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How to Assess Charging Requirements for your Electric Fleet Operations

The uptake of electric vehicles has risen sharply. Sales of EVs passed 2.1 million around the world in 2019 to boost the global stock to 7.2 million. This still represents a very small proportion of the overall vehicle fleet – around 1% – but the growth is encouraging.

In parallel, charging infrastructure to facilitate electric vehicles continues to expand. In 2019, there were about 7.3 million chargers worldwide, of which about 6.5 million were private, slow chargers in homes, multi-dwelling buildings and workplaces. Convenience, cost-effectiveness and a variety of support policies (such as preferential rates, equipment purchase incentives, and rebates) are the main drivers for the prevalence of private charging.

As we previously discussed, the uptake of electric vehicles in fleets continues to outpace private EV ownership, but the business case for e-mobility fleets is highly dependent on charging infrastructure. People are worried that electric fleet vehicles cannot fulfil their missions in the same way as a conventional petrol or diesel car or van.

Commercial vehicles want the comfort of knowing they will be able to charge their vehicle away from depot and home locations – in much the same way as they know they will almost always be able to find a petrol station. We need confidence that we can run a fleet and maintain a service in a highly competitive industry.

If we want to meet the global targets for ultra-low emission vehicles, we need to show commercial fleet owners that they can do everything with EVs that they can with their current vehicles – and the ability to charge vehicles is at the heart of this challenge.

The deployment of charging infrastructure to support fleet operations is often difficult to assess as capital expenditure can be high and demand for charging infrastructure may be uncertain. Ultimately, it’s important to design charging infrastructure that compliments the real-world requirements of the fleet, today, and over its lifetime.

The key EV infrastructure design questions are how many charging stations are required, what type should they be and where should they be placed, but your fleet specific answers are highly dependent on several factors:

Vehicle Distance Travelled

Missions with long or unpredictable routes may need en-route charging. Missions with short predictable routes can likely focus on depot-based charging. By accounting for these mission types, you build resilience into your fleet operations.

Vehicle Dwell Time and Location

Where the fleet vehicles sit and for how long around missions provide insights into potential charging locations that limits operational disruption. Significant dwell will likely be encountered at home or depot locations, but there may be other locations identified for opportunity charging within the operational area that reduce the need to return to depot/home for recharge during the day.

Weather

Extreme weather can impact vehicle range. Extreme cold and hot conditions impact how far vehicles can travel and how long it will take them to recharge. By accounting for a range of potential weather scenarios when designing your fleet and infrastructure, you build resilience into your operations.

Driving Conditions

Uphill terrain can reduce range whilst downhill terrain provides potential for regeneration. City-based fleets encounter more stop/start traffic than smooth flowing highways. By looking at the typical mission locations for your vehicles, you can assess whether you need vehicles with greater range or a greater density of charge points across your operational area.

Once you have access to these insights from historic fleet data, you can play future scenarios for deploying electric vehicles within your fleet.

This is where transport simulation is key.

Rapidly running potential scenarios improves confidence in your decision making, as you can test a range of factors that influence your fleet and iterate your fleet and infrastructure design to suit.

We know that the way people and goods move is complicated, yet traditional modelling tends to only look at homogenous blocks moving from origin to destination. This is where activity schedules really matter – taking a granular view of the movements of individual agents, including passenger cars, public transit vehicles and logistics.

It will only be understanding movement on this level that we can plan for opportunistic and public charging infrastructure, ensuring that consumers can enjoy the same level of service they do today. This requires new ways of simulating the movement of people and goods, and a highly granular approach that focuses on individual decision-making agents.

The Immense simulation platform has been created to do just that. Through utilising agent-based methods, we simulate the activities of millions of individuals – their homes, their workplaces, and all of the origins and destinations in between. This platform has been used extensively for the MERGE Greenwich project, including not only the demand of vehicles, but also the implications for power demand.

Consider the Impact of Intelligent Charging.

Not all vehicles need charging at maximum power to 100% battery capacity and there are smart solutions to distribute power across fleet vehicles at different rates and different times of day.

It is now possible to analyse hundreds of data sources – including energy prices, power demand and the weather – to optimise EV charging, as well as power supply and vehicle demand in order to effectively cut costs. Vehicles will be able to charge when power is cheapest and cleanest but in recognition of the missions that are to be completed between charging cycles.

In order to develop effective intelligent charging strategies, simulation tools should be used to test the impact on fleet operations.

Until we can utilise intelligent simulation and charging methods for planning our infrastructure, the UK could be missing out on many opportunities to help us achieve our goals for ultra-low emission vehicles.

Looking to navigate the e-mobility transition? Read our full thought piece here: https://immense.ai/2020/07/21/navigate-the-e-mobility-transition-and-deploy-the-right-electric-fleet-first-time/

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