December 3, 2021

Green Industry

Electric Fleets: Improving Efficiency, Sustainability



As more of us order products to be delivered to our homes, we should be aware of the impact of all those deliveries. We should look at the companies with whom we shop to understand how they are changing to protect the planet. What are they doing to achieve sustainability? Are they using sustainable practices for their products and services? Are they getting goods to consumers sustainably? The answer may lie in electric delivery fleets that collect and report data about how they are driven.

As many as 60% of millennials shop online because they believe it leaves a smaller environmental footprint. Goods are transported across the country and to our homes via fleets. Fleets are groups of vehicles owned by a business, with Amazon’s delivery vans and 1-800-GOT-JUNK trucks among the well-known fleets cruising our streets. Fleets are critical to the many businesses we use throughout the day, and although large fleets are the first to come to mind, small fleets — such as the three-car fleet that your local pest control business may own — are just as important.

Effective fleet management in small and large businesses is crucial to reducing fuel consumption and emissions. To achieve sustainability, metrics and data from a connected world are critical to improving fuel economy and overall fleet efficiency.

To achieve real sustainability, including lowering greenhouse gas emissions, a transition to electric vehicles is necessary on both the consumer and fleet front. And while transitioning to an EV from a consumer standpoint may often feel like a no-brainer, making the business case for transitioning to an electric fleet requires the industry to gather EV data and prove the financial and environmental benefits.

Electrifying Fleets

The connected, telematics world is already changing how fleets are managed and operated. Also known as fleet tracking or GPS vehicle tracking, telematics is a method of monitoring cars, trucks, equipment, and other assets by using GPS technology and on-board diagnostics (OBD) to plot the asset’s movements on a computerized map.

Telematics is much more than dots on a map — connected vehicle insights can help fleet operators optimize all aspects of the fleet — and is now an essential management tool for many commercial and government fleets.

When bringing EVs into a fleet, there are new complications or complexities that fleet owners traditionally wouldn’t have worried about, such as the state of battery charge, charging the vehicles (including where to charge and for how long) and remaining driving range. For instance, if you are expecting a package from a retailer by a certain time, the fleet needs to ensure that the delivery vehicle does not run out of range midway through its route.

As fleet electrification picks up pace, many more automakers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are entering the scene with new battery-electric offerings in the medium- and heavy-duty space. With an emerging industry also comes an ecosystem of new products and services to support the vehicles and their charging needs.

The Importance of Data

Successful adoption of EVs will require fleets to optimize how the vehicles are deployed and managed, both of which will require the vehicles to support data collection.

Data can provide insights on the battery level, the energy used while driving, the remaining range, the vehicle’s efficiency for each route, the electricity used for each charge and whether drivers are remembering to plug in. Data also helps companies verify whether drivers drive safely, stick to their routes, and how much time they spend on each delivery.

Regardless of the type of EVs a fleet chooses, they still need to be able to access the data. Accessing or translating this data into useful insights can get rather complex, as each distinct vehicle model might implement the desired set of data signals differently.

There’s a long list of reasons why access to EV data is important for fleet management. Data enables the business to dispatch, ensure vehicles are charged when they need to be and integrate load management systems and other technologies developed to optimize EVs.

Real-world examples of data insights tools include:

  • Geotab’s EV Suitability Assessment (EVSA) – Powered by the largest dataset for real-world EV performance, the EVSA service offers data-driven EV recommendations to make an organization’s transition to electric as seamless as possible. EVSA analyzes the fleet’s unique driving profiles and patterns to identify the vehicles in the fleet best suited for EV replacement.
  • The Charge Assurance dashboard provides an overview of the charging status for a fleet’s electric vehicles. Managers can see at a glance which EVs are ready and charged while also setting up custom notifications to proactively resolve charging issues.
  • Charge management integrations of data collected by the vehicle, such as the state of the charge. The charge management software considers vehicle priorities when planning routes based on the available charge.
  • Charging reports allow administrators to allocate and reimburse drivers for charging their vehicles at home

These tools are critical for companies to discover the cost-savings potential and understand and manage the true cost of operating EVs.

Switching to an EV fleet can be incredibly cost-effective, which is especially important for small businesses where every cent counts. Geotab did a macro-suitability assessment of its customers’ light-duty vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, which showed that 64% of fleet vehicles could be switched to a comparable fully electric or plug-in hybrid option, for less money when considered over a seven-year service life. And that is before any incentives are applied.

Get Data Driven

The connected vehicle industry can provide enormous value to the electric vehicle transition, particularly when fleet EV data is made accessible.

Although it falls on businesses to begin taking the steps to create a sustainable fleet, consumers can look for companies that prioritize sustainable fleet management practices and technologies. Ask for insight into how the products and services you pay for are delivered.

About the Author

Charlotte Argue is the senior manager of Fleet Electrification at Geotab and has been a thought leader about accelerating electric vehicles (EVs) adoption since 2009. She helped establish the EV outreach program Emotive and is the BC Chapter Chair for Women of EVs.





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