It's no secret that the transportation landscape is shifting. The smell of gasoline is starting to fade, and the hum of electric motors is becoming more apparent.
More and more, we’re seeing combustion vehicles - buses, delivery trucks, corporate fleets - giving way to their eco-friendly counterparts, electric vehicles (EVs).
Fleet operators are at the forefront of this movement. A movement that has two main objectives, to:
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- cut the total cost of ownership (TCO) through lower fuel costs, reduced maintenance costs, and government incentives.
In other words, fleet operators are becoming environmental stewards while still caring for their bottom line.
However, navigating the path isn’t always easy. The last thing you want as a fleet manager is a misstep that results in late vehicle departures, excessive charger downtime, or rollercoaster-like energy costs. Trust us, these bumps in the road are more common than you might expect.
Many of these issues stem from one single oversight – a lack of information before the installation of EV charging points. It's the equivalent of taking an unfamiliar journey without a map or GPS – you're likely to make a wrong turn, or three.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on common EV fleet charging mistakes and how to avoid or overcome them. Some of these mistakes are extremely hard to correct later down the line, so we recommend sharing these solutions with your colleagues early in the transition to an EV fleet.
Mistake #1 – Selecting Non-Networked Chargers
There's a lot more to EV charging stations than meets the eye. EV chargers are not just glorified wall sockets – they're complex pieces of technology, packed with hundreds of components.
A typical fleet charger faces challenges such as the harshness of daily use, enduring temperature swings, high power demands, and the occasional impatient user. In other words, chargers, just like any other piece of technology, can run into issues.
Imagine this – you have a fleet of electric buses or trucks that you need to be ready to hit the road the next workday, but you encounter a charger problem. You can't quickly diagnose the issue because the charger isn't connected to the internet - it's non-networked. Time ticks away, and with every passing minute, you're losing efficiency, productivity, and money.
Choosing non-networked chargers is like flying blind. Without a connection to the digital world, these chargers can't send out a distress signal when something's amiss.
The Power of Networked Chargers
Just as your smartphone is much more than a device to make calls, networked chargers are more than simply charging stations. They constantly monitor and send valuable data, including:
- error messages,
- and meter readings.
With networked chargers, you won't just reduce maintenance costs – you'll also boost your charge uptime significantly. You'll have the peace of mind that comes from knowing your chargers are functioning as they should, and you'll be able to quickly address any issues that do arise.
At Ampcontrol, we typically put these networked chargers to the test early on in the process, ensuring that our customers are confident in their decision before they commit. The power of a networked charger is something we believe in so much that we make it a priority to showcase its benefits right from the start. After all, in the world of EV fleet charging, being prepared isn't just an advantage - it's a necessity.
Mistake #2 – Using Non-OCPP Chargers
OCPP, in a nutshell, is a universal language that allows EV chargers and management systems to communicate seamlessly. It's designed to be understood by all. You can check out our comprehensive OCPP guide to find out more about the technicalities.
But why should you care about OCPP? Well, it’s all about flexibility and future-proofing. With OCPP, you're not locked into using the monitoring software that came bundled with your charger. Maybe it doesn't have the features you need, or perhaps you're not a fan of its interface. No problem – you can mix and match, selecting the software that best suits your needs.
Choose OCPP-Compatible Chargers
When choosing charger hardware, it’s important to make sure you have the freedom to connect an OCPP backend of your choice. One simple way to ensure this is to include this condition in the contract or RFP. In other words – set out your expectations clearly from the outset.
Ultimately, investing in OCPP-compliant chargers is a smart move that will help future-proof your fleet. In the fast-paced world of EV technology, the ability to adapt is fundamental.
Mistake #3 – Lack of Monitoring Software
Now, imagine you've bought a shiny new smartphone. You've checked the box for network connectivity, and it's compatible with all the apps you love. Sounds perfect, right? But there's a catch - you've decided not to install any apps. That high-tech piece of wizardry in your hand is essentially a paperweight. This is similar to having a networked, OCPP-compliant charger, but not connecting it to any monitoring software.
Without monitoring software, you’re kept in the dark. Sure, you might know that your EV fleet is charging, but you won't have any of the insights that can help you optimize your operations. The granular data about energy usage, error alerts, and the status of the charging process will be lost.
