It takes two to make a thing go electric. While that may not be the exact saying, there is a partnership between OEMs and charging companies to make the transition to incorporate electric trucks successfully.
Charging companies, such as EVgo and ChargePoint, provide charging solutions for various sectors and OEMs and are an integral part of going from diesel-powered trucks to an alternate way to hit the road.
Work Truck spoke with representatives from charging solutions providers, and OEMs, to get the full picture on bridging this gap.
Leading the Charge
There is a lot to consider when planning to incorporate more electric trucks into a fleet, which makes planning even more crucial.
EVgo’s Fleet Charging Solutions advises owners and operators to build a data-driven fleet transition plan.
“Perform a baseline evaluation to minimize the total lifetime cost of ownership, quantify goals and plans, and continue to refine with results,” said Nikhita Singh, associate, business development, Fleets at EVgo. “Planning and engaging with electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) providers early will be key. They are the experts, so let them guide you during this transition instead of trying to learn a whole new industry overnight.”
EVgo’s turnkey fleet charging solutions are tailored to the operational needs of each organization by leveraging a combination of services including depot charging solutions, dedicated charger networks, and EVgo’s public network.
Coordinating the needs for a successful transition doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a few weeks.
EVgo said the number one question the company gets asked is if their team can deploy a charging infrastructure in two weeks.
“More often than not, fleets are still thinking of chargers as a widget purchase or an afterthought and expect extremely quick deployment without fully understanding the degree to which this is a construction project,” Singh said. “Timelines to deployment vary significantly, especially between Level 2s and DCFC, but they need to start planning (putting in purchase orders) a few months in advance.”
Charging companies can also help the transition to electric trucks with a variety of tools, such as fuel cards, telematics, routing, and dispatch. ChargePoint has its own existing fleet management tools.
“Our integrated solution allows fleet operators to optimize hardware, software, and services configurations from initial pilot to full adoption, and lifecycle management for continuous improvement as they scale,” said Rich Mohr, VP of fleet at ChargePoint.
Besides setting a timeline, Mohr and ChargePoint tackle another question fleets have about building the charging infrastructure needed to transition to electric: Will this move disrupt the current operations?
“Fueling is mission critical in the transportation business, so fleets are highly dependent on uptime and visibility to operational costs that affect the movement of people in the case of public transit and work fleets delivering goods and services,” Mohr said.
ChargePoint currently provides integrated hardware and software for maintenance and technical response to field replaceable parts.
Owners and operators can expect to reap the benefits from going electric, but it also comes with its challenges. Xos faced a common challenge charging companies continue to address.
“Charging infrastructure is a common challenge when transitioning to battery-electric fleets,” said Sara Broyles, director of communications at Xos. “Xos offers mobile charging technology and infrastructure services as a solution.”
Xos built the Xos Hub, a mobile charging station that can charge up to five trucks at once.
“The Hub is part of our larger service offering of Xos Energy Solutions, a business unit within Xos, that provides comprehensive infrastructure services to small and large fleets to accelerate large-scale deployments of commercial electric vehicles,” Broyles said.
EVgo provided a list of more challenges from its experience working with owners and operators:
- Electric vehicle charging is different from the way fleets have purchased diesel or gasoline in the past.
Fleet operators must learn a new system (and language) to fuel and manage their fleets, but charging partners help ease the transition by providing education, support, and simple management tools.
- Electrification typically requires a higher upfront investment (EVgo offers charging-as-a-service to help offset this).
- The transition often requires behavioral changes from staff and from fleet owners.
With all of the challenges, there are reasons why more OEMs are transitioning to use more electric trucks. Singh cited lower total cost of ownership and lower fuel and maintenance costs as benefits to this change.
“With ICE vehicle fleets, fueling costs for gasoline or diesel represent up to 1/3 of the total cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle,” Singh said. “Furthermore, gasoline and diesel prices can be highly volatile. Electricity as a fuel source, in contrast, offers more price-certainty with the stability of electricity rates.”
Electric trucks can also reduce fuel costs by optimizing charging schedules and charging when electricity prices are lowest, according to EVgo.
Other benefits include emission reductions and regulatory compliance.
“Regulators are pushing towards vehicle electrification requirements, and there are benefits to getting started now,” Singh said.
Broyles said the planet as a whole is battling an “unprecedented climate crisis.”
“Decarbonizing the transportation industry is how we contribute towards a sustainable future,” she said. “Electrifying last-mile delivery makes our communities healthier by reducing the carbon emissions in the air that we breathe. It also helps fleet owners reduce costs by saving on gas prices and maintenance fees.”
Fleets can look to Xos as an example of having a plan to transition to an all electric-fleet.
“Our goal is to create the connected ecosystem for battery-electric fleets. This includes the vehicles, fleet management software, and energy solutions to make that transition as seamless as possible,” Broyles said.
Xos is working on custom solutions, like refrigerated trucks, to encourage faster adoption for all kinds of fleet owners.
The current goal is to make fleet management a connected ecosystem that can continue growing with the tech-forward times, according to Broyles.
“We are constantly working on making our batteries more durable and efficient, expanding our vehicle offerings with Class 7 and Class 8 trucks, deploying charging infrastructure, and developing software offerings to make managing your fleets extremely easy,” Broyles said.
Mohr acknowledges the evolving technology that comes up bridging the gap.
“As companies look to reduce the cost of delivering goods and services, the tools that transportation companies use will change too,” Mohr said. “Today’s technology is only tomorrow’s foundation to build upon.”
At the end of the day, Broyles says it’s the responsibility of fleet owners to “find and adopt solutions that work for the business and work for the environment.”
“Transitioning fleets to electric saves on total cost of ownership while also having a positive environmental impact,” Broyles concluded. “Also, electric trucks are so quiet, making the overall driver experience much more enjoyable.”