How to Start an Electric Vehicle Fleet Pilot Program

how to start a successful electric vehicle fleet pilot program

Inefficient EV charging projects don’t just waste time—they waste money. While many fleet organizations across the globe are setting their sights on electrification, long-term success requires thorough planning. One way fleets can prepare for an electric future is through the deployment of an EV pilot program.

In a typical EV pilot program, fleets look to achieve three major goals:

  • Validate and refine charging equipment strategy
  • Invest in the appropriate hardware, software and infrastructure that will support a broader program in the future
  • Educate fleet employees about EVs and charging infrastructure

When the right steps are taken, an EV pilot program can help fleet organizations ready their operations to include more EVs in the future. To ensure a successful pilot program, fleets should consider applying the following framework:

Assembling the right stakeholders

An EV pilot program is only as strong as the team supporting it. Creating a successful pilot program relies on many stakeholders cross different teams, including representatives from the fleet team, facilities team, and property management team. Each person brings a unique perspective and list of requirements for the pilot program, which helps ensure its long-term success across the entire organization.

It is also vital that the fleet organization communicates with their utility, as they may need to provide electrical upgrades to support the pilot and future EV endeavors, and electric vehicle charging software and hardware providers, as these organizations can help make the best decisions based upon existing fleet and fuel management investments.

Choosing the right electric vehicle chargers

Every fleet is unique, with goals and requirements specific to their operations. A type of electric vehicle charging station that works for one fleet, may not work for another. Some fleets even require more than one type of charging station; for example, a motor pool may require a charger that supports fast charging for multiple vehicles at a time, while vehicles outside of the motor pool do not. It is important for fleets to do their research to find the right EV charging stations for their pilot program and future electrification goals.

Some questions fleets should consider when researching types of electric vehicle charging stations include:

  • Are there any tax credits or rebates offered for the hardware or infrastructure?
  • How many miles/day will the vehicles be expected to travel?
  • How many vehicles are expected to charge at one time?
  • What is the budget?

Once these questions are answered, the type of EV charging station, or stations, a fleet may require should be easier to discover.

electric vehicle fleet pilot program success

Providing driver training

Fleet electrification may cause uneasy feelings in your drivers, including range anxiety and a general distrust of newer technology. A proven strategy to reducing anxiety around electric vehicle and charging is adequate training. The fleet organization should invest in time spent training drivers on both electric vehicle technology and charging best practices. There are several key differences in EVs and ICEs, including greater instant acceleration and more deceleration when lifting off the accelerator, which have major safety implications for the overall fleet.

Because an EV pilot program is not a full-fledged EV strategy, not all of your drivers should have access to the vehicles right away. It is recommended that experienced drivers with understood routes and demonstrated good driver behavior are chosen for the pilot program. These drivers will be expected to share feedback on the vehicles and charging operations in order to improve the program for future drivers.

Focusing on power 

Assessing the power needs of the fleet’s electrification goals, not just the initial pilot program, is an important step to take. The power being used through the property—in buildings, light fixtures, etc.—should also be analyzed so estimates can be made on what the addition of charging stations and electric vehicles could mean for the supply.

Load management strategies can also be applied. Load management is the practice of minimizing charging during the most expensive times of day and at times when a facility is most likely to incur demand charges. The cost to charge an EV is at a fleet depot is based on the time-of-day and the total demand a facility is placing on a grid. Although some utilities have static EV charging rates, electricity costs generally change during the day and if a building’s electricity demand exceeds thresholds set by the utility, extra fees and charges are placed on the utility bill. When keeping load management in mind before implementing a pilot program, fleets can assess what strategies work best for their unique operations.

Upgrading electrical as needed

One of the most challenging factors in fleet electrification is making electrical upgrades. After determining how much power is necessary to support a pilot program and future charging needs, fleets can work with their utility to make any necessary upgrades to the current electrical setup. This may take a considerable amount of time, as permitting and construction work may be required in addition to the upgrades.

Installing charging hardware

After the electrical upgrades are complete, charging station installation can begin. There are many types of charging stations available and, just like with electric vehicles, fleets should install the ones that best suit their unique operational and electrification goals. It is important for fleet organizations to partner with the right charging hardware and software vendor, so the installation is supported by an experienced team.

Learning from the pilot program

After the EV pilot program launches, it is important to regularly assess operations, including driver feedback, load management, costs, and routing. An integrated electric vehicle charging solution helps fleet organizations collect and analyze EV and charging data so the best decisions for the fleet during and after the pilot program can be made quickly and easily. The charging data that should be collected may include: date and time of charge session, actual time of charge versus plug-in time, and kilowatt per hour cost. 

Once a fleet is ready to expand the pilot program to further their electrification goals, the lessons leaned from the program will help ensure continued success with EV charging.

To learn more about EV fleet pilot programs, contact the AssetWorks team today:


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