Fleet electrification: challenges and opportunities

By Mara May 24, 2022

Climate change is an environmental crisis that puts humans and wildlife at risk – and it is happening right now.

Transport is among the most polluting sectors, relying heavily on fossil fuels and accounting for 37% of CO2 emissions. Therefore, it’s clear that electric vehicles will play a central role in reducing emissions and helping decarbonise the sector, as well as cleaning up the toxic air in many of our towns and cities.

In his book “Speed & Scale”, John Doerr, an American investor and author, predicts that we could reduce the shares of global carbon emissions to 10% by electrifying transportation, making them fall to 6 Gt.

What is fleet electrification?

Fleet electrification is the process of moving some or all gas-powered fleet vehicles to electric or hybrid vehicles. Fleet operators are increasingly exploring and committing to vehicle electrification. This process can help lead the electric charge across the wider transport network, playing a pivotal role in the world’s decarbonisation challenge.

The electrification of commercial fleets is well underway

Until recently, fleet electrification has primarily focused on consumer vehicles, but that’s quickly changing. Nowadays, commercial fleets made up of medium or heavy-duty vehicles (MHDV) — covering a wide range of services, from food and parcel delivery to supporting healthcare and hospitals — are already steadily adopting electric vehicle technology.

Many of these commercial fleets are owned by global businesses committed to ambitious sustainability targets. Achieving both environmental advantages and long-term economic or operational benefits, it is no surprise that fleets are increasingly electrifying, at pace and at scale, and this trend shows no signs of stopping.

The challenges of fleet electrification

When charging, freight electric vehicles can use up to ten times as much power as a typical home. This means that, as it stands, ​​businesses with large EV fleets cannot charge hundreds of electric vans simultaneously without it impacting the local grid.

Fleet electrification poses challenges for fleet and facilities managers, such as increased consumption of energy, limitations on local grid connections and costly reinforcements to ensure that the building power network can support the increase in EVs on the grid.

In order to facilitate the electrification of fleets, a viable and realistic way to efficiently charge a fleet of electric vehicles is needed. This is where intelligent charging comes into its own.

How intelligent charging can facilitate fleet electrification

Intelligent EV charging refers to a system where an electric vehicle and a charging station share a data connection, and the charging station shares a data connection with a charging operator.

Unlike traditional smart charging stations that are not connected to the cloud, intelligent charging can manage charging based on customer and environmental inputs through AI or other software means.

Intelligent charging is designed to shift consumption away from peak times, maximising cost and carbon savings for the fleet manager while taking pressure off the grid and keeping it stable. Intelligent charging optimises EV charging to happen when energy is cleanest and cheapest, with AI able to modify charging patterns based on factors such as vehicle usage, cost of energy and weather forecasts. This ensures that fleets are fully recharged to meet the business demand and have minimal running costs and carbon emissions.

Read our blog to learn more about how we optimised intelligent EV charging and helped UPS electrify its fleet as part of the EFLES project.