Why lose these valuable insights when a solution is available? With OCPP functionality, you can easily connect your charger to a monitoring software package of your choice.
Let's take Ampcontrol, for example. With our monitoring software, you have a command center for your chargers at your disposal. From here, you can keep an eye on energy usage and error alerts, as well as manage energy distribution, control access, and more.
The Dangers of No Monitoring Software
Neglecting to connect your EV chargers to a monitoring software can cause big problems for your fleet management, with the potential for prolonged charger downtime, late vehicle departures, and a tangled web of manual charger operation. As a fleet operator, your target should be a charger uptime of 98-99%. Falling short of this could impact your operations and, ultimately, your bottom line.
So, make the smart choice. Connect your EV chargers to monitoring software and take control of your charging operations. Because when it comes to managing an EV fleet, knowledge isn't just power – it's also efficiency, reliability, and profitability.
Mistake #4 – Ignoring Energy Tariffs
OK, so you've made the switch to an electric fleet. The vehicles are humming along, your chargers are working perfectly. All seems good. Then, out of the blue, your first energy bill arrives, and it hits you like a ton of bricks. How did it get so high?
Welcome to the world of energy tariffs.
When it comes to charging a fleet of electric vehicles, the devil is in the details – and in this case, the details are:
- when you're charging,
- how fast you're charging,
- and how much energy you're drawing in total.
Your energy bill doesn’t just depend on how much you charge, but also how and when you do it. Charging your fleet during peak energy hours or at high speeds can make your energy bill shoot through the roof.
Fortunately, there's a way to take the sting out of those energy bills – charging software with energy management functionalities.
Reduce Bills with Energy Management Software
With the right software system, such as Ampcontrol, you can manage energy tariffs like a pro. The software doesn't just monitor your charging operations – it optimizes them. Ampcontrol can be used to ensure on-time departures while also keeping energy costs in check.
Invest in a good energy management system and transform any unpleasant billing surprises into predictable and manageable expenses. Remember, when it comes to operating an efficient EV fleet, it pays to stay one step ahead.
Mistake #5 – No Alert Notifications
In a world where we get notified about everything – from a new email to the latest social media likes – it's hard to imagine a situation where an important alert could slip under the radar. Yet, when it comes to EV fleet charging management systems, this is often the case. And it’s a costly mistake.
Many charging management systems are happy to show you the number of charging sessions or the total energy usage. It's like they're saying, "Look at all this charging you're doing! Isn't it great?" But what happens when there's an issue? More often than not, these systems draw a blank.
Without automated alerts and error reports, achieving a 99% uptime for your charging infrastructure is highly unlikely. And if your chargers aren't up and running, your fleet vehicles won't be either. This means idle drivers, delayed departures, and a domino effect of disruptions that could put a serious dent in your operations.
Avoid Excessive Downtime with Built-In Alerts
The solution? A software system that does more than just count your charging sessions. You need a system that keeps you in the loop when there's a problem, sending alerts via text or email so that you can act fast.
The best charging management systems don't just include this functionality – they prioritize it. They're constantly tweaking and improving, ensuring their fleet partners are never left in the dark when it comes to charger errors.
Don't let your fleet operations be derailed by unnoticed charger errors. Invest in a software system like Ampcontrol that keeps you informed and ready to react at a moment’s notice.
Mistake #6 – No 24/7 Support and Maintenance
The world of EV fleet management doesn't operate on a 9-to-5 schedule. Charging issues can pop up anytime, day or night.
Sure, if you're a large company, you might have a team of 24/7 fleet operators, including night shifts, keeping a watchful eye on your EV charging operations. But let's face it - they're only human. They need coffee and toilet breaks, they might miss a critical alert, or they may not be adequately trained to handle a specific error. The result? Increased costs, missed schedules, and unpredictable operations.
But here's the good news: there's a way to have eyes on your chargers round-the-clock without building an in-house night shift team or relying on your fleet operators to double as charging system experts.
Apply Monitoring Software with 24/7 Real-Time Support
Companies like Ampcontrol can act as the ever-vigilant guardians of your EV charging hardware, staying alert at all times.
