Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
With brands and consumers increasingly seeking out more sustainable shipping options, logistics leaders have started to explore making large-scale investments in electric vehicle (EV) fleets. Another driver is cost. Research, including reports from McKinsey and PwC, show EVs are becoming more economical, with battery electric vehicles on track to outperform their internal-combustion-engine (ICE) counterparts by 2025.
With U.S. and Canadian zero-emissions regulations on the rise, EVs are poised to become the future of logistics. This raises the question: Is your company prepared to invest in, launch and operate an electrified fleet?
There’s a lot that goes into creating a successful EV-powered logistics operation. Here are five things to consider before going all in on electric:
1. There’s no such thing as plug-and-play EV fleets
EVs take up a fraction of the commercial vehicle market today, so this is an opportunity for early adopters to embrace EVs and reap the benefits before the competition does. However, purchasing a fleet of EVs is one thing. Operating and maintaining a successful fleet is a complex, long-term investment, and companies must determine if it’s a commitment they are willing to make.
It requires having the right infrastructure in place beforehand — including EV charging stations, driver training and maintenance plans. If EVs are part of your future plans, now is the time to set the wheels in motion and map out an implementation plan.
2. Getting started depends on what you want to electrify
You might be asking: Where should we even begin? A great place to start is clearly identifying what you are looking to electrify. Do you want to electrify last-mile deliveries? Or are you planning to use EVs to move inventory between warehouses? Similar to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, there are various different classes of EVs available — from parcel vans to big rigs — so zeroing in on the purpose you want EVs to serve is foundational. From there, you’ll need to identify reliable partners — the automotive OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) — who are developing the appropriate vehicles to fulfill your electrification needs.
3. Spend time learning about how EV range will impact routing
Once you know the application you want to fulfill, and you have OEM partners in mind, the focus turns to ensuring your processes and systems can accommodate EV constraints and capabilities. Since the public charging infrastructure is limited, and recharging takes much longer than refueling, an electric vehicle’s range needs to be a key consideration in routing. A route that could typically be completed by an ICE vehicle may need to be adjusted to optimize the range of the EV or available charging stations along/close to the route. If an on-route charge is required, the time it takes to complete the charge needs to be considered when estimating arrival times. Dig in to learn if your processes and systems are flexible or if you’ll need to redefine your operation.
4. All drivers need to be retrained for EVs
To leverage the full potential of an EV’s range and reliability, logistics providers next need to consider their driver training and retention efforts. While battery health and the climate in which you operate play major roles in an EV’s range, the same bad driving habits that reduce fuel economy also negatively impact EVs. Driver behavior, including excessive speeding, braking and acceleration, all use up additional energy, resulting in shorter EV range capabilities. When electrifying, it’s key to identify your top drivers and get them up to speed on EV best practices.
5. Lastly, it’s important to develop a long-term charging and maintenance plan
When it comes to running and maintaining an electrified fleet, it is vital to identify a charging plan. Will you go the public or private charging route? If you opt into utilizing public charging stations, you’ll need to know how busy the depot gets and if you can reliably charge up your EVs when you have planned to charge them. On the other hand, the private charging route guarantees consistent charging access but may require working with a landlord for permission and the municipality for permitting and infrastructure upgrades, both of which can take a significant amount of time. Then you need to consider the actual maintenance of your fleet. Remember that, unlike gas vehicles, EVs require mechanics with an understanding of the evolving technology and software that powers your vehicles.
EVs are the route forward for logistics providers, especially as consumers, brands and governments increasingly prioritize sustainability and accelerate zero-emissions regulations. But it’s important to remember there’s no such thing as plug-and-go fleets. Embracing EVs takes planning, commitment and diligence. Fortunately, there’s never been a better time for logistics providers to map out their electrification plans to ensure a smooth rollout and long-term success of EVs.