As the electric vehicle (EV) market expands and more customers look to electrify their fleets, new roles are emerging for utilities—from installing and managing charging stations to helping customers plan for and purchase vehicles. Several larger, investor-owned utilities, acting on this opportunity to reach customers and streamline processes, have announced new subsidiaries to provide fleet advisory services. But designing and deploying these services can be overwhelming. Small and municipally owned utilities are starting to feel the heat and ask, “How can we best serve customers without the bandwidth or in-house expertise?” Here are some insights from our work developing in-house fleet advisory services on behalf of small utilities.
Looking at the Big Picture
Large companies like Amazon, FedEx, UPS and Budweiser are replacing their existing internal combustion engine vehicles with electric. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF 2021) projects that electric fleet vehicles will grow from practically zero to making up more than 10% of commercial medium and heavy-duty vehicle (MHDV) sales by 2030, advancing to almost 30% by 2040. State and local mandates and corporate sustainability goals are pushing more companies towards electrification. Another driver is the increased return on investment and reduced total cost of ownership (TCO). Companies pay close attention to lifecycle costing when purchasing vehicles. Technology advancements, shifting energy prices and financial incentives are aligning the TCO of electric with gas or diesel vehicles.
Planning for Success
Utilities have seen the EV tide coming, and many are deploying wide-scale fleet advisory programs. Others are easing in, taking more time to calculate how they can be most effective. On the customer side, large businesses may have in-house fleet experts or support from the EV manufacturer thanks to large-scale fleet purchases. Conversely, smaller organizations looking to buy 20 trucks over 20 years are on their own. This is where local utilities can step in to help customers develop a long-term fleet electrification plan. By engaging customers early to identify how and where electric fleets might impact the electric grid, utilities can future-proof operations, minimize costs and support fleet electrification in the short and long term.
Setting an Example
One way to tackle a new opportunity is to start at home. Evergreen is currently helping a small utility develop and implement a fleet electrification plan for itself. In addition to presenting an excellent marketing opportunity, this initiative is capturing real-life, region-specific data that can be shared with customers. Together, we’re designing a fleet advisory program using direct experience and best practices.
Helping Customers Get Started
Utilities can begin by starting conversations with commercial customers who have fleets. We’ve organized some useful questions into three main categories: fleet vehicles, charging, and acquisition planning.
Identify existing fleet vehicles and future fleet needs: Fleet managers and business owners already have retirement dates planned for their vehicles, so they can start there and plot out what the fleet includes now and predict what it will look like down the road.
• When will they start retiring vehicles?
• Will they add vehicles? When? How many?
• What are the duty cycles? How far? How frequent? How much downtime?
Determine overall fleet charging needs: Installing equipment or systems early on to support EV future expansion will be less expensive upfront, reduce costs over time, and help protect an organization’s investment.
• How many total chargers will they need, and where will they be located?
• What are the technical requirements from charger manufacturers?
• How much power is needed over time?
• What is the existing capacity at the customer’s site, and what infrastructure do they need to reach long-term EV charging goals?
Develop an electrification plan: Before customers purchase their first EVs, they need to know details about parking and charging them. Utilities can help estimate capacity and build a timeline, taking into consideration any other factors that may put pressure on specific areas of the grid.
• What EV replacement options are available today? Within the next five years?
• What charging is needed when and where?
• How can you optimize expenses to meet immediate and growth needs?
• What funding opportunities exist to support investments?
The EV Road Ahead
While fleet advisory services are still new, they will be an important component of future utility programs. Customers are looking for guidance, and utilities have a timely opportunity to provide it. Working together, they can innovate services that increase customer satisfaction, uphold investments, and generate additional utility revenue. For help with fleet electrification planning, contact Greg Harr.