For instance, when an error message pings, we don't just note it; we spring into action. Our first step is always to try to resolve issues remotely, nipping potential problems in the bud. If we can't fix it, we don't rest. We immediately reach out to the hardware manufacturer to get the issue sorted.
This kind of third-party monitoring service is a cost-effective alternative to maintaining a 24/7 in-house support team for many companies. It's like having a dedicated doctor for your EV charging hardware, on-call and ready to respond at once.
But perhaps the most critical error is to think that you don't need round-the-clock monitoring at all. With charging systems as complex as they are, issues can crop up at any time. Ignoring this reality will only reduce your charger uptime and put a brake on your fleet operations, so don’t fall into this ‘wishful thinking’ trap.
Mistake #7 – Separate Vehicle Telematics
If you've been in the fleet operation business for a while, you're probably already using vehicle telematic systems like GeoTab, WebFleet, or MixTelematics. And it's likely that your fleet managers pay more attention to these vehicles than your EV charging hardware – after all, they're the ones responsible for the vehicles.
But here's where a common mistake crops up – viewing vehicle monitoring and charger monitoring as two separate entities. This couldn't be further from the truth. Like two sides of the same coin, your vehicles and chargers are interrelated and should be monitored as such.
So, what's the solution? Rather than juggling two separate systems, why not bring them together under one unified monitoring system?
Seamless Integration for 360-degree View
That's where software like Ampcontrol comes in. We bridge the gap between your existing telematics system and your charger monitoring, creating a seamless integration. This allows you to have a complete overview of your fleet operation.
Think about it. Wouldn't it be handy to see which vehicle is charging at which charger? Or to know the state of charge of your vehicles? What about identifying which vehicle is at the charging depot but isn't charging?
All this data at your fingertips, with no more guesswork, means one thing – much more reliability and efficiency.
Mistake #8 – Using Software and Hardware from One Company
If you're in the process of buying charging station hardware, you might be tempted by offers of free software from the same companies. It seems like a good deal, right? A one-stop shop for all your EV charging needs. Not so fast…
Unfortunately, hardware companies often miss the mark when it comes to software. When you test and use their software, you'll quickly spot the gaps. Lack of error identification, difficulty recognizing vehicles, an inability to access OCPP logs, or a lack of functionality to optimize energy costs – these are just a few of the shortcomings you might encounter.
We've seen customers come to us, frustration etched on their faces, after wasting months of valuable time with software that fell short of their needs.
That's why it's a common mistake to rely on software provided by a hardware vendor that doesn't specialize in EV fleet charging. It's a seemingly convenient choice that could turn costly in the long run, leaving you unable to prevent critical operation problems.
At Ampcontrol, we've poured our expertise into developing a hardware-agnostic software that works for you. We're all about making sure you get the most out of your charging system, whichever hardware brand you decide to use.
Mistake #9 – Failing to Run a Pilot
You wouldn't invest in a house without taking a tour first, would you? Or buy a car without a test drive? The same logic applies when it comes to choosing your EV fleet management system.
EV fleet operations are complex, intricate machines with lots of moving parts. Every fleet operation is unique, with its own set of requirements and challenges. You can spend hours poring over research, trying to cover every base, or you can jump in and test the waters with a pilot program.
Running a pilot is like dipping your toes in the water before diving in. It allows you to:
- validate the efficacy of your chosen system,
- assess the level of support you'll receive,
- and identify any overlooked aspects or potential stumbling blocks.
The beauty of a pilot is that it gives you an opportunity to experience the realities of the system without fully committing to it.
Partner with Experts
Remember, EV fleet management isn't just about choosing a system; it's about choosing a partner. A partner who's ready to work with you, to learn your needs, and to adapt as those needs evolve.
That's why at Ampcontrol, we're open to running both short and long pilots.
Whether you're testing a handful of chargers or operating across multiple sites, we're here to help you test the waters. A well-executed pilot could be your best ally in making the right decision for your fleet operations.
The rapid shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) presents unique challenges for fleet operators, particularly regarding effective EV charging strategies. This article highlights common mistakes often made in EV fleet charging and we hope that it has given you some clear guidance on how to avoid or overcome them.
Check out Ampcontrol's software today to see how our software can make your transition to an electric fleet as smooth and cost-effective as possible. Book a demo here.