Fleet Management Faces New Challenges and Opportunities in an EV World

It used to be companies handed the keys to fleet drivers. They took the vehicles out, and when gas was low, they grabbed a cup of coffee and filled ‘er up. And then the vehicle blows a gasket or needs an oil change. Finally, it gets what it needs, sometimes costing thousands of dollars, and the vehicle is back on the road.

In an electric vehicle world, fleet management is a whole different ballgame, says Mike Szudarek, automotive practice lead at PR firm Marx Layne & Company.

As companies feel the urge to do the right environmental thing, they are increasingly adopting EVs to replace the internal combustible engine (ICE) fleet. This move is turning fleet management into a smart industry.

With government incentives and carmakers’ pledges, EV fleets are on their way to transforming commerce transportation. And it will require better preparation and planning when it comes to things like workload distribution.

Fleet managers will increasingly rely on Internet of Things (IoT) platforms that give real-time information on each vehicle. And managers can ill afford to wait for the entire fleet to run out of juice. Charging each vehicle could take hours or longer, depending on the fleet and the time it takes to recharge an EV battery fully.

To that end, gathering information on the battery charge status of all the fleet vehicles will be needed to put together a decent schedule that minimizes transportation disruption. The IoT platform will be an essential tool for managers. Choosing a platform that is agnostic of hardware gives the manager flexibility and increases options for achieving objectives.

Not only does the IoT platform need to play nicely with the vehicles’ hardware, but it also needs to be dependable as a 7/11 — open 24/7 with an uptime of 99.5%. Fleet management not ready to invest in IoT infrastructure has Software as a Service options, so the focus remains on running the EVs.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently conducted a study focusing on EV transition. It ordered 40,000 ICE vehicles and 10,000 EVs. The GAO found:

  • Transitioning to EVs will cost more initially, negatively affecting integration into federal fleets. Yet, the GAO found that higher up-front costs have declined and are expected to continue.
  • Infrastructure: It’s not there yet. However, the recent Infrastructure Law calls for adding 500,000 charging stations. Lack of infrastructure presented a challenge to acquiring EVs. As of March 2022, the federal government only owns 1,100 charging stations.
  • Not big enough: The GAO found many USPS missions require larger vehicles that are nigh available. Yet, manufacturers have indicated they are increasing the types of EVs available.

The GAO recently completed the study after President Biden signed an executive order calling for all new federal vehicle acquisitions to have zero emissions by 2035.

But the upsides are coming into focus. In the long haul, an EV fleet:

  • It provides a clean energy alternative during a time when petroleum prices are volatile.
  • Lowers maintenance and operating costs (no more oil changes or replacing parts).
  • Illustrates the company is doing its part to be environmentally responsible.
  • It gives managers many data points to reserve, maintain and execute fleet vehicles more efficiently.

The EV market continues to expand, and carmakers haven’t stopped focusing on improving technology that will provide faster charging times, better battery performance and greater ranges. And the landscape continues to evolve, giving fleet companies more options, such as hydrogen fuel cells or sodium-ion EVs.

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