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The importance of API interfaces for electric vehicle fleets


November 11, 2021

The world of electric fleet management is a diverse one.

Fleet managers that oversee partial or entire fleets of electric vehicles face different sets of challenges depending on the operation of their fleet, routes, and maintenance requirements.

For instance, many fleet managers need to keep track of driving mileage (or kilometers) and schedule drivers on the right vehicles at the start of a shift. For a fleet of any size, this can quickly become a nightmare to manage.

The challenges faced by electric fleet managers can appear to be entirely disconnected. A diverse marketplace has grown that offers solutions to these problems, such as automated scheduling for routes, maintenance planning, and charging solutions.

The question is, can these different solutions and systems be connected and unified to make life easier, and if so, how?

Challenges fleet managers can solve with modern software

Let’s imagine you’re operating a fleet of 100 delivery vehicles. Each vehicle is operating six days a week and with nine hours of operation per day.

Your company has set 3 top business priorities and objectives:

  1. Short inspection times
  2. Low overhead costs
  3. On-time delivery

To achieve these goals, you’ll need to use different systems to optimize individual processes.

For example, you’ll need a maintenance system that tracks inspection reports and gathers sensor data from vehicles.

You’ll also need a workforce management system to schedule drivers on vehicles and plan when vehicles need to leave for their trip.

Finally, you’ll need to use an electric vehicle charging system to ensure that vehicles are fully charged on time.

With the software solutions available today, these three systems will be working entirely independently. You probably even got them from different solutions providers.

So, the next challenge is how to achieve efficiency when using so many unconnected systems.

Electric fleet vehicles for utilities

The headache of solving individual problems when using unconnected systems

To get to a high level of efficiency, you need to leverage the most out of all the systems you use. In other words, how can you best achieve the three goals mentioned above using those systems?

The problem becomes clear when you look into whether the systems work together well. The bottom line is they don’t.

For example, your fulfillment system may schedule early delivery for specific vehicles, but your charging system doesn’t get the information. In that scenario, drivers will often be faced with half-charged vehicles, which means they’re forced to change vehicles or even abandon the delivery trip.

The situation described above can easily lead to increased costs, significant delays to deliveries, not to mention a big dent in your reputation.

APIs — What are they and how can they help EV fleet management

You may think that the simplest way to solve the above problem is to connect the systems to make one package. But that is not the case. It may be easier just to exchange information between them.

Consider the problem described above. All that needs to happen is for the fulfillment system to inform the charging management system that a vehicle has an earlier departure time than usual and thus has a higher priority for the charging process. This only involves one system communicating a single piece of data to the other — the expected departure time of the EV.

In other words, exchanging data is far simpler than trying to combine entire systems. This is why interfaces can come to the rescue in the form of APIs.

API stands for Application Programming Interface, and they provide a simple way to exchange data between software systems and apps.

In the case of fleet management, APIs can help to exchange data between the electric vehicle charging system, the fulfillment system, and the maintenance system.

For instance, every time the fulfillment selects a particular electric vehicle for an early departure, it also sends this information to the charging management system.

Another example could be that the charging management system informs the fulfillment system of which vehicle is ready first and is most suitable to be used for the early delivery.

Can APIs revolutionize the world of electric vehicles in the modern fleet operation?

Fleets are growing bigger every year. Requirements for on-time schedules, sustainability, and safety are rising too.

The problem is that many systems are not fully ready to offer APIs.

However, APIs have been state-of-the-art for many other industries such as payment systems like Stripe or even communication systems like Slack. There’s no reason that APIs can’t revolutionize the EV world too.

An excellent example of implementing APIs for fleet vehicles is Ampcontrol.

Ampcontrol is optimization software for electric vehicles that applies Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce charging costs and on-time departure for electric vehicles.

Ampcontrol is also the first software system to provide API interfaces to connect to third party fleet systems.

For example, Ampcontrol could interface with a system such as Samsara that provides simple vehicle loggers to send real-time sensor data. Their API can be connected to Ampcontrol to keep the EV charging system updated at all times.

What are the immediate benefits of using APIs in EV fleet charging?

Here is an excellent example to demonstrate the many benefits of using APIs in EV fleet management.

Imagine that your vehicles are slowly arriving at the end of a working day. The data logger of each vehicle sends Ampcontrol information about the trip, driven miles, and the state of the battery. Even before the driver plugs-in the vehicle to the charging station, Ampcontrol has already received the most up-to-date data on each vehicle and planned the charging events for the EVs ahead of time. It used the API from the data logger to good effect.

At the next stage, Ampcontrol uses the API to inform the fulfillment center about when each vehicle will be fully charged and ready to go. The fulfillment center uses this information to decide which packages go into which vehicle. You can apply this logic to any other system that is used in a modern electric fleet. For example, APIs can be applied to workforce management systems, building management systems, or even weather forecasting.

The possibilities are endless.

Final Thoughts

For too long, EV fleet managers have had to rely on various software systems to oversee operations, which don’t communicate with each other.

The disconnected nature of these systems means that problems arise, such as under-charged vehicles and poorly planned delivery fulfillment. Efficiency savings are often overlooked when systems aren’t connected.

APIs provide a solution by exchanging data between these systems. Charging software such as Ampcontrol will automatically feed critical information to the relevant systems, which cuts costs, lowers overheads, and improves fleet performance.

To conclude, McKinsey has revealed that redistributing revenues between systems can generate around $1 trillion in economic profit. The consulting firm identities APIs as a significant driver for that. Just think how much you could be saving on electric vehicle fleet management only by using API-enabled software such as Ampcontrol.

Read more about the benefits of cloud-based charging management systems here: What is Smart Charging for Electric Vehicles?

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Ampcontrol is a cloud-based software that seamlessly connects to charging networks, vehicles, fleet systems, and other software systems. No hardware needed, just a one-time integration.