The Intricacies of EV Fleet Charging Infrastructure and EVSE

At a Glance

This article explores the critical aspects of EV charging infrastructure and Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) essential for the transition towards fleet electrification. We delve into the differences between Level 1, Level 2, and DC Fast-Charging (DCFC), assessing their practicality for various electric fleet vehicles and emphasizing the importance of strategic charging station placement for operational efficiency. Moreover, it highlights the economic considerations of choosing between AC and DC charging solutions, underscoring the potential for cost savings and reduced downtime for electric fleets.

In the dynamic landscape of transportation, the shift towards electrification represents a pivotal transition for businesses and fleet owners alike. The cornerstone of this transformative journey is the advancement and seamless integration of EV charging infrastructure. This essential framework enables the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, setting the stage for significant environmental advantages. Moreover, it introduces a period marked by enhanced operational efficiency and greater cost savings. For businesses embarking on this path which operate medium-heavy duty vehicles such as delivery vans, transport trucks, or buses, having a deep understanding of the nuances of EV charging infrastructure is crucial.

What is EVSE?

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE) refers to the components and hardware systems that deliver electrical power from the grid to charge electric vehicles, they essentially serve as the bridge between electricity grid and the vehicle. EVSE includes all the components between the electric utility and the electric vehicle, such as the electrical conduit, the electric wiring, and the charging connector or plug. EVSE ensures not only the safe and efficient transfer of electricity but also manages the charging process to improve fleet reliability and longevity. For fleet owners, the implications of choosing the right charging solutions extend beyond mere convenience; they are integral to the sustainability of their operations, affecting everything from daily logistics to long-term financial planning.

Understanding Charging Levels for Electric Fleet Vehicles

Level 1 EVSE, Level 2 EVSE, and DCFC EVSE power ratings and ev fleet charging times.

Level 1 EVSE: Slow but Steady

Level 1 EVSE, utilizing a standard 120V outlet, is the most basic and accessible option. For fleet operations, Level 1 charging is generally considered impractical due to its slow charging rate, typically providing a charging rating of 1.4-1.9 kW. This means, for an average medium-duty truck with a battery capacity of 92 kWh battery capacity, it would take an astounding 48-66 hours to charge to full capacity. This charging level is primarily suited for light-duty and passenger vehicle charging overnight or for extended periods with minimal daily mileage, making it less practical for fleet vehicles that require quick turnaround times and higher utilization rates.

Level 2 EVSE: Balancing Speed and Efficiency

Level 2 EVSE operates at 240V and significantly reduces charging time compared to Level 1, normally offering a 2.5-19.2 kW power rating, meaning a level 2 charger can fully charge a medium-duty truck within roughly 5-37 hours for a full charge. This level is more suited to fleet operations, particularly for vehicles that can be charged overnight or during extended downtime periods throughout the day. Level 2 charging stations are commonly installed at fleet depots, workplaces, and some public areas, making them accessible for fleets that operate on a predictable schedule. The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Level 2 charging stations make them a popular choice among fleet owners looking to balance cost with performance as it utilizes AC power from existing central grids, negating the need for rectification or conversion at the EVSE level. This task is handled by the vehicle's onboard charger, minimizing the required investment in charging infrastructure. Additionally, the slower rate of Level 2 charging can contribute to extended battery life, an important factor to consider.

Level 3 Charging (DCFC): Minimizing Downtime

DC-Fast Charging (DCFC) has garnered the most attention of current EV charging technology as it offers rapid charging speeds, capable of deliver 15-350 kW of power, thus garnering interest from fleet owners and consumers alike who have a generous budget and are focused on minimizing vehicle down time between delivery routes. This charging level operates at a much higher voltage (typically 400V to 900V), capable of fully charging a medium-duty truck within approximately 16 minutes to 6 hours. DCFC costs more than Level 1 or Level 2 EV charging primarily due to the infrastructure required to convert the AC power from the grid into DC power for the vehicle. The typical cost for DCFC charging can vary significantly based on location and provider. For example, in California, the rate for DCFC can be around 40 cents per kWh, compared to 30 cents per kWh for Level 2 charging. However, it is important to note that this high-speed charging is most effective only when the vehicle's state of charge (SOC) is below 80%. Beyond this point, charging slows down significantly to prevent battery damage and ensure longevity. This is why EV manufacturers often advertise charging speeds up to the 80% mark. After reaching 80%, it's more time and cost-effective to switch to a Level 2 charger for the remaining charge, or to continue driving and recharge later, as the last 20% charges at a similar rate with both Level 2 and Level 3 stations but at lower cost with Level 2.

