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ELECTRIC VEHICLE FLEET: considerations to keep in mind.

The use of electric vehicles has become a feasible solution for fleet light vehicles in urban environments in the last few years, city councils have adopted several measures for the cities to be more liveable, self-sustained and respectful of the environment, and for this reason they try to minimize and reduce traffic impact, like contaminating emissions, foul smells, sicknesses, or low mobility causing new ways to manage traffic to minimize these effects, which has been called urban mobility, which agglutinates new ideas like energetic efficiency and sustainability.

The electric vehicle is a key aspect to sustainable development in urban environment mobility, since it minimizes the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is a main cause of greenhouse effect, and consequentially of the planet’s global warming. Laws on contamination for vehicles are each time more demanding and restrictive, which has caused vehicles manufacturers to develop new technologies to meet said laws.

One of these new technologies are the electric vehicle, that in the last years have evolved quickly, and doesn’t emit any contaminating emissions, any noise or smell; besides, using electric vehicles reduces dependence from oil and energy costs are much lower than fossil fuels.

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The advantages and disadvantages of using electric vehicles are the following:

  • Advantages

·        Cost of energy: energy costs are much lower than fossil fuels.

·        Contaminating emissions: electric vehicles have zero contaminating emissions.

·        No noise, vibrations or smells: comfort levels and rolling levels are higher than in vehicles that use fossil fuels.

·        Automatic transmission: no manual transmission, with the simplification and reduction of mechanical systems.

·        Higher acceleration: higher acceleration than in a fossil fuel vehicle, due to higher torque motor in electric motors.

·        Simple maintenance: due to the simple motor and electric system, and because it has less mechanical systems than in vehicles with fossil fuels.

·        Parking downtown: the possibility of free marking in downtown area of the cities that has it regulated.

·        Being able to drive downtown: being able to drive downtown in the cities that have restricted the access for vehicles that use fossil fuels.

·        Exempt of registration fee: not paying the registration fee.

·        Exempt of toll road fees: in some regions, electric cars are exempt of paying toll road fees.

·        Subventions: public administrations offer subventions for acquiring electric vehicles.

  • Disadvantages

·        Limited autonomy: The highest inconvenience for an electric car is the autonomy range that currently is of 200 km (~ 125miles).

The following chart 1 shows the autonomy for some electric vehicles available in the market.

Table

Chart 1: autonomy range of some electric vehicles

The main inconvenience of an electric vehicle is the autonomy range, which could be eliminated in a short-medium period of time due to the use of graphene, that could be a real revolution for the automobile industry due the possible development of batteries, supercondensators, hydrogen deposits, painting and plastics.

Grabat Energy company, subsidiary of the Spanish company Graphenano, has created a graphene battery of high energetic density that would allow an electric vehicle to have autonomy range up to 800km (~497miles).

The battery is made of the graphene polymer, and has the advantage of being able to storage higher energy in a reduce space than the ion-lithium batteries currently used in electric vehicles, with a density of 1,000 watts-hour per kilogram (Wh/kg) and a voltage of 2.3 v.

The charging time is much lower due to the charging speed of 100 coulombs (C) in opposite to the ion-lithium of 3C. Besides, it’s lighter and doesn’t have the “memory effect” that ion-lithium batteries face, which is when the batteries don’t charge to their maximum capacity, losing charging capacity with time.

Currently, the only issue with graphene is its high costs (1,000 euros/kg) and the difficulty of its manufacturing.

·        Recharging infrastructure: public infrastructure available isn’t developed enough, for this reason the organization needs to establish their own infrastructure to recharge and/or establish a share infrastructure with other organizations to save costs.

·        Lower residual value: normally it’s lower than the same vehicle that uses fossil fuels, even though it could vary in the market depending on their level of acceptance and the bonuses there are for acquiring the vehicle in each country. In addition, if the battery that uses the vehicle is rented the residual value will be higher, since the battery will be in perfect conditions.

·        Recharging time: Depending on the type of recharge used, charging could take from 30 minutes to recharge 80% of the battery level up to eight hours. The lower the recharging time, the least the battery will last.

·        Battery life: the battery lasts around eight years, once this time has ended it has to be changed, although there are some vehicles manufacturers that offers the possibility of renting the batteries during the vehicle use.

·        Electric vehicles availability: currently, available electric vehicles in the market are in high and low end, in certain type of vehicles, although the available offer is expanding to any type of vehicle and end.

·        Competition with hydrogen vehicles: hydrogen vehicles have been tested in the last few years with a great development, and could transform into a feasible option against electric vehicles. In some countries like Japan, they’re already available in the market.

·        Higher acquisition price: electric vehicles have higher acquisition price than the same vehicle model in fossil fuel.

·        Lack of electric culture: The lack of electric culture in a country could be an obstacle for the implementation of electric vehicles. For example, in countries like Norway or Netherlands, they are highly welcomed, and for this reason, they’re large part of the market.

Following are some recommendations to acquire an electric vehicle or change a vehicle that uses fuel fossils for an electric one in the vehicle fleet.

·        Check that the electric vehicles adapt to the fleet’s operative, the most important factor to check is if it has enough autonomy range for the service performance. If the vehicle travels planned routes, the distance to travel is already known; on the contrary, if the vehicle travels an undefined route, and there’s no telematics services that report the traveled distance, a GPS device needs to be installed in the vehicle during the traveling period trial to know the daily traveled distance during the service performance.

·        Define the type of recharge needed since this will establish the recharging time of the batteries. It could be slow (8 hours), semi-fast (4 hours) and fast (30 minutes) to recharge 80% of the battery, and each one of them has different electric power needs of installation and infrastructure.

·        Where to establish the recharge location. It could be the organization’s own recharge locations, use third party ones, or public ones.

·        Calculate the vehicles total cost of ownership (TCO) and the infrastructure costs to know if it´s economically feasible for the organization.

·        Check that the electric vehicle has the appropriate characteristics (capacity, functionality, etc.) for the service performance.

·        Establish if the batteries are bought or rented.

·        Train the users on how to use and drive these types of vehicles.

·        If maintenance can be done in the organization’s locations, the organization’s personnel needs to be trained and the organization must have the appropriate means.

It’s undoubted that at some point in time the organization will have to change the electric vehicle in urban environments, and for this reasons, they will have to be prepared with the appropriate resources and plan in time.

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JMFI´m a Fleet Management expert, and the manager of Advanced Fleet Management Consulting, that provides Fleet Management Consultancy Services.