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Overcoming EV range anxiety with electric vehicles

Overcoming EV range anxiety with electric vehicles
Author: Lindsey Hall, Managing Director and Waste Management Consultant, GreenSteps Sustainability Consulting

An increasing number of fleet managers are becoming interested in electric vehicles (EVs), spurred on by the promise of lower operating costs and the ability to reduce their environmental impact. Zero tailpipe emissions of greenhouse and other noxious gases also make EVs an attractive option for city-based fleets, where local authorities are enforcing more stringent air quality standards on vehicle operators. However, despite this growing interest, a recent survey by Kia Motors found that 80 percent of fleet managers were held back from actually making the switch due to range anxiety.

What is range anxiety?

Range anxiety is the fear that the electric vehicle won’t have sufficient charge to complete its duty, and it’s still perceived to be one of the greatest barriers preventing fleets from going electric.

Early models of electric vehicles had a poor reputation for their real-world mileage range between charges. Drivers were often finding that they couldn’t get much more than 70 miles from a fully charged battery, despite the manufacturers’ claim that a far greater mileage was possible. This tainted the image of the electric vehicle market and to some extent it’s still trying to shake it now.

Recommended for you: A simple guide to EV charging

Naturally, no fleet manager wants to have to worry about rescuing stranded employees and company vehicles, with the associated loss of productivity and recovery costs. You also don’t want to be dealing with your employees’ fears that the vehicle you provide them with will be unreliable and inconsistent. Managing vehicles that are used multiple times throughout the day, or on challenging routes can present further concerns.

But should a lack of battery range be a genuine worry if you’re considering the transition to electric vehicles? And what can you do to prevent it from being one?

How far can electric cars drive? 

Manufacturers of light-duty EVs have made heavy investments to increase the range of their new models, helped greatly by the new generation lithium-ion batteries. There are now many light-duty EVs capable of completing a range of between 200–300 miles on a single charge. 

The following EV models have an estimated range over 200 miles and are either available now, or are due for release in early 2020:

Tesla Model 3 (310 miles)
The compact Tesla Model 3 sedan comes in two models: The Long-Range model is the line’s leader with an average 310 miles on a charge, while the more affordable Mid-Range model gets an average 260 miles.

Tesla Model X (295 miles)
Tesla’s Model X, the gull-wing all-wheel drive SUV, has seating for seven adults and is rated to run for 295 miles per charge with the 100D version and 289 miles with the P100D. 

Jaguar I-Pace (292 miles)
Jaguar’s I-Pace has two concentric electric motors, one on each axle for permanent four-wheel drive. The lithium-ion battery is sized at 90kWh, giving it a claimed range of 292 miles per charge.

Kia e-Niro (282 miles)
Kia’s e-Niro crossover hatchback has a claimed range of up to 282 miles for the fully electric model (although it also exists in hybrid and plug-in hybrid formats).

Hyundai Kona Electric (279 miles)
Hyundai’s electrified compact crossover SUV comes with a 201bhp motor, with a 64kWh battery for a 279-mile range.

Mercedes-Benz EQC (259 miles)
The EQCis a compact luxury SUV with a claimed Range of 259 miles. It’s the first member of the fully electric Mercedes EQ family, which is scheduled to expand to 10 models by 2022.

Chevrolet Bolt (238 miles)
The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the brand’s only electrified vehicle. The five-door subcompact hatchback has a claimed range of 238 miles. 

Nissan Leaf (235 miles)
The second-generation Nissan Leaf is quicker, further reaching between charges, and more attractive than its predecessor, and now boasts a claimed range of 235 miles. 

Audi e-tron (204 miles)
Audi’s new fully electric all-wheel-drive luxury crossover SUV comes equipped with a 95 kWh lithium-ion battery and has an EPA-estimated range of up to 204 miles.

While these models will be impacted by real-world driving conditions and winter weather, their higher starting range means that their real-world range will be notably higher than the early electric vehicle models. Considering that the average light duty vehicle in North America covers only 43 miles per day, all of these vehicles have the ability to complete a whole week’s worth of driving between charges; or multiple journeys in one day if used as pool vehicles. 

3 tips for maximizing EV range and decreasing range anxiety

If you’re electrifying your fleet, follow these tips to get better range from of your EVs.

1. Provide driver training

Your drivers are the key to unlocking the best range from your EVs. A smooth driving style (driving at sensible speeds and limiting harsh acceleration and braking) maximizes battery life and increases range. The use of heating and air-conditioning systems can decrease a vehicle’s range by as much as 30%, so this is another important factor to educate your drivers about.

To counter this, many EVs come with a preheat timer to heat the car while it completes its charge, prior to driving. For cold weather climates, an additional option may be to look at departure-time charging which some EV models support. This allows a vehicle to fully complete its charge shortly before a preset time (ie 7:00 a.m.) to keep the battery warmer. 

In most cases, driving an EV is a similar experience to driving an ICE, but there are some differences that drivers will require training on. One of these is the use of the vehicle’s regenerative braking system. By enabling the car’s maximum regenerative setting and leveraging this energy-recovering function when coming to a stop, the driver will send the most power back to the vehicle’s batteries while decelerating, increasing its range.

2. Rightsize vehicles to their tasks

EVs might not make suitable replacements for every one of your ICE vehicles, but there will be many opportunities to save money by switching out those on suitable duty cycles.

For each vehicle and duty cycle, consider the conditions that they encounter; is the terrain steep? Is it subject to extreme temperatures, either cold or hot? Factors such as these can put more of a strain on batteries and in turn impact the real-world range they can attain.

Also think about the maximum daily mileage that the vehicle will need to achieve (or mileage without rest at a designated center). What is the duty location and would the vehicle have proximity to appropriate charging infrastructure, whether that’s your own, or public?

3. Keep your vehicles well maintained

As with all vehicles, a robust preventative maintenance schedule helps to keep fleet operating costs down. In the case of EVs, maintaining the correct tire pressures helps to get the best mileage out of each charge, yet it’s reported that over 25 percent of all vehicles drive on improperly inflated tires. Tire pressure can vary by an average of one PSI with every 10-degree Fahrenheit change in air temperature, so make sure to schedule tire pressure checks as the seasons change.

Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment (EVSA) for range assurance

Before committing to a fleet upgrade, smart fleet managers will look for hard data to support their future purchasing decisions. First getting a complete overview of the current demands and costs of their operations, and then seeking data to show how transitioning to electric vehicles could save them money, while guaranteeing the same performance.

This is where the EV Suitability Assessment (EVSA) comes in, giving Fleet Managers the ability to identify the ideal candidates for replacing based on their unique duty cycles, and providing complete range assurance.

The EVSA uses existing fleet telematics data to analyze the current demands of your operations and then provides recommendations of the specific ICE vehicles that would be most beneficial to retire and transition to electric. The analysis considers both the financial impact and the range suitability of the switch.   

To ensure that Fleet Managers are left with no remaining concerns and overcome range anxiety, the EVSA analyzes each vehicles’ driving history to provide range assurance. 

What you can learn from an EVSA:

  • What are the range requirements for each vehicle in my fleet?
  • Will the EV perform the same job and meet the range requirements of the current vehicle?
  • Will it be sufficient to only charge overnight?
  • Will the battery still perform in extreme weather conditions?

Armed with this data, you can confidently move forward with transitioning your fleet to electric, safe in the knowledge that range will never be a concern for you, or your drivers.

So, what’s stopping you? 

For more information about EV fleet management, visit geotab.com/ev

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