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A Coordinated Approach to Fleet Electrification

It’s no secret that sleek new makes and models of electric vehicles (EVs) dominate the media coverage around transportation electrification. Just as important, however, is the grid impact and dynamic planning required to efficiently interconnect EV charging infrastructure to utility power grids.

Part one of this two-part blog series highlights the scale of commercial fleet migration to EVs, the infrastructure that will be required, and the benefits utilities and EV fleet managers can gain by streamlining, optimizing and centralizing interconnection. Part two will delve into the challenges that residential and multi-unit dwelling owners and operators experience with EV charging infrastructure, and the best practices some utilities have developed to maximize customer satisfaction.

Committing to Fleet Electrification
Transportation electrification will require unprecedented interaction and coordination between fleet owners and utilities. A recent ICCT report forecasts that public and workplace charging may need to grow from approximately 216,000 chargers in 2020 to 2.4 million by 2030, including 1.3 million workplace, 900,000 public Level 2, and 180,000 DC fast chargers. Several of the country’s largest fleet operators are already embracing the benefits of fleet electrification, including:

  • FedEx announced that by 2040, 100% of their parcel pickup and delivery fleet, equaling about 100,000 vehicles, will be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV).
  • Amazon has announced plans to reach net-zero emissions across all operations by 2040 and has ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles.
  • UPS has purchased 10,000 electric vans purpose-built by the UK start-up Arrival to meet their specifications.

While national fleets such as FedEx and USPS capture media attention, they represent a small fraction of the total fleet vehicles operating in the U.S. According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 11 million fleet vehicles operate in the U.S., and 25% belong to fleet operators with fewer than 15 vehicles. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of small fleet operators and thousands of utilities will begin navigating this transition in the coming decade.

This migration to electric fleets will greatly challenge local electrical capacity. According to FleetOwner.com, approximately 90% of commercial and industrial sites have insufficient power to charge five electric trucks, and increasing this capacity could take several years. As Quincy Lee, the CEO and founder at Electric Era stated:

“The costs and timelines of interconnection for fleet charging are complicated by the variability in local capacity by location and utility territory. A study by National Grid recently found that a plurality of feeders in Metropolitan cities would be overloaded by the electrification of medium- and heavy-duty fleets.”

Greater Coordination and Transparency
Fortunately, utilities are well equipped to develop mid- and long-term resource plans that account for new load growth on their systems caused by EV charging. Similarly, business owners and fleet operators are accustomed to multi-year procurement planning processes. However, these activities need greater coordination. When and where a fleet owner plans to deploy charging infrastructure can have significant implications for infrastructure costs. As Bill Cawein, manager of technology & integration at FedEx describes,

“Expanding the vehicle charging infrastructure at our facilities is a critical part of transitioning our pickup and delivery fleet to EVs, and FedEx understands the complex requirements needed to achieve this goal. We are collaborating with utility companies to help develop sustainable, green grids that will support the infrastructure needed to charge electric, zero-emissions delivery vehicles. For example, we will work with utility companies to help ensure grid supply can meet the demand of EV charging infrastructure without negatively impacting market conditions in local communities.”

Utilities can help EV fleet managers by ensuring a shared understanding of topics, such as:

  • The amount of lead time required for potential upgrades or line extension
  • The timeline, magnitude, and location of new charging loads
  • The degree of flexibility in the charging requirements of the fleet (peak power, location on the feeder, ability to shift the time of charging)

Utilities should also consider streamlining processes and centralizing record keeping for interconnection workflows and information exchange between parties. Centralized data collection for cross-program reporting enables utility planners to understand the compounding impacts of asymmetric load growth on a specific feeder or substation. Many utilities are familiar with similar processes related to DER interconnection and can leverage their systems and best practices from those efforts.

Benefits to Better Coordination
Electric utilities that support fleet owners through their electrification journey can align fleet charging loads to existing capacity and avoid costly grid upgrades. In addition, this coordinated approach enables utilities to identify where to make grid investments to meet, and stay ahead of, commercial customers’ charging requirements. Both utilities and EV fleet managers can benefit from better coordination.

Fleet operators benefit from:

  • Increased operational efficiency by enrollment in managed charging programs that ensure each vehicle charges at an optimized time and rate, which can extend the life of their vehicles and increase operational efficiency.
  • Avoidance of expensive grid upgrades by balancing charging requirements with existing electrical infrastructure.
  • Longer planning timelines through greater transparency and collaboration with utilities.

Utilities benefit from:

  • Deeper insight into grid demand by creating a forward-looking view of where and when fleet vehicle charging will occur.
  • Better engagement with commercial customers to facilitate enrollment in strategic EV programs and initiatives (fleet management services, managed charging, future V2G, etc.).
  • Improved customer satisfaction by facilitating the planning for and purchase of commercial EVs and charging equipment.

Through coordination and collaboration, commercial fleet managers and utilities can greatly simplify and streamline fleet charging equipment interconnection. This helps avoid unnecessary costs and meet EV fleet electrification objectives.

Do you have questions about EV program strategy, management or EVSE interconnection? If so, experts from the SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group and Clean Power Research can help. Stay tuned for Part two of “EVSE Interconnection: Customer Pain Points & Evolving Interconnection Processes.” We’ll take a look at the challenges that residential and multi-unit dwelling owners and operators experience with EV infrastructure, and how some utilities have developed best practices to maximize customer satisfaction.

About the Authors

Andrew Price is a Business Development Manager at Clean Power Research where he helps utilities shape and implement their transportation electrification strategies. Andrew is also a member of the SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group.  Andrew can be reached at [email protected]

Garrett Fitzgerald is Senior Director, Electrification at SEPA and the Chair of the SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group. Garrett can be reached at [email protected]

The SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group includes more than 700 members and focuses on the role of utilities in the deployment of EVs by identifying trends, business models, and strategies to roll out “smart” charging infrastructure. The group tracks trends and examines opportunities for light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty vehicle classes, fleet vehicles, and charging infrastructure.  For more information, contact [email protected]