The Basics of Planning and Building Fleet Charging

Part of our series, “Under the Frunk: Lifting the Lid on Common EV Questions”

Key points

  • Electric vehicles (EVs) offer new benefits to fleet managers but also require new practices and planning to fully realize these benefits
  • To ensure the most efficient and effective charging infrastructure, fleet managers need to consider their vehicles' battery size, duty cycle, and charging capabilities
  • Overnight usage of Level 1 and Level 2 charging while the car is parked minimizes disruptions during the workday

As fleet managers transition their vehicles to electric, it's important to understand that designing an EV charging infrastructure should fit your vehicle and operational patterns, as fleet charging isn't one size fits all. Let’s clear up some misconceptions about the charging process, as EV charging is fundamentally different from gas refueling.

One of our clients' drivers mentioned that never having to go to the gas station is a key benefit because it does not disrupt the workday. Stationary or parked vehicles can use Level 2 charging, but the amps required might vary. On the other hand, vehicles running three shifts a day and making a few short stops in different locations might require Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) as the best option.

Bare Essentials for EV Charging and Battery Health

Fleet operators typically charge their vehicles when they're not in use, leading to increased efficiency and reduced downtime during the day – a win for both fleet managers and drivers. By plugging in before work, running errands, or getting rest, the vehicle is more likely to be ready to go by the time you need it.

Manufacturers typically recommend charging to 80% state of charge (SOC) to help prolong the life of standard NMC-chemistry batteries (Nickel Manganese Cobalt), but this is evolving as other chemistries like LFP (Lithium Iron Phosphate) become common. Charging the battery to 100% for extended periods puts more stress on the cells, causing them to degrade faster over time. By charging to 80%, you are provided with enough range for most daily use, while still leaving a buffer for unexpected trips or emergencies.

Types of Charging Stations: Level 1, Level 2, and DC Fast Charging

A majority of fleet vehicles stay parked for at least 15 hours a day, which is enough time to charge most vehicles to 80% using the more cost-effective Level 2 charging station. However, the charging speed varies depending on the electrical setup.

For example, a Ford F-150 Lightning Extended Range (carrying a massive 131 kWh battery) can be charged to 80% during most downtime with an 80A, 40A, 32A, or higher output Level 2 charger. It could even charge to 100% with the 80A and 40A in that same amount of time, though this may not be necessary.

The graph below shows how long it would take to charge the same electric pickup, starting from the slowest charging level (Level 1, 12A, 120V) to the fastest (DCFC, 150 kW).

These times cite a 10-to-80% charge as well as a 0-to-100% charge. If fleet vehicles are returning to their end-of-day destinations at a higher state than 0% and 10%, these charge times would be even faster. Depending on the weekly energy requirement and routes, a vehicle could even get by with Level 1 charging.

Fast charging is not the only option for charging EVs, and in many cases, it may not even be necessary. From the examples above, slower charging (Levels 1 and 2) is just as effective for many fleets.

Planning an EV Charging Infrastructure

To prepare for a successful switch, fleet managers should answer the following questions when working out what their charging needs might be:

  • How long and where does the vehicle sit each night?
  • What size battery does the vehicle have, and how will that affect charging times?
  • How much energy is needed to meet the duty cycle of the vehicle’s daily route?
  • How fast can the vehicle charge on both AC (alternative current) and DCFC?

It is crucial to have a good partner to help find the accurate answers to these questions, create a plan for your vehicle acquisition, and deploy your vehicles and charging infrastructure in the field. Merge’s Charging Services provide charging feasibility based on your unique operations, informed by telematic solutions like our EV360™ solution. Get in touch today and learn.

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