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Revving Up for the Fleet Electrification Transition

Revving Up for the Fleet Electrification Transition

Electric fleets are not on the horizon but rather at our doorstep. The U.S. EV industry is growing rapidly year over year with sales expected to grow from 1 million vehicles in 2022 to over 1.6 million in 2023.1 Utilities must also prepare for a significant increase in electricity demand caused by this shift in vehicle technology. As fleets evolve from minor commercial customers with their demand stemming from a few computers, lighting, and HVAC systems into significant electricity consumers who can consume electricity at levels on par with data centers, utilities are thrust into the pivotal role of facilitating, managing, and enabling the electrification transition.

Over the past year, the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has explored the complexities of this transition and begun charting a path forward as utilities plan and prepare for increased demand for fleet electric vehicle charging. Through a series of interviews, collaborative workshops, and case study exploration, SEPA has identified best practices that utilities can adopt to navigate the electrification journey, ensuring a more seamless transition for themselves and their fleet customers. The findings are available in the recently published report, Preparing for Customer Fleet Electrification: A Utility Framework.

This report explores the complex relationship between electric utilities, fleet operators, and charging providers. It provides a framework to guide utilities as they are increasingly required to facilitate fleets’ transitions to electric vehicles. Recognizing that the utility cannot ensure a smooth transition on its own, the report examines both utility and collaborative actions. The following best practices offer a roadmap for utilities and fleet electrification stakeholders, outlining key strategies to support fleets’ swift transition to electric vehicles effectively.

Utility Actions:

The following are actions utilities can take on their own to help provide fleet operators a more seamless transition toward electric vehicles.

Understanding Fleets in Your Service Territory: Recognizing and comprehending fleets’ unique needs and operational patterns within a utility’s service territory is a critical first step. This involves proactive engagement, data analysis, and developing strategies that align with the unique requirements of different fleet categories, ensuring utilities are not just suppliers of electricity but also partners in the electrification journey.

Creating Clear Utility Processes: Streamlining utility processes, from program design and application to management and communication, is crucial. Clear, efficient, and transparent processes facilitate smooth operations and enhance customer experience and trust, ensuring utilities and fleet operators are in sync throughout the electrification process.

Providing Tools: Utilities are encouraged to equip fleet operators with the necessary tools and resources to manage and optimize their operations. This involves offering technical support, developing and providing access to fleet electrification tools, and providing continuous support and performance tracking.

Internal Fleet Electrification & Education: Utilities can lead by example, embarking on their own internal fleet electrification and fostering a learning environment. This involves adopting electric fleets and ensuring that their employees are well-educated and adept at fleet electrification operations and management. This will enhance internal processes and provide utilities with firsthand insights into fleet operator challenges.

Collaborative Actions:

The following actions require utilities to seek collaboration across fleet electrification stakeholders.

Increasing Stakeholder Dialogue: The path to successful fleet electrification is paved with an understanding of stakeholder needs. Open dialogue between utilities, fleet operators, and others is essential to navigating challenges and devising mutually beneficial solutions. This involves creating platforms for dialogue, prioritizing stakeholder input, and designing and implementing collaborative strategies.

Growing Role of EVSPs: Electric Vehicle Service Providers (EVSPs) are likely to play a critical role in fulfilling large-scale charging needs. Establishing and nurturing collaborations with EVSPs allows fleet operators to access comprehensive and efficient charging solutions. This involves understanding the capabilities of EVSPs, and potentially developing separate, more frictionless processes for EVSPs, increasing the speed they can deploy charging to fleet operators.

Regulatory Barriers: Navigating regulatory frameworks and promoting alignment with the rapid advancements in fleet electrification is crucial. This involves active participation in regulatory discussions and advocacy for frameworks supporting and facilitating electrification. Utilities are actively participating in regulatory dialogues to advance policies and frameworks that are conducive to the rapid evolution of the electrification landscape.

Future Proofing: Future-proofing involves proactive planning, infrastructure development, and preparing utilities to manage the future demands of fleet electrification. This involves strategic planning, technology adoption, and laying the groundwork for evolving fleet electrification demands.

We are on the cusp of an electrified future. The coming surge of electric fleets will require a shift in the way utilities operate. This moment calls for a partnership between utilities, fleet operators, and other stakeholders. Our detailed Preparing for Customer Fleet Electrification: A Utility Framework offers best practices, insights, and case studies as you navigate your electrification journey. Download the full report here.