The high costs associated with DCFC infrastructure and operation compared to Level 1 or Level 2 charging are due to several factors:

  1. Equipment Costs: DCFC stations require sophisticated and high-powered electrical components, such as rectifiers, transformers, and switchgears. The hardware within a DCFC station is not only expensive but also complex, comprising 2,000-2,500 individual components compared to less than 200 in a Level 2 charger. The costs are further increased by the need for advanced technology like liquid-cooled cables to manage the heat generated by high power levels.
  2. Development Costs: The development of DCFC involves extensive planning, design, and engineering work, taking 2 to 3 years before even beginning the certification to applicable standards. Moreover, securing permits and approvals from utilities, local government, and other authorities adds to both the time and cost. Delays in these processes can significantly increase the overall expense.
  3. Operational Costs: The primary operational cost for DCFC is electricity, significantly influenced by utility demand charges. These charges are based on the highest peak demand within each billing period, and since DCFC can draw a large amount of power in short periods, even infrequent high-power draws can lead to high demand charges. This pricing structure can make DCFC particularly expensive to operate, especially at locations with lower utilization rates. DCFC stations, with their capacity to quickly ramp up to high power levels, are particularly affected by these charges, which can form a significant portion of the operational costs. For example, if a station increases its capacity from 50 kW to 350 kW, the proportion of costs attributable to demand charges can leap from around 24-39% of the total operating costs at 50kW to 68-81% at 350kW.

Overall, the higher cost of DCFC equipment and its impact on the electric grid, as well as potential long-term effects on battery health, make it a strategic choice rather than a blanket solution for all fleet vehicles.

EV Charging Infrastructure Considerations for Fleet Owners

The transition to electric fleets necessitates a strategic approach to EV charging infrastructure. This involves careful consideration of charging station placement, the ratio of chargers per vehicle, and a re-evaluation of business operations to optimize for the electric world. Here, we delve into these considerations, providing insights and data where relevant.

Strategic Placement of EV Charging Stations

Strategic Placement of EV Fleet Charging Stations

Depot Charging: The backbone of an electric fleet's charging strategy often lies in its depot. Depot charging allows for centralized management, ensuring vehicles are charged overnight or during scheduled downtimes. For average fleet trucks, Level 2 charging can take anywhere from 4 to 8 hours for a full charge, depending on the battery size and charger specifications. In contrast, DC fast charging can reduce this time to under an hour for a significant charge, making it suitable for quick turnarounds or emergency top-ups.

Public Charging Areas: For fleets that operate over longer distances, access to public charging infrastructure is crucial. Public DC fast charging stations can provide a rapid charge, adding significant range in a short period. However, the cost is considerably higher than AC charging, both in terms of the infrastructure required and the electricity consumed. This is because DC charging requires more complex, high-powered equipment and typically incurs higher demand charges from utility companies.

Charging Levels and Costs: Level 2 AC charging is often the most cost-effective solution for fleets, balancing charging speed with infrastructure and operational costs. DC charging, while faster, involves higher equipment and development costs, as well as greater electricity expenses due to the higher power draw and potential demand charges.

Ratio of Chargers to Vehicles

To maintain operational efficiency, the ratio of chargers per vehicle needs careful consideration. This ratio is influenced by the fleet size, the type of operations, and the charging capacity of each charger. As a rule of thumb, not every vehicle in a fleet will require charging at the same time, but having enough chargers to avoid bottlenecks during peak times is essential. For example, a ratio of 1 charger for every 2 to 3 vehicles might be sufficient for a fleet with staggered charging schedules, but fleets with tight turnarounds might require a 1:1 ratio.

Operational efficiency can also be optimized by scheduling charging during off-peak electricity hours to reduce costs, or by using smart charging solutions that dynamically adjust charging rates based on electricity demand and pricing.

Rethinking Business Operations

The shift to electric fleets requires more than just adapting existing operations to accommodate EVs; it necessitates a fundamental re-evaluation of how a fleet is run. This includes:

  • Minimizing Downtime: Selecting the appropriate charging level for specific operational needs can help minimize vehicle downtime. For instance, using Level 2 charging overnight for vehicles that return to the depot and reserving DC fast charging for vehicles on tight schedules or in need of emergency charging.
  • Cost Optimization: By understanding the total cost of ownership, including the higher initial investment in EVs and charging infrastructure against the lower operational costs (fuel savings, maintenance), fleet owners can make informed decisions that minimize costs over the vehicle's lifespan.
  • Operational Flexibility: Flexibility in operations can be achieved by having a mix of charging options and by strategically scheduling vehicle routes and charging times to maximize efficiency and reduce costs.

The successful electrification of a fleet requires a holistic approach that goes beyond the mere installation of charging stations. It involves strategic planning around the placement and type of charging infrastructure, a careful analysis of the ratio of chargers to vehicles, and a comprehensive rethinking of business operations to leverage the full benefits of electrification. By developing a comprehensive understanding and strategic implementation of EV charging infrastructure and charging strategies, fleet owners can significantly reduce costs, minimize downtime, and ensure the efficient integration of EV into their fleets.

