A Fleet Manager’s Guide to Battery Electric Vehicles

July 27, 2020

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Key Takeaways

In this guide, learn more about battery electric vehicles, their main uses, and the benefits they can provide to your fleet.

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Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), otherwise known as all-electric vehicles or just EVs, are a common type of electric vehicle growing in popularity across the globe. Because BEVs run solely on rechargeable batteries and have no internal combustion engine (ICE), they are more environmentally friendly and cost less to maintain. 

Whether you’re deciding which type of BEV to invest in or learning about EVs for the first time, this comprehensive guide will help you learn about the benefits of battery electric vehicles to inform your electrification strategy. Keep reading to learn more about BEVs’ driving range, how their batteries work, what their main benefits are, and more. 

What are battery electric vehicles and how do they differ from hybrid electric vehicles

Battery electric vehicles differ from hybrid vehicles because they have no internal combustion engine, meaning that they do not use gasoline to power their engines. Instead, BEVs run solely on an electric motor and rely on rechargeable battery packs to function. This makes them a more attractive option for fleets and consumers looking to reduce their carbon footprint

In addition, because hybrid vehicles still have a traditional engine, they cost more to maintain than all-electric vehicles. On top of that, since all-electric vehicles do not use gasoline, BEV owners typically save more money, since they do not need to purchase fuel.

3 different types of battery electric vehicles 

Although the most common types of BEVs are light-duty passenger vehicles, there has been a  recent rise in heavy-duty electric vehicles such as buses, trucks, and even semi-trucks. Here are the different types of battery electric vehicles available on the vehicle market today:

Type of battery electric vehicle

Description

Automakers who make this type of hybrid electric vehicle

Light-duty

Light-duty electric vehicles are typically used for commutes or shorter trips.

Nissan, Tesla Model 3, Ford, GM, BMW, Toyota, Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, Fiat, Chevrolet

SUV

SUV electric vehicles are larger and can fit more cargo. They typically have similar range capabilities as light-duty EVs.

Rivian, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, Tesla

Truck

EV trucks are light-duty pickup trucks that are capable of hauling assets such as generators or trailers.

Rivian, Tesla, Bollinger

What can you use battery electric vehicles for? 

In the past few years, battery electric vehicles have become popular for consumers and commercial fleets alike. Consumers increasingly use electric cars and SUVs for commutes and short range trips because they run on renewable energy and have exceptional driving range.

Similarly, commercial fleets and local governments, such as the City of Boston’s public works department, use EVs to provide essential citizen services and reduce their environmental impact. 

In addition, public sector fleets have begun introducing hybrid vehicles and all-electric vehicles into their fleets to reduce operating costs and are beginning to fully transition away from older internal combustion engine vehicles. With a driving range between 180 and 350 miles, local government fleets and organizations with light-duty vehicles should consider evaluating electric vehicles to replace their current vehicles for shorter trips.  Learn how to build your electrification strategy in our complete guide here

What types of batteries do battery electric vehicles have? 

In the past 100 years, EV battery technology has evolved from lead-acid batteries to the more commonly known lithium-ion batteries used in EVs today. Considered the standard for battery electric vehicles, lithium batteries are superior because of their longevity, energy density, and energy retention rate. 

In EVs, the overall battery is known as the battery pack, which is made up of multiple battery cells. For example, the Tesla Model S battery pack is made up of more than 7,000 battery cells. Depending on the battery capacity—measured by kilowatt-hour, or kWh—EVs will have different range abilities. The higher the kWh, the farther your electric vehicle will take you on a single charge. 

What are battery electric vehicle chargers? 

Electric vehicle charging stations—also known as chargers—provide electric power for the recharging of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. 

Although all charging stations serve the same purpose—to make sure your electric cars stay powered—there are three distinct types of public charging stations that you should know about:

  • Level 1: These chargers are the most standard and derive power from a standard wall outlet of 120 volts. These chargers take the longest to charge—usually about 10 hours to fully charge an all-electric vehicle and a few hours for a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.  

  • Level 2: These chargers use the typical EV plug found in homes and garages and make up the largest percentage of public chargers. 

  • Level 3: These charging stations, commonly known as DCFC, or DC fast charging stations, are the least common but charge vehicles at the fastest rate. Tesla’s Superchargers, for example, can fully charge an electric car within 75 minutes. 

What are the driving ranges of BEVs? 

On average, battery electric vehicles have a range of about 180-200 miles per charge. With the average commute under 50 miles per day, EVs make a great alternative to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. In fact, already 87% of vehicles on U.S. roads could be replaced by an EV. 

Because BEVs cannot fall back on a gasoline engine if they run out of energy, automakers are increasingly trying to improve battery technology in order to increase range. Currently, models like the Nissan Leaf have a battery capacity of 30 kWh and a range of 155 miles whereas the Tesla Model S has a high-capacity battery at 90 kWh and a range of 346 miles. As you can see, the larger the battery capacity, the longer the range of miles. 

