As more fleet managers are looking to add electric vehicles to their fleets, they are facing new questions about how to operate efficiently and effectively for drivers. Plenty of fleets already allow employees to take light-duty vehicles home on evenings and weekends, and most offer fuel cards or gas reimbursement. Electric vehicles throw a little wrench into this system—EV drivers are quite likely to “fuel” with an at-home charger.
The most cost-effective and convenient place to charge an electric car is usually where it’s parked overnight. If your light-duty fleet vehicles are going home with employees, home charging should be a part of your fleet electrification plan. Merge knows there are a few hurdles to overcome when planning for home charging, and we can help. In today’s article, we’ll explore the options for home charging and how fleet managers can prepare for the future.
Level 2 Charging for Electric Fleet Vehicles
First, the best option for at-home EV fleet charging is known as “Level 2.” This refers to a charging unit that’s wired or plugged in to a 240-volt circuit, similar to the one that most clothes dryers use. While some employees may already have a 240-volt plug ready to use in their garage, others will need to have one installed. This can be relatively simple if their existing electrical panel has capacity, but can be quite pricey if upgrades to their service are needed. If Level 2 is an option, drivers will have nightly access to charging.
For most light-duty electric vehicles on the market, a Level 2 unit can fully charge a vehicle overnight so it’s ready for the next day’s driving. EV batteries, just like those in your smartphone or laptop, have a longer life when they’re kept in a state of charge between 20% and 80%. According to data from early EV fleet pilot projects, Merge found that the majority of fleet drivers in the program are able to reach 80% with plenty of time to spare before the vehicle is needed for the morning commute.
Level 2 chargers are available as networked or “smart” units that collect usage data and can report back to the fleet management team. Merge uses this data to pay employees for charging company vehicles at their homes. There are also non-networked Level 2 chargers for a simpler solution if a networked unit isn’t needed.
Of course, the availability of Level 2 home charging for fleets depends on a number of factors:
- Access to a 240-volt outlet (not always available for single- or multi-family housing)
- Possible electrical upgrades
- Parking location (off street, near electrical outlet, etc.)
- Permission from landlords and/or HOAs for multi-family housing
While these considerations are key for fleet managers, they don’t have to be a barrier to fleet electrification. Merge works alongside fleet managers to answer these questions, overcome hurdles, install Level 2 chargers for drivers, and plan for successful EV deployments in the future.
Level 1 Charging for Electric Fleet Vehicles
Level 1 refers to plugging an electric vehicle into a standard, 110-volt outlet. It’s as simple as plugging in your phone, toaster, or any other household appliance, and many electric vehicle drivers still use Level 1 at home to keep their cars moving. While Level 2 charging is certainly much faster, drivers who don’t travel long distances each day or need a fast turnaround time can meet their car’s charging needs with a Level 1 charger.
In exploring fleet electrification for light-duty vehicles, fleet managers may run across discussions on how to mix Level 2 and DC fast charging in their infrastructure plans. In this piece discussing charging options for fleets, Level 1 isn’t even mentioned as an option for fleet electrification. Many fleet management companies, charging manufacturers, and EV services companies may discourage fleets from exploring Level 1.
At Merge, we disagree with this perspective. For light-duty vehicles that travel short distances, Level 1 could well be a good solution. Here’s a real-world example from our work.
Merge recently launched a pilot program that included four drivers, all living in single-family homes with off-street parking. Each driver was enthusiastic about driving an electric car and excited to be chosen for the program. However, once the work of assessing charging began, we realized one of the drivers would require an expensive electrical panel upgrade in order to install a Level 2 charger.
Instead of paying for the upgrade or dropping the driver from the pilot program, we decided to look at the data. We evaluated the driver’s daily driving patterns, range needs, and work schedule. The analysis revealed that the driver could still utilize an EV without negative impact to her daily driving needs by plugging into a standard 110V outlet each evening and visiting a public DC fast charger at her local grocery store about once every other week for a catch-up charging session. She was delighted to be included in the pilot, and thus far is easily meeting her range needs with occasional fast charging. Merge is monitoring the vehicle and charging behavior to see if this solution can apply to other drivers in this fleet in the future.
While Level 1 charging certainly isn’t an option for everyone, for many it can enable vehicle electrification sooner without expensive upgrades or infrastructure investments.
Other Considerations for At-Home EV Fleet Charging
There are a few other options to consider when looking at charging options for EV fleets:
Depot/yard/office location charging: At-home charging can and should be supplemented with charging options where vehicles park, whether it’s an office location or fleet depot. Level 2 will work for places where cars will park for several hours, while DC fast charging may be required if vehicles are cycling in and out at a faster rate.
Accounting and payment: Determine how your organization wants to handle payment and accounting for sessions whether at home or at public charging stations.
Data collection: While many fleets already use telematics, it’s a good idea to continue collecting data and start tracking metrics around EV charging. Without data, you’re flying blind as plan for future electric fleet vehicles.
Public DC fast charging: Many fleets may choose to supplement home and office charging with access to DC fast charging at public stations. Merge has worked with customers to provide access cards to the most common public networks.