Five considerations for utilities looking to electrify their fleet
As operators of large vehicle fleets, utilities have a unique opportunity to lead the movement to electrify fleet vehicles and install EV infrastructure across the U.S. By spearheading fleet electrification, utilities can use the experience to inform or refine electrification program design and enhance the support they are able to provide to their customers as they electrify their own vehicle fleets. The reality? Only 26% of U.S. electric utilities have electrified more than 5% of their fleet vehicles, according to recent research from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). Nearly 1 in 5 utilities have not begun the fleet electrification process at all.
As noted by SEPA, there are a number of possible reasons for the slow adoption of electric vehicles by utilities, including:
- Available supply from EV manufacturers, especially with medium and heavy-duty models
- Significant upfront costs for vehicles and supply equipment – despite the lower total cost of ownership for EVs when factoring in fuel costs and ongoing maintenance
- Uncertainty around how EV fleets would perform during an emergency power outage – either within a utility’s own service territory or while assisting other utilities
- A lack of information and data among key decision makers as to how to begin transitioning to and procuring EV fleets
- The ability to execute internal change management – including training utility employees on how to use and maintain the EV fleet and associated infrastructure
Despite slow adoption, utilities are still putting forth aggressive fleet electrification goals – with many targeting 2030 as a major progress milestone. With these targets fast approaching, utilities will need to begin significant planning efforts and execute site studies to ensure that EV infrastructure serves not only short-term objectives but also long-term needs.
Key Considerations for EV Site Studies
Site studies help property owners understand a variety of factors associated with the installation of EV infrastructure, including vehicles’ electrical charging needs, the required electrical infrastructure, existing power capacity, and any site upgrades that would be needed to support EV fleet charging needs. As utilities work towards 100% fleet electrification, they should consider the following key points as part of the site study process.
- Assemble as much site data as possible. Site information provides insights into existing infrastructure and what issues need to be addressed to prepare for an electrified fleet. Site information may include detailed site plans, facility electric billing information and electric meter interval data, distribution level electrical information, parking and EV infrastructure design standards, and potential environmental or hazardous waste considerations.
- Consider long-term electric fueling needs. When preparing a site to support fleet electrification, it is important to model the projected electric charging infrastructure with long term needs in mind. While it can be difficult to predict future EV needs across the organization, utilities should focus on modeling a wide range of scenarios that can be dynamically adjusted based on site-specific factors and variables. In many cases, a more conservative site sizing approach may be implemented to allow for future growth, EV technology advancement, and unforeseen challenges with demand and site constraints.
- Analyze alternate power storage and generation. Once the long-term electric fueling needs are assessed, the site study should analyze if traditional transmission and distribution (T&D) upgrades are necessary or if alternate power storage and generation options can support the projected electric fueling needs. These alternate options can include battery storage, solar arrays, small wind turbines, and geothermal.
- Assess digital aspects of EV technology. Within site studies, utilities can analyze the key digital points and elements of charging infrastructure technology to aid in procurement decisions, EV charging station installations, and infrastructure project execution. These digital aspects can include instrumentation, interconnection, opportunities for automation, and intelligent charging station monitoring.
- Prioritize sites for EV infrastructure. As the site sizing study process is completed, utilities must prioritize sites for EV infrastructure installations by number and type of charging stations needed, anticipated complexity, timeline for implementation, and locations expected to see accelerated EV adoption due to available incentives or progressive policies. If site construction and configuration is expected to have a high degree of complexity, a phased approach may be appropriate to better manage infrastructure installations.
With more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry, Leidos is assisting utilities across the country with fleet electrification and carbon reduction initiatives. Our team possesses extensive experience in providing EV site studies and helping utilities analyze key findings in order to support fleet electrification goals. We understand that EV fleet needs are constantly evolving and provide utilities with flexible support as they navigate the electrification process. For more information on Leidos and our electrification support services, contact our team.