Once your electric vehicle suitability assessment is completed, it’s time to start planning for a pilot project. It’s worth testing how electric vehicles fit into your day-to-day commercial realities before any major rollout. It will also help your early-adopter employees understand the new habits that come with driving an EV, which they can share with their peers later on. An electric fleet pilot project can also highlight any areas that will need extra resources, particularly your charging infrastructure. 

Be inclusive

Establishing a shared goal will help get everyone on board for the EV transition.

Electrifying your fleet involves more than the fleet department and drivers. Depending on the scope, you may need to include:

  • Facilities management to handle charging infrastructure;
  • The finance department to ensure it can be budgeted;
  • Your local electrical utility and possibly the municipality if permitting is needed;
  • The drivers who will be doing the testing; and
  • IT for adding telematics or charging software.   

Ensuring your entire team is enthusiastic about the change will be key to a successful pilot. Please feel free to share this program with your broader team to help them get an understanding of the big picture and how electrification can benefit their goals beyond GHG emissions reduction. You can also refer them to our Top 15 EV Questions to bust any myths they may have about electric vehicles.

Choosing test vehicles

Using the data gathered from the assessment, you can select from a number of vehicles that best match your combustion vehicles’ duty cycles. How many you need to test will depend on the size of your fleet and the variety of vehicle types you are using. 

If your fleet size enables it, testing comparable vehicles from different manufacturers will give you extra insight into features and options you and your drivers like. 

Charging options

Once you know which vehicles you’ll be adding for the pilot, you can calculate your power requirements. 

Experts are of two opinions about installing chargers at this point. Some say it makes sense to prepare for the installation of all the chargers you’ll need — for the pilot and beyond — to save on the installation costs.

However, others argue for caution. Pierre Ducharme of consulting firm Marcon-Miratech suggests waiting on the permanent chargers until after the pilot. He notes that the pilot may show you need a different approach, and with a larger fleet you may need more than one pilot. Opting for portable chargers will allow you to move them from facility to facility.

Easing into it

It is important to remember that a pilot is just the demonstration phase of your electrification process. Allow time for everyone involved to adapt to using the new vehicles and their systems. 

It is very important here to ensure that employees are properly educated about the EVs they are using and trained in EV driving techniques. Give them time to get used to the new driving interface, telematics and EV feedback tools before you start recording data in earnest.

Read how to set up a system for your drivers to provide feedback about the EVs they are driving.

Don’t abandon your old diesel or gas vehicles just yet. You might need them as backups in case someone forgets to charge their EV! 

Gathering data

Once the electric fleet pilot program is running, you will be able to collect information from the vehicles, the drivers and your chargers. A good Canadian pilot program should start in the fall and run through two winters and end in the second spring. “It gives you a chance to adapt and improve during the second winter,” says Pierre Ducharme. 

Adding telematics to the new vehicles is a no-brainer, he adds, noting the devices are easy to install and cheap to operate, while yielding reams of useful data on the pilot. 

In addition to the hard data you’ll get from the electronic systems and/or telematics installed on the EVs, don’t overlook driver feedback. Drivers may have great ideas to optimize the use of the vehicles or identify bugs that need fixing.

“On paper it’s easy to say we might need a smaller vehicle or a few charging stations, but in reality it’s different and we have to experience it to make sure that we are going to do the right things.”

— Stephane Labreque, Fleet Director, Videotron

In the next section, learn about applying the learnings from your pilot to a full fleet electrification plan.

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