A renaissance has begun in commercial fleet management. Organizations are moving away from traditional cars and trucks with combustion engines in favor of electric vehicles (EVs).
And that means asset managers must prepare for dramatically different maintenance strategies.
New strategies will include unique maintenance schedules tailored to EVs, customized pre-trip inspection checklists, specialized inventory, and more. Most fleet managers will rely on their enterprise asset management (EAM) software as they bring electric cars and trucks into their asset portfolio.
The rise of electric vehicles
Electric vehicles aren’t a fad. Their economic and environmental advantages are so compelling, it’s prompting major investments from vehicle manufacturers worldwide.
The trend is fuelled by a number of additional considerations, including new environmental standards, cooperative global efforts among large organizations, and a growing consumer interest in sustainability.
To meet the challenge, international businesses like Ikea and Unilever have committed to fully adopting electric fleet vehicles by 2030. Other companies, like Amazon, AT&T, and DHL have also committed to accelerating their transitions to EVs.
Meanwhile, the forecast for electro-mobility shows a compound annual growth rate of 29% over the next 10 years, according to Deloitte.
For fleet managers, the biggest difference between combustion-engine vehicles and EVs comes down to maintenance. When deciding whether a switch to EVs makes sense for your organization, examine the data in your asset management software platform and build your case for adopting EVs, supported by a value proposition based on hard numbers.
For example, if your fuel costs are rising, the fuel savings provided by EVs might be your best business advantage for the future. Sensitivity to environmental concerns are one thing, but dollars-and-cents data speaks for itself.
Electric vehicles lower fleet maintenance costs
Along with significantly lowering dangerous carbon emissions in the environment, EVs also promise lower total cost of ownership for your fleet, including lower fuel and maintenance costs.
Electric vehicles are less expensive to drive than gasoline or diesel vehicles. For example, the electricity required to drive 15,000 miles per year in an electric passenger car costs an average of $546. The amount of gas required to drive the same distance with a traditional combustion-engine car costs $1,255—that’s 130% more.
Internal combustion engines have as many as 400 moving parts. By comparison, the induction motors in electronic vehicles only have about 20—almost 2,000% fewer parts! Of the 31 most common car problems, two-thirds are issues that only combustion engine vehicles can have, such as transmission problems, clogged fuel injectors, and faulty spark plugs.
When it comes to preventive maintenance, electronic vehicle owners have no need for tune-ups, oil changes, cooling system flushes, or transmission servicing. And there are fewer routine replacement parts, too. For example, with an electric vehicle, you’ll never need to buy another spark plug.
Fleet managers can add labor savings to the maintenance cost proposition as well. Fewer preventive tasks means fewer work orders and fewer hours of labor.
If maintained according to manufacturers’ recommendations, electric cars cost an average of $949 less annually to maintain than gas-powered vehicles. Fleet managers in New York City have reported spending less than $400 to maintain their all-electric vehicles per year, compared to more than $1,300 for combustion-engine vehicles.
Although the maintenance savings are clear, it’s important to remember that EVs are not maintenance-free assets, of course.
5 areas of electric fleet vehicle maintenance
There’s no doubt that electric vehicles will substantially change fleet maintenance. Asset managers must begin reorganizing their approach, especially if they plan to use both traditional vehicles and electric vehicles simultaneously as they transition to all-electric fleets.
When it comes to electric vehicles, there are five general areas that require preventive maintenance.
Electric vehicle batteries are heavy, costly, and a major factor in a vehicle’s future residual value. Battery problems can occur when a vehicle idles too long in extremely hot or cold temperatures, is charged too often, or is left dormant and uncharged.
Thehigh-performance batteries used in EVs have a limited number of charging cycles. If the battery does need to be replaced outside of the warranty, fleet managers must plan for a significant expense—$5,500 or more.
Use your EAM to track every EV’s empty miles, number of charges and downtime. Also use it to plan future budget expenses and track your electric fleet’s total cost of ownership. As you begin your transition, you can gain valuable insight on your new fleet’s metrics over time.