What are the benefits of BEVs for your fleet 

Despite the challenges and occasional drawbacks of owning battery electric vehicles such as range limitations and charging infrastructure, there are several benefits that can have a big impact on your fleet’s bottom line. By investing in electric vehicles, your fleet can: 

  • Lower operational costs: By eliminating the need for gasoline, you can reduce operational costs such as fuel and engine upkeep. According to the US Department of Energy, all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have a typical energy cost of $50-80/month, compared to the ICE gasoline cost of $160-200 per month. This means you could save up to $200 per month on fuel alone by switching from a gas-powered car to an electric car.

  • Fewer maintenance issues: With fewer moving parts to maintain, electric vehicle owners save thousands of dollars per year on maintenance costs. In fact, electric car owners report spending one third of the cost to maintain their EVs than traditional ICE vehicles. 

  • Environmental benefits: With fewer tailpipe emissions and greater fuel efficiency, hybrid electric vehicles are better for the environment and can help improve air quality in cities and municipalities.  

  • Greater driving range: One of the biggest setbacks of all-electric vehicles is their limited range. With hybrid electric vehicles you can improve your MPG and fall back on the gasoline engine, which can extend your driving range significantly. 

  • Vehicle safety: Electric vehicles are safer than internal combustion engine vehicles for a few reasons: lithium-ion batteries are less flammable than gasoline, and EVs are less likely to roll over in a collision due to their heavier weight. Electric car automakers have begun to strategically place the vehicles’ batteries further away from the vehicles’ “crumple zones”—areas that are susceptible to getting smashed in a crash—in order to mitigate risk of fire in case of a collision. 

What to evaluate when deciding to invest in BEVs

There are several factors that go into the decision to invest in battery electric vehicles. When evaluating your electric car options, take the following criteria into consideration: 

  • Vehicle price and total cost of ownership (TCO): Currently, 19 of 40 electric vehicle options on the market have an MSRP lower than $37,000, which is the average cost of a new car in the United States. Despite misconceptions that electric cars and hybrid vehicles have high sticker prices, the reality is that the TCO of electric cars is increasingly on-par with traditional internal combustion engine vehicles. 

  • Charging station infrastructure: One of the biggest barriers to entry for BEV ownership is ensuring that you have the proper charger infrastructure to keep your vehicles running. Without ample charging station access, drivers can be left with “bricked” vehicles—or vehicles that run out of charge before reaching a charger. 

  • Battery costs: Despite the cost savings electric cars provide, a lesser known cost is battery replacement. With a typical battery replacement cost hovering around $5,000, this is a cost that you should keep in mind when evaluating hybrid electric vehicles. 

  • Battery life: Electric vehicle battery life is another thing to watch out for when deciding if electric vehicles are right for you. Most electric car automakers claim a battery life of up to 500,000 miles, but battery degradation can sometimes happen starting at 30,000 miles—making it more difficult for batteries to hold a charge. Without a new battery replacement, EV owners can begin to see a 3-5% decline in driving range.

  • Driving range: Most electric vehicles today have a driving range of about 200 miles, with the best long range vehicles clocking in around 370 miles. Although 200 miles is typically a long enough range for short trips, if you need a vehicle for longer trips, you may want to consider hybrid electric vehicles rather than all-electric vehicles. 

Why fleets should use telematics to track electric vehicles

For fleets looking to make the most of their electric vehicle investment, implementing a telematics system is the next critical step. 

For many fleets with electric cars, not having sufficient battery to complete a round-trip or not being able to find a charging station in time is a major concern. Since some electric vehicles can take more than eight hours to fully charge, electric vehicle fleets require a major shift in driver behavior. Those unaccustomed to electric cars might forget to stop and charge in time, putting themselves at risk of being unable to complete their job. 

Because of this, planning is even more essential for an electric vehicle fleet. Access to data points such as state of charge, nearby chargers, and driver HOS status is essential to ensure every electric car in your fleet can make it to a charging station.

4 reasons to choose Samsara to monitor your battery electric vehicle fleet 

  1. Gain remote visibility into your electric vehicles’ real-time state of charge: With EV Charging Reports, you can view current and historical vehicle state of charge to help inform fleet dispatching and operational decisions. You can also easily monitor charging status to determine if your EVs are plugged in and charging. 

  2. Get the most from your investment by viewing fuel and energy usage: Use the Samsara Fuel and Energy Use Report to monitor performance, MPGEs, and electric usage. 

  3. Find nearby charging stations fast: With the Samsara EV Charge Stations Map Overlay, you can see nearby charging station information including open hours, available charging types, and more so you can find the closest station available and plan routes accordingly.

  4. One unified platform for all of your vehicles: Electric or not, Samsara allows fleet managers to monitor all of their vehicles in one, easy to view dashboard. With features to assess the suitability of electrifying your fleet and open API integrations, Samsara provides customers with the tools they need to reach their sustainability goals and reduce costs. 

Reach out for a free trial today.

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