage. These environmental factors are essential for further determining the needs of your route and your body style.
4. Average Ridership & Configuration
When it comes to deciding on a style of vehicle, your average ridership will be a critical factor. This will determine both the type of vehicle you use and the floorplan within the vehicle. Why? Because the number of seats and passengers on the bus, and their weight, will impact the battery usage and range.
Compared to larger buses, shuttles allow for more customization. For example, if you chose a vehicle that is 10,000 pounds unloaded and the max load is 14,500 pounds, for optimal battery usage, then you know you can have upwards of 25 passengers on a 27 ft vehicle. Understanding this and who makes up your average rider demographic, will help you to consider the combinations of seats, luggage racks, and even wheelchair lifts and tie downs.
Fleet electrification has many benefits, especially when you consider positive environmental impacts, lower total cost of ownership, reduced maintenance needs and, in many cases, enhanced telematics and fleet management. But it’s also unchartered territory and can easily seem like a daunting task as fleet managers are pushed out of their comfort zones. Starting with these four factors, you will begin to learn the basics and specifics of fleet electrification as you go through your planning process.
Kevin Hernandez is the Chief Commercial Officer for Endera. He can be reached at email@example.com or (424) 388-8539.