Contributed by Bob Fesmire, ABB Inc.

Today is World EV Day, a celebration of the electrification of transport. But while consumer vehicles take up most of the e-mobility headlines, there is another segment of the market that is poised to take EVs (and charging infrastructure) to the next level.

I’m talking about fleets—delivery vans, transit buses, and other commercial vehicles.

Fleet vehicles are well suited to electrification for several reasons. They are used far more than passenger cars (i.e., they have a high utilization factor), so their lower maintenance and fuel costs overcome the higher purchase price (vs. diesel or gas-powered alternatives) sooner. EVs are also highly reliable, due mainly to having a handful of moving parts and far fewer potential points of failure.

In the case of vehicles with predictable routes such as transit buses and delivery vans, going electric allows the fleet operator to plan their operations and optimize charging across the entire fleet. They can also take advantage of green power options from their local utility to reduce their environmental footprint even further.

Finally, EVs can protect fleet owners from the uncertainty around the future of combustion vehicles. The regulatory landscape is shifting rapidly, and it’s almost impossible to predict whether a diesel-powered van purchased today, for example, will reach the end of its design life before being rendered obsolete by electric alternatives.

Ultimately, though, the electrification of fleets comes down to cost. Fleet owners are more likely to see past the higher initial cost of EVs as they evaluate purchases looking at the total cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle. Some studies have already found electric buses to be less costly (again, on a TCO basis) than diesel alternatives, even without tax incentives. For commercial fleets, lower operating costs combined with falling battery prices point to an electrified future.

It’s still early days for EV fleets, but we can expect this segment of the market to move decisively once the business case has been made. We can also expect to see analytics and software play an increasingly important role in fleet operations as tools become available for operators to optimize schedules, routes and charging operations.

About the author:

Bob Fesmire is a Content Manager at ABB, based in Cary, North Carolina. He has written more than 150 articles and white papers on a variety of topics including energy efficiency, industrial automation, and big data. In addition to his work at ABB, Bob is also the co-author of Energy Explained, a non-technical introduction to all aspects of the energy industry.

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