November 11, 2021
As the world moves towards electric vehicle transportation, one of the most important things to get right for fleet managers is making sure that electric trucks and vans are fully charged and ready to complete their routes, while also keeping costs down.
Usually, this means charging the fleet during the night rather than daytime. This article will explore why this is the case and look at some of the best practices for electric truck charging.
In a recent interview with the magazine Overdrive, Todd Amen, the owner of an American logistics company, explained that during the 2000s his trucks were rolling 800 to 1,300 miles on a single trip. Over the past decade or so, this has dropped to an average of 400 miles.
Indeed, in 2000, a truck was typically driving 800 miles in the U.S. between departure and destination. In 2018, this was only 500 miles.
The average length-of-haul for trucking has decreased by 62% since 2005. And the downward trend looks set to continue. But why?
The simple answer is that modern consumers expect more and more last-mile delivery, which requires a more distributed logistic network with shorter delivery distances. Modern manufacturing and distribution strategies such as Toyota’s lean manufacturing principles, require just-in-time delivery between suppliers and manufacturers.
Another surprising factor, that may be even more important, is driver retention. Long-distance trucking is not an easy or desirable job for most people. For logistics companies, it is easier to win and retain drivers for short trips than long distances, as it allows drivers to stay closer to families and live healthier lives.
For these reasons, at the time of driving, the average daily mileage for a truck is less than 200 miles. The next question is — how can electric trucks be charged efficiently and cost-effectively to meet the demands of last-mile delivery electric vehicle fleets.
Consequently, trucks are mainly operated during the day and can be charged during the night without interrupting the driver’s work.
Firstly, let’s look at overnight charging purely in terms of cost.
If you think about internal combustion engine vehicle fleets, it doesn’t matter whether they are filled up during the night or day — the cost does not change.
Yes, there are fueling strategies that fleet managers can apply to make small savings. But it doesn’t make a difference whether the truck driver fills the fuel tank at the depot first thing in the morning or late in the evening — the price remains the same. This picture changes entirely when it comes to electric vehicle charging.
Charging overnight is far cheaper than during the day and the difference in price is so large it can determine whether an electric-powered fleet is financially viable or not.
Electricity is cheaper at night for a simple reason. You only need to look at a typical load curve of the grid to see that most energy consumption is during the morning and afternoon, due to the demand for electricity created by manufacturing plants, factories, offices, industrial units, domestic properties, etc.
In fact, many electricity utility providers send emergency alerts to people at peak times, asking them to switch air conditioning units off to reduce demand and prevent grid overload.
Therefore, it makes sense that grid utility companies won’t like it if you decide to charge 50 electric trucks in the middle of the day (keep this in mind: charging one truck requires 20x the power of one AC unit). They will try to stop you by offering incentives to charge your fleet during off-peak hours.
The type of motivational incentives used are flexible energy price structures and special energy programs (Demand Response). For instance, commercial energy tariffs in many states already offer 2-3 different pricing plans per day. You can save up to 60% by picking the right time to charge your electric trucks.
Charging at night will be cheaper and is a necessity as it’s often the only time when the grid can support the necessary power, especially as more and more electric vehicles hit the road.
Despite the benefits mentioned above, at the moment most fleet operators are not charging their electric trucks at night. They simply don’t have two or three people working overnight who will go around and hook up the electric trucks to charging points and manage the charging.
What is needed is an effective, automated software solution to help charge the electric truck fleet overnight. Without this, companies end up with numerous manual tasks and poor charging strategies that make electric fleets seem less feasible to manage.
The last thing you want to do as the fleet operator is demand that your staff makes individual and blind decisions about which vehicles should be charged at specific times and for how long.
You wouldn’t give a FedEx or UPS driver 100 packages to deliver without telling them how they should be delivered. You wouldn’t say “just figure out the route yourself, see ya later!” Instead, companies use modern and intelligent routing systems to support operators and drivers.
The same is true for EV charging. Software solutions have been created to enable smart charging of electric vehicles, electric fleets, and eTrucks.
Smart charging software such as Ampcontrol uses vehicle data, energy pricing data, and other information, to automatically send commands to your charging stations. Your drivers can receive notifications, detailing which charging stations they should use and when. If you have more vehicles than charging points, the software will automatically do all the necessary calculations to work out the charging order and duration.
As the electric vehicle revolution continues to grow, there will be an increasing pressure put upon fleet operators to switch to eTrucks and electric vans. This brings up the issue of charging — how and when to do it efficiently and cost-effectively. Due to pricing incentives, overnight charging is the cheapest and easiest option.
However, rather than paying staff to manually take care of the EV charging, it makes more sense to use smart charging software such as Ampcontrol to manage everything for you.
Keep reading about electric truck fleets here: 3 ways electric trucks are shaping middle-mile transportation strategies
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