Electric Vehicle Fleet Adoption



September 7th, 2021

Post by Matt Stephens-Rich, Electrification Coalition

Fleet electrification provides an exciting opportunity for companies and organizations to drive down cost of operation and vehicle emissions. But as can happen with new technology and the opportunities they bring, different barriers and limitations must be considered before deployment.

At the onset of the Smart Columbus Electrification Program, Smart Columbus set a goal of assisting private companies with the purchase of 450 electric vehicles (EVs). In the three-year project span, only 37 EVs were purchased by private companies and 255 are projected to be purchased.

During the grant period, Smart Columbus engaged with several companies and provided EV education and critical resources for assessing fleet potential and EV deployment. This included a variety of fleet analysis tools, in addition to support for planning cost-effective procurement and charging infrastructure deployment.

Across this work and engagement with hundreds of organizations, a number of key barriers and trends were identified, affirming the need for continued EV educational resources and new considerations for the future of fleet electrification:

Finding Local Fleet Vehicles and Light-Duty Fit

Much of the EV market has historically been concentrated on light-duty vehicles. While many organizations that were assessed for fleet electrification operated vehicles within an average daily driving routine/mileage that complements available EV range without need for mid-day charging, many fleets had a small concentration of vehicles that matched market-available EVs. This rang especially true for pick-up truck and van segments, which did not have direct-original equipment manufacturer EV options available and limited aftermarket upfit options.

Another complexity was determining the concentration of fleet vehicles in the central Ohio region. While a number of large, national companies are headquartered or have offices within the area, fleet concentration is spread out nationwide, making it difficult to assess and electrify vehicles that are immediately local.

Fleet Telematics – Not Always Deployed

Data-driven decisions can unlock tremendous insight for knowing where to deploy electrified vehicles, identifying both cost and emission saving potential based on real-world data. To that end, the Smart Columbus program conducted telematics-based analysis with a variety of fleets both big and small, to assess daily mileage, fuel use, and typical driving behavior.

For many fleets, this was a first experience with telematics systems or collection of fleet data (beyond an annual odometer reading). While a greater overall, regular capture of fleet data would be helpful (especially in assessing year-over-year data trends in fleet), cost of data-collection systems can be a challenge, as data tracking can be an expensive option for many organizations.

Eyes On the Horizon – Medium and Heavy-Duty Options

A vast majority of private fleet is concentrated in medium and heavy-duty options, which are increasingly seeing electrified options coming online in the years to come. By electrifying light-duty vehicles now, companies can leverage lessons-learned on vehicle deployment, employee education, siting of EV charging stations and other factors for larger-vehicle segments of the fleet. In most cases, earlier EV transition can also lead to higher cost-savings, driving a continued reduction in total cost of ownership fleet wide.


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