Battery electric vehicles have few moving parts that produce friction and heat, but they still have coolant that keeps the batteries at a safe operating temperature. Coolant system-flush intervals vary widely, from every four years or 50,000 miles to every 150,000 miles.
Create a preventive maintenance schedule in your EAM based on the manufacturer’s recommendations for coolant systems. It’s an important safety measure you won’t want to defer.
Brake pads and discs can wear out in electric vehicles. Service times depend on how many miles they’re driven, how hard, the regeneration settings used, and the driving terrain. Brake wear is significantly reduced due to regenerative braking.
That’s why it’s important to monitor mileage in your EAM and program automatic notifications that can trigger work orders to replace brake systems at the appropriate time.
Like gas-powered vehicles, the brake fluid in electric vehicles is hydraulic and hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the air. As a result, it will corrode a brake system unless it’s flushed regularly. Be sure to add fluid flushing to your EAM preventive maintenance schedule.
Because they have large batteries, EVs are rather heavy and exert a lot of torque on the wheels. As a result, the tires should be rotated on a regular schedule to preserve their lifetime value.
As every fleet manager knows, tires are a significant investment, so use your EAM to schedule rotations and avoid tire blow-outs. That saves time and money. Also use your EAM to plan ahead for the investment in tire replacement.
5 Wiper blades and bulbs
Just as with any other fleet car or truck, EVs have similar heavy-wear components that are inexpensive and easy to replace, such as wiper blades. Use your EAM to schedule wiper blade replacement just as you would for the rest of your fleet, and require operators to check them often as part of the pre-trip safety inspection.
The power that moves the drive train of EVs comes from their internal batteries. The batteries also power the other electric features of the vehicle, such as interior lights, headlamps, and turn signals. Your operators should check all the lights and signals routinely, just as they would for any other vehicle, as part of the pre-trip inspection.
Charging electric vehicles
Inevitably, it seems almost every fleet operator will enter the world of electronic fleet vehicles. As you consider your transition, understanding the basics of the charging infrastructure will help prepare your organization.
Most fleet operators will have their EVs return to base to charge their batteries, according to a report from the North American Council on Freight Efficiency (NACFE). That charging infrastructure, NACFE said, is “one of the largest unknowns and sources of anxiety for fleets considering near-term adoption of this technology.”
There are two types of EV charging options.
With AC (alternative current) charging, the vehicle’s onboard charger acts as a converter, converting power from AC to DC (direct current), which it then feeds into the EV’s battery. It’s a slower process by comparison to DC charging, and it’s generally used for consumers charging passenger EVs at home.
AC Level 1 is an ordinary household-type of outlet. It produces 4.5 miles of range per hour of charging or about 22 hours for a full charge.
AC Level 2 can be charged with a dedicated outlet similar to those used for a household electric dryer. It produces around 26 miles of range per hour of charging.
The DC charger also acts as the converter, which means it feeds power directly to the vehicle’s battery, without the need for the onboard charger to convert it first. DC chargers offer faster charging times. Most commercial fleets will need on-site DC charging.
DC Fast uses a high-voltage connector that delivers more power than a household outlet and produces about 40 miles of range for every 10 minutes of charging.
Superchargers are powerful DC systems built for charging vehicles quickly for long-range driving. Many urban areas worldwide are installing public-use fast charging stations for EVs to power up enroute.
Simplify electric vehicle maintenance with EAM
Just as companies rely on their EAM to help manage their fleet of gas-powered vehicles, they can use the same software to ensure they are maintaining their electric vehicles for maximum lifetime performance and cost management. The right EAM will help you maintain your electric vehicle assets, keep inspections up-to-date, and help you avoid costly downtime.
If you’re managing a hybrid fleet during your transition to EVs, an intelligent EAM will optimize the maintenance schedules for both your gas-powered and electricity-power vehicles at the same time. You can also manage inventory for a mix of vehicle parts and materials, provide EV service instructions for your technicians, and analyze your data in detail to keep an eye on the bottom line.