Prolonging Fleet Life with Electric Vehicles

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Maximizing the Lifespan of Your Fleet with Electric Vehicles

For those managing commercial or government fleets, the question of cost is paramount. How can you extend the lifespan of your vehicles, ensuring maximum efficiency and minimum downtime? Regular maintenance and smart utilization are key strategies, irrespective of the vehicle type. Whether you’re dealing with light, medium, or heavy-duty vehicles, maintenance and repairs are inevitable due to the numerous moving parts involved. Let’s dive into what this means for maintaining an electric vehicle (EV) fleet.

Understanding the Durability of Fleet Vehicles

Typically, while a personal vehicle might clock in 10,000 to 15,000 miles each year, fleet vehicles can rack up 20,000 to 30,000 miles, significantly shortening their operational life. This is where electric vehicles (EVs) shine in comparison to traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Thanks to their simpler mechanics with fewer moving components, EVs are less prone to breakdowns, saving on both repair time and costs.

In the U.S., the average vehicle might last about 12.7 years, but for fleet vehicles, this expectancy drops to just 3-5 years, according to fleet management experts at Zeeba. This reduction is attributed to several factors: the high mileage driven, the desire of fleet owners to keep the resale value high, escalating maintenance expenses, revenue losses during downtime, warranty expirations, and the rapid pace at which technology becomes obsolete.

Maintaining Your Electric Vehicle Fleet

Kelley Blue Book (KBB), a leader in automotive research and evaluations, suggests that electric vehicles (EVs) are likely to match or surpass the lifespan of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. This is largely due to EVs having significantly fewer moving parts.

Specifically, EVs boast a drivetrain and engine with only about 20 moving parts, as highlighted by Drive Electric, a New Zealand-based group promoting electric vehicles. In contrast, a typical ICE vehicle is composed of approximately 2,000 moving components, including fuel pumps, crankshafts, and gears – all prone to wear and failure. While electric fleets still require upkeep for brakes, tires, windshield wipers, and air filters, the absence of oil changes and engine maintenance can translate into substantial savings for fleet managers. Adhering to the manufacturer’s service recommendations and employing smart charging strategies are essential steps to ensure the longevity of your EV fleet.

The Endurance of EV Batteries Explained

Many are familiar with the relatively short lifespans of smartphone batteries, which last 2-3 years, and the conventional lead-acid car batteries found in internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, which last 3-5 years. It’s easy to assume that electric vehicle (EV) batteries would have a similar replacement cycle. However, Kelley Blue Book (KBB) highlights a significant difference: EV batteries are built to last 15-20 years, often outlasting the vehicles themselves.

The longevity of EV batteries is attributed to the advanced technology behind them. Unlike gas-powered cars that rely on lead-acid batteries charged by the vehicle’s alternator, EVs utilize lithium-ion batteries, which do not need an alternator. These lithium-ion cells are not only physically smaller but also have a higher energy density, allowing for greater battery capacity without increasing the size of the battery pack. According to EnergySage, lithium-ion batteries can safely use over 85% of their total capacity in a single charge cycle, compared to the roughly 50% limit advised for lead-acid batteries. This means they can undergo fewer charge cycles over their lifetime, extending their durability.

Clean Energy Reviews further explains that lithium (LFP) batteries are designed for up to 90% discharge, whereas traditional lead-acid batteries typically shouldn’t exceed a 30-40% discharge daily. Moreover, lithium-ion batteries boast an efficiency rate of 95% or more, significantly higher than the 80-85% efficiency of lead-acid batteries. This higher efficiency and depth of discharge capability mean that EV batteries can store energy for longer periods, resulting in fewer annual charging cycles compared to their ICE counterparts.

The Cost of EV Battery Replacement and Maintenance

Kelley Blue Book points out that should you need a replacement, EV batteries come with a warranty of eight years or 100,000 miles, sometimes even longer. Given that an EV battery constitutes about 30-40% of the vehicle’s total cost, replacement expenses range from $4,000 to $20,000.

Despite the fact that EV batteries gradually degrade and lose charging capacity over time, many warranties cover battery replacement should the capacity diminish to a specified threshold within the warranty period. The likelihood of an EV battery failing entirely is extremely low. Given the relatively young age of the modern EV market, which is less than 15 years old, comprehensive data comparing the lifespan of EVs to ICE vehicles is sparse. However, ongoing research and development in the field hold promise for future cost-saving measures, such as recycling used EV batteries for energy storage systems. Following the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines ensures that your EV fleet remains operational for its intended lifespan.

Choosing the Appropriate Chargers for Your EV Fleet

Transitioning your fleet to electric vehicles (EVs) necessitates equipping your operation with the right charging infrastructure, known as Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). Typically, a combination of Level 2 chargers and Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFCs) will meet the charging needs of most light- or medium-duty fleets. The exact number of chargers required will vary based on several factors, including the total number of vehicles, the average distance covered per trip, and the available downtime between trips.

Although DC fast chargers offer quicker charging times, they also demand a higher initial investment. As a result, it’s often advisable to rely primarily on Level 2 chargers for the majority of daily or overnight charging needs while vehicles are idle. Incorporating a few DCFCs can be beneficial for instances where a rapid charge is necessary during operational hours.

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