Electric vehicles are no longer a distant possibility. Electric commercial vehicles have arrived and are all set to change the dynamics of the trucking industry.
There are over 1.3 million electric vehicles in the U.S. alone. While personal electric vehicles are already popular due to their innumerable benefits, commercial vehicles are on the verge of a huge surge in demand.
The first generation of electric vehicles was lacking in performance because of low powered batteries, which did not run for long distances. However, the latest version of electric trucks is bigger, stronger, and more efficient.
According to a recent survey, 90% of fleet managers believe that electric vehicles are the future of commercial fleets. While light to medium-duty electric trucks are already used by various companies, the big push is much needed for heavy-duty vehicles for long hauls.
There are many factors contributing to the rising demand for electric commercial vehicles. Reduced emissions and cost savings are the most significant factors pushing fleets to switch to electric vehicles.
The governments’ world over are putting regulations in place to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and combat climate change.
Tightened emission targets combined with the mandate to ban the use of fossil fuels by 2030, is pressurizing fleet managers to look for greener alternatives that help their companies go green.
Electric trucks are the best alternative to conventional trucks that run on fossil fuels. Electric trucks run on clean energy and give out zero emissions.
Though the initial costs of shifting to an electric fleet are higher, the long term benefits outweigh the costs. One of the major incentives for trucking companies is the cost savings provided by electric trucks. Electric vehicles provide two types of cost savings to companies –
- Fuel costs
- Maintenance costs
Fuel costs – Fuel costs are a major component of fleet management expenses. They form over 60% of the total operating expenses of a fleet.
Reducing fuel costs is always a concern for fleet managers and trucking companies.
According to the digital transformation advisory firm ARC, electric vehicles have low per-mile energy costs in comparison to conventional trucks that run on fossil fuels.
As the technology is evolving, and the batteries are getting better, the future electric trucks are expected to run for longer distances, which will further reduce the costs.
Maintenance Costs – In addition to saving on fuel costs, switching to electric vehicles will also aid trucking companies to save on fleet maintenance costs.
Electric vehicles do not have as many internal components as traditional vehicles and as a result, the maintenance costs are also low. The motor, battery and other electronic components of an EV require zero maintenance.
The less abrasive breaking of electric vehicles means low wear and tear on the brakes, which in turn, means lower vehicle maintenance costs.
Fleet managers can save a lot of maintenance costs on components like oil filters, engine sludge, fuel filters, air intake filters, and ignition coils.
Impact of electric vehicles on fleet management
Though the fundamentals of fleet management such as safety, efficiency and delivery are the same for both fuel trucks and electric trucks, there are some differences in fleet management techniques that companies need to note.
The significant difference in fleet management is the change in the monitoring metrics. They will have to monitor metrics such as battery life, charging sessions, power rates, etc. to ensure that their electric fleet runs efficiently.
Fleet managers have to include telematics and FMS in their fleet operations to keep track of the critical data.
Another critical area that concerns fleet managers is the availability of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.
Given the fact that the usage of electric trucks is just gaining steam, there is a lack of charging infrastructure. Though light to medium-duty trucks can be charged at the passenger car charging stations, the problem is for heavy-duty trucks that have to do long hauls.
However, effective charging techniques such as overnight and mid-route charging can aid fleet managers in the effective management of their electric fleet.
Fleet management software can again come to the rescue of trucking companies in monitoring data about the battery life of a truck and directing it to the nearest charging station in case of need.
The third area of concern will be training the workforce to adopt the new vehicles.
Drivers must be trained to use electric vehicles with ease. Service and maintenance staff will also need additional training to understand the components of an electric vehicle and its service requirements.
In addition to the routine checks, a commercial electric vehicle may need additional checks such as regular battery inspections for leakage, coolant system checks, and regular software updates. This problem can be solved through telematics and FMS.
Advanced telematics can help drivers, mechanics and maintenance staff to solve challenges associated with the inspection and maintenance of electric vehicles.
As increased environmental awareness and stringent government regulations are pressuring trucking companies to switch to electric vehicles, fleet managers believe that electric trucks are the future of the trucking industry.
However, the costs of electric vehicles and the need for charging infrastructure are two major constraints for fleet managers. Converting to a completely electric fleet will be profitable for trucking companies, once the cost of vehicles is reduced and an efficient charging network is established.
To encourage trucking companies to adopt electric vehicles, governments must also provide tax incentives and other benefits.
Fleet managers can use telematics and GPS enabled FMS to monitor their fleet performance while making the critical decision about converting to a fully electric fleet. They can use advanced software to measure vehicle performance and costs while optimizing fleet performance.
A safe strategy for trucking companies would be to start with one electric truck and compare the costs and performance before changing the entire fleet.