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Walking the Talk: Lessons From Converting Our Fleet to EVs

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They say that experience is the best teacher. The expression is not meant to diminish knowledge or education; we all need both when it comes to certain aspects of life and work. Instead, the phrase underlines the need for applied knowledge. Experience tests the limits of your knowledge and allows for growth and improvement. It’s hard to be a successful leader in your field until you’ve “been there, done that.”

Experience was exactly what our parent brand, FTI, needed. When FTI added more than a dozen electric vehicles to our fleet, it helped us even better understand the everyday challenges our customers face during their fleet transitions.

The Process of Transitioning to an Electric Fleet

In spite of our organizational relationship, EnTech Solutions treated FTI like any other customer. We began with a conceptual design that includes an assessment of fleet usage, routes, schedules and site opportunities.

Our analysis found a group of team members whose work fit the profile for transitioning their company vehicle to an EV, targeting routes that were best aligned to vehicle range and that allowed for charging between shifts. Based on this, FTI ordered 13 electric vehicles — 10 Ford F-150® Lightning™ trucks, two Ford E-Transit™ vans and one Ford Mustang Mach-E — with another 10 expected to arrive by the end of 2022.

Armed with this information, we piloted FTI’s EV program beginning with John, one of our advanced electrician service technicians. John not only had a route and schedule that were a good fit for an electric vehicle, but he also had the desire to learn and improve his understanding of the charging stations he services daily. He can now use his electric fleet vehicle to test customers’ charging stations, essentially making his EV another tool in his toolbox.

It’s All in the Details

Most of what we learned from this experience came from the details of everyday use, confirming that our process for assessing a fleet to identify vehicles best suited for transition to electrification was both informative and practical.

The site assessment to determine viability for a distributed energy resource (DER) microgrid also helped inform the design for charging stations paired with battery storage. For one of our main chargers, the excess energy being generated from our solar microgrid has helped offset some of our energy usage in the adjacent facility.

While our experience has not changed our operations or workflow of the services we provide, it has broadened our understanding of areas where we can advise and best prepare our customers for the changes and challenges that come with incorporating EV fleet vehicles, including:

  • Logistics. Our electrician technicians drive their work vehicles home at night. While that may be possible with future EVs, we needed this first round of vehicles to recharge at our data collection charging stations so we could gather important information.
  • Refueling versus Recharging. Refueling a gasoline-powered fleet vehicle only takes a few minutes. Recharging an EV, on the other hand, requires more time and intentional planning. If we continue allowing our fleet vehicles to go home with employees, they will need to charge them overnight. How is that cost covered? It’s critical to have those conversations and create a plan.
  • Charging Infrastructure. Start the process of building the charging infrastructure to power your EVs before you order the vehicles; it’s important to have a plan for charging your vehicles the moment they arrive. The sooner you involve EnTech Solutions in the process to analyze your needs, the more we can assist.
  • Scalability. The future of fleet vehicles is electric. While it is convenient and economical to build for the initial EVs you are phasing in right now, it is also important to design and build the basics for future expansion. FTI was able to take advantage of the opportunity to prepare for continued growth of our EV fleet.
  • Economics. A real business case can be made for converting fleet vehicles to EVs. While there are important environmental reasons to electrify your fleet, there are also tangible economic reasons. Though there is an upfront capital expense to purchase the vehicles and build the charging infrastructure, it is less expensive to fuel, service and maintain electric vehicles over time.
  • Grants and Incentives. While we always help clients identify potential grants and incentive programs to help fund their transition to EVs, it was a helpful exercise to go through the process of utilizing these options for our organization. At EnTech Solutions, we have specialists who can identify what funds are available based on your situation.

In short, we successfully identified the best vehicles to transition to EVs, designed and built the charging stations and microgrids to fuel our EVs and now experience the details of utilizing EVs as part of daily operations. Part of being a complete solution provider for customers who want to transition to electric fleets is understanding the details that make the process go smoothly — walking the talk.

Drive Electric

Overall, the employee experience has been positive. We also learned that electric vehicles are still unique enough to draw attention. At every service call John makes with his EV, people practically swarm to check it out. The benefits speak for themselves: they are environmentally friendly, they are whisper quiet and they have lower service and maintenance costs.

As part of our pilot program, we’re gathering important data regarding route length, charging times, charging costs, ways to avoid demand fees by managing our charging schedule and many other key pieces of information to analyze and share.

If you would like to learn more about how to transition your fleet to electric vehicles, ask the energy experts at EnTech Solutions. We have the knowledge and the experience to guide you through every step.