When it comes to setting up the charging infrastructure that is right for your fleet, you’ve got options to consider. Your organization may choose to install chargers at its commercial facility or depot or to have drivers charge vehicles at their homes. It might be a combination of home charging, depot charging and the use of public charging, too.
The first step, says Kevy Stephen, EV Charging Solutions Launch Manager at Ford Pro, is to determine if you are on a home charging or depot charging path. “The typical Bell driver or typical electrician brings the vehicle home. For other customers, the vehicles come back to the company location or depot.”
“Public charging may be part of the equation, but for peace of mind you need to build a solution where when you wake up, that vehicle is fully charged and has enough power to take you through the day,” says Stephen. “It’s also much more cost efficient to charge at home or at the depot.”
Let’s start with home EV charging, which is usually less complex and less expensive than setting up charging at a central depot.
Is home charging right for your fleet?
There are a few things about your current fleet that will signal whether your future electric fleet would work well with a home charging setup.
- You use light-duty vehicles
If your fleet is already mostly made up of light-duty vehicles like sedans, SUVs, pick-up trucks or small vans, you’re in the best position to consider home charging. This is also suitable for employees who drive company cars.
- You’re not an inventory-based business
If your drivers are technicians, sales representatives, or other types of employees who don’t need to visit a central location every day, home charging will likely be your most efficient solution.
- Your employees already park at home
Home charging will be the least disruptive choice if your employees already park their fleet vehicles overnight at home in a personal driveway or garage. The key difference is instead of having to stop for fuel, your drivers will start their workdays with a full charge, ready to go.
You may want to consider networking your employees’ home chargers for energy management and billing (more on this below). This can allow you to see whether the cars are plugged in (and send reminders if they aren’t) and to meter energy usage so you can easily reimburse your drivers for electricity costs. When selecting Level 2 chargers, consider whether or not they offer connectivity and how they might connect into your telematics system.
Assess the install locations
First, you’ll want to send out a survey to the pool of employees you’re considering for home charging installations. This can come from the fleet manager or, more likely, from your charging provider and will help to identify which drivers will be the most cost-efficient and ready to receive home charging. The survey will request photos of where the vehicle is parked, the driver’s home electrical panel and the location of the panel.
Mark Marmer, president of Signature Electric in Markham, Ont., says a typical installation in a single-family home that does not need significant electrical upgrades will cost between $1,500 and $2,500, charger included.
What drivers will need to charge at home
- An up-to-date panel and wiring
The ideal scenario is a home with a 200-amp panel with space for a 30-, 40-, 50- or 60-amp breaker. (Or, for the Ford Charge Station Pro, an 80-amp breaker!) If the panel is older, then an electrician can evaluate the overall electrical loads, or a DCC may need to be installed for energy management. If the wiring is of the old knob-and-tube variety, the home will need an electrical upgrade before a Level 2 charger can be installed. In this case, it may be more efficient to consider assigning the EV to another driver or employee, especially if you are running a pilot.
- Power capacity in the home
Because Level 2 chargers draw a significant amount of power, the energy load already in use by existing appliances will also be factored in. This might include refrigerators and freezers, electric ovens, electric dryers, air conditioning, pool or hot tub heating and more.
- A parking pad, driveway or garage near the home
Charging stations can be installed indoors in a garage or outdoors near an employee’s driveway or parking pad. If the charging station or dock is installed far from the panel location, you may incur additional expense running the conduit.
- A Level 2 charger
The Level 2 charging station or dock for home use will be wall mounted. You will need to select a hard-wired version or one that plugs into a dedicated 240-volt outlet installed by an electrician, and an appropriate outdoor- or indoor-use model, depending on where you are installing it. (It might be installed outdoors on a post.)
When choosing charging hardware, consider details like the length of the cable. “The commercial vehicle might be parked beside or behind a personal vehicle in that person’s driveway,” says Ford Pro’s Kevy Stephen. If the charger is being used outdoors in parts of Canada where it’s snowy and cold, it should have a winter-ready cable. Some charging cables can become rigid in low temperatures, making them difficult to use. While you may be able to find a Level 2 station that works for a broad range of installations, just be aware that each employee will require a Level 2 charging station that is matched to their home’s electrical capacity and parking set-up.
Potential challenges and solutions
As with any major change, there’s a chance for hiccups. Here are some you might come across.
- Drivers who can’t install chargers
Some employee homes may not be suitable for a Level 2 charger installation — those who rent their homes or live in condos, for example. Some condos allow these installations, but they’re more expensive: $4,000 or more, says Mark Marmer, president of Signature Electric in Markham, Ont.
- Public charging means charging during work hours
Experts don’t recommend relying on public charging alone. “It probably means that two times a week, [the driver will] have to sit at a charger for half an hour or more,” Marmer says. “Now you’re paying somebody to sit for half an hour in the middle of the day. It presents other problems.” Public charging can also vary greatly in its reliability and availability. For more on this topic, see our section on public charging.
- Getting drivers to plug in
Until daily charging becomes a habit, your drivers may need reminders to charge overnight so they start the day ready to go. A smart charger setup can help by sending a notification to a driver’s smartphone when a vehicle hasn’t been plugged at its usual time. Smart charging can also enable pre-set charging and pre-conditioning times either in the vehicle itself or through your telematics system if it is connected.
- Reimbursing drivers for electricity costs
When a charging station isn’t at your business, you’ll need to reimburse your drivers for the electrical costs for charging that will be added to their home’s electricity bill. This isn’t much different from how you reimburse them for mileage or gas/diesel costs on regular expense reports. Electricity costs can accurately be tracked on the charger side (through a smart charger) or the vehicle side (through a telematics system). A smart charger can track the energy that’s drawn from it, but might not be able to tell if a non-company vehicle is plugged in. Tracking energy use through telematics on each fleet vehicle is a more precise solution. Or, if it works best for your business, you may prefer to simply set a basic reimbursement rate for your drivers based on distance driven and local overnight electricity rates.
“Companies are generally paying for home chargers right now,” says Kevy Stephen of Ford Pro. In the future, many employees may already have charging set up for an electric personal vehicle that can be shared. Ford Pro recommends that before any charging installation, employees sign a contract that specifies the terms. “If, for instance, an employee leaves in the next two years, the company has the right to remove the chargers [which protects their investment].”
Installing chargers at a depot is another option for fleets — read about that in the next topic.
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