Boost your EV range or downsize battery packs without sacrificing range.
Boost your EV range or downsize battery packs without sacrificing range.

The Economics of Fleet Electrification

Comparison of Initial Costs of EV Fleet Charging Infrastructure for Level 2 EVSE and DCFC EVSE

Initial Investment and Infrastructure Development

The initial investment in EV charging infrastructure includes the purchase of charging stations and installation costs. DCFC stations, necessary for quick turnaround times for commercial and heavy-duty vehicles, have higher upfront costs ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 per unit, in contrast to Level 2 chargers, which range from $400 to $6,500. Moreover, installation costs for DCFC can be significantly higher, ranging from $4,000 to $51,000, due to the need for more complex electrical upgrades and potentially extensive site work, whereas Level 2 EVSE can range from $600-12,700.

The choice between DCFC and Level 2 charging for a fleet will depend on the specific operational requirements and the available budget for initial infrastructure outlay. While DCFC offers rapid charging capabilities essential for minimizing vehicle downtime, the higher initial investment may not be justifiable for all fleet operations, especially those where vehicles can afford to be charged overnight.

Operational Costs and Efficiency

Operational costs for EV charging include electricity costs, maintenance of charging stations, and potential upgrades to infrastructure. Electricity costs can vary significantly based on the location, time of use, and the specific rates negotiated with utility providers. To mitigate these costs, fleet operators can employ smart charging strategies, leveraging software solutions and energy storage systems like the Exro Cell Driver™ that optimize charging schedules and electricity consumption based on electricity demand rate fluctuations and vehicle usage patterns. This approach not only reduces operational costs but also enhances the efficiency of the charging process, ensuring that vehicles are charged during off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower.

Long-term Cost Benefits and ROI

The long-term cost benefits of investing in EV charging infrastructure for fleets hinge on several factors, including reduced fuel costs compared to conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, lower maintenance costs due to fewer moving parts in EVs, and available state or federal tax incentives or rebates for installing EV charging stations and purchasing EVs. Additionally, advancements in battery technology and charging infrastructure are expected to further decrease EVs’ total cost of ownership over time.

Calculating the return on investment (ROI) for EV charging infrastructure requires a comprehensive analysis that accounts for the total savings in operational costs over the lifespan of the EVs and charging stations, offset by the initial investment in charging infrastructure. This calculation must also consider the evolving landscape of EV technology, potential changes in electricity pricing, and government policies affecting EV adoption.

Technological Advancements and Future Considerations

The rapid pace of technological advancements in EV charging solutions, including AC fast-charging and battery storage systems, is poised to lower the cost and increase the availability of fast charging. Innovations such as vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, which allows EVs to discharge electricity back into the grid during peak demand periods, offer additional opportunities for fleet operators to reduce operational costs and participate in electricity markets.

Furthermore, the increasing integration of renewable energy sources into the charging infrastructure, such as solar panels at charging depots, can provide a sustainable and cost-effective electricity supply, further enhancing the economic viability of EV fleets.

Exro Technologies’ Role Within the EV Fleet Charging Ecosystem

Exro Technologies shines as a pivotal player, offering innovative solutions to streamline fleet electrification. These advancements not only simplify infrastructure but also enhance EV charging capabilities, promising a cost-effective and efficient future for EV fleet management.

Exro's holistic approach to electrification encompasses both vehicle and infrastructure innovations, addressing key challenges faced by fleet operators in deploying and operating electric vehicles. At the heart of Exro's vehicle innovation lies the Coil Driver™, which revolutionizes the charging process by eliminating the need for traditional onboard chargers. By seamlessly integrating Coil Driver™ technology into electric vehicles, Exro enables higher rates of AC charging, thereby reducing charging times and increasing operational efficiency. This innovation not only simplifies the vehicle's electrical architecture but also significantly reduces vehicle costs associated with onboard charger components and installation. As a result, fleet operators can benefit from streamlined charging infrastructure and lower total cost of ownership for their electric vehicles.

Additionally, Exro's infrastructure solutions, the Cell Driver™ commercial and industrial battery energy storage system, plays a vital role in optimizing EV charging infrastructure, mitigating electricity costs, and reducing peak demand charges. By providing a buffer for EV charging, the Cell Driver™ effectively manages fluctuations in electricity demand, allowing fleet operators to leverage off-peak electricity rates and minimize peak demand charges. Additionally, the Cell Driver™ enhances the reliability and stability of charging operations, ensuring uninterrupted service for fleet vehicles while maximizing cost savings. With Exro's Cell Driver™, fleet operators can achieve greater efficiency and sustainability in their electrification efforts, driving towards a cleaner and more cost-effective future for transportation.

Learn more about Exro’s Coil Driver™.

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