State governments are increasingly encouraging businesses and fleet managers to electrify their vehicles, creating a fresh wave of commercial EV range anxiety.
EV range anxiety is a term that describes a consumer’s fear that electric vehicles lack sufficient battery power to reach their intended destination.
It is frequently cited as one of the most critical factors that dissuade consumers from purchasing electric vehicles.
However, range anxiety is not purely based on experience with electric vehicles. It is often a fear born from assumptions and expectations.
EV experience is a differentiator with range anxiety
A driver’s confidence has been known to significantly increase once they familiarize themselves and use an electric vehicle daily. This is another reason why getting behind the wheel is an important step in transitioning to electric fleets.
Commercial EV range and why it’s different
While electric cars in the U.S. have almost a 300-mile average range, commercial electric vehicles such as buses and medium-duty trucks have a shorter range due to their weight and load-bearing nature.
For its part, RIZON has four models of electric trucks. Our e16L can travel between 115-160 miles when fully charged, while our e18L’s range is 110-155 miles, followed by our e16M and e18M with a range between 70-110 miles.
One might look at those numbers with skepticism, but in actuality, they hit the sweet spot.
How far commercial trucks are actually driving
Many commercial vehicles have more predictable and repeatable routes, which make them great candidates for electrification.
Furthermore, driving data shows that the majority of commercial vehicles in urban routes drive fewer than 100 miles per day, which further drives home the point.
Also, in a RIZON LinkedIn survey, where participants were asked how many miles they driver per day, 62% responded they drove less than 80 miles per day.
Commercial vehicles are operating close to their home base
What’s more, other metrics back up commercial driving needs.
In the world of last-mile distribution, distribution centers are typically only six to nine miles from the areas they serve, according to one industry study.
Data in California shows that more than 50% of commercial vehicles operate within 50 miles of their home base.
Overcoming EV range anxiety begins with knowledge and planning
Despite the data and electrification strategizing, range anxiety is likely to remain. So, what are the best ways to overcome it?
First, operators should gain an understanding of the existing charging infrastructure, so they know what to do if a vehicle is running low on power.
Electric vehicles don’t just stop running without advanced warning. EVs will typically notify drivers when the battery runs low, and if it’s low enough, a vehicle may even reduce its power to save energy.
Moreover, there are plenty of mobile phone apps that can guide drivers to the nearest public charger.
One such app, PlugShare, allows users to enter their location and find the nearest charging station. Each charging network, like Electrify America and ChargePoint have their own apps that include charging solutions for fleets.
Consider signing up with these charger operators ahead of time to make it easy for your drivers to use public chargers when needed.
Knowing the proximity and availability of chargers is an important step.
What to do if an EV is running out of charge
There are solutions for EV drivers whose vehicles are running critically low on energy. One such solution is a portable AC charger that can provide an extra dose of range to hold a vehicle over until it can reach a nearby charging station.
It is also wise to have a level-1 portable charger on hand that can convert energy from a power outlet into charge for a vehicle.
Choosing the right vehicles to electrify first
Addressing range starts with evaluating one’s fleet and operations.
Returning to California’s aggregate data, 65% of day cab tractor vehicles have a predictable usage pattern.
Therefore, when evaluating which units to electrify first, a fleet manager might consider selecting vehicles that travel dedicated and repeatable routes instead of units that service irregular ones. This helps provide confidence to ensure the range and charging requirements can be met.
For ideas on how to begin the process, check out our article on fleet electrification.
4 Factors that affect commercial EV range
It is important to know that a variety of factors affect the efficiency of an electric vehicle. Some of these can be mitigated whiles others cannot.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that optimal efficiency is achieved through mindful driving.
The heavier the load, the more the energy required to move it. That’s true for ICE vehicles and EV alike.
For EVs, as with ICE vehicles, a reduction in efficiency is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight.
However, a limited commercial EV study by Fleetforward found inconsistencies in efficiency relative to payload. Days with lighter payloads weren’t always the most efficient.
Notably, a multitude of variables influence efficiency from one day to the next, including route, traffic conditions, and driver behavior.
In short, payload is only one factor that cannot determine performance alone.
When researching your commercial EV, be sure to ask a dealer under what loading conditions the mileage estimate is made. Does that assume the truck is carrying its max GVW? Does it assume a diminishing load from 100% GVW to tare weight? How does this compare to your duty cycle?
- Ambient temperature
Temperatures, both hot and cold, negatively affect EV range.
A recent study by telematics firm Geotab analyzed trips take by 4,200 EVs representing a variety of makes, models, and years.
Their data showed vehicles generally performed at 115% of their rated range at 70°F.
Cold temperatures have another less-known impact on range: namely drivers utilizing the heating system.
- Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HAVAC)
Using HVAC, particularly during cold weather, affects electric vehicle range as well. The reason being that the heating system draws energy from the battery, unlike a ICE vehicles which utilizes excess heat.
A driver can thereby extend the range of the vehicle by wearing a jacket instead of using the heater.
It RIZON’s case, using the heated seat and steering while is a good alternative for preserving range.
- Driver behavior and driving conditions
The way a driver handles an electric commercial vehicle also impacts the range. For instance, do drivers optimize regenerative braking use with heavier loads, do they utilize the heated wheel and seat instead of turning on the heater, do they choose routes with fewer hills or traffic stops? Do they drive at optimal speeds?
Training drivers is a significant factor for improving overall EV efficiency.
The EV charging time
Making sure vehicles are fully charged before operations is critical to assuring full range.
It’s a fact that charging, even with fast chargers, takes much longer than refueling internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.
There are two types of charging: AC charging, which is usually used overnight or between uses, and DC fast charging (DCFC).
In RIZON’s case, our trucks usually can be fully charged in under nine hours using AC and one to one-and-a-half hours with DCFC.
However, other than tractor sleeper cabs, a majority of fleet vehicles regularly park at their base of operation for more than eight hours each day, according to industry data.
With this in mind, fleet operators need to think differently and understand the charging options and the changing ecosystem. Namely, which vehicles are available for which jobs, and which charging stations are available when they need charging.
Range typically isn’t an issue
For most fleet applications, commercial electric vehicles can complete trips on a single charge, despite mitigating range conditions. Long distance driving requires greater planning including utilizing telematic data as well as understanding the local charging infrastructure.
The information and conclusions presented in this article are largely based on aggregate data from the California Air Resources Board and should not be solely relied upon when making fleet electrification decisions.
Instead, it is highly recommended to consult with an experience Commercial EV dealership before proceeding with investing in any commercial electric vehicles.