Survey: Fleets not yet ready for plug-in electric vehicles

Nearly 65% of 100 private and government fleets in a recent nationwide poll say they are “not likely” to purchase either a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle, primarily due to a lack of data regarding operating cost, emission reductions, vehicle specifications, pricing, resale values, and fuel efficiency

Nearly 65% of 100 private and government fleets in a recent nationwide poll say they are “not likely” to purchase either a plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle, primarily due to a lack of data regarding operating cost, emission reductions, vehicle specifications, pricing, resale values, and fuel efficiency.

“Without the specifics, fleets are concerned about the potential for these vehicles to meet application demands, including driving range, battery and fuel efficiency,” said Chelsea Mathis, an environmental consultant within the strategic consulting services group of Northbrook, IL-based fleet leasing and management firm Donlen.

Mathis told FleetOwner that many of the fleets participating in Donlen’s survey expressed particular concern regarding the battery charging process.

“Companies would have to establish a policy around vehicle charging including identifying charging locations, potentially investing in the construction of charging stations on location, determining after-hour charging policies, and the charging level of stations available—i.e. will it take 20 minutes or one hour to complete?” Mathis said.

The potential fuel savings and emission reductions are not known without a full understanding of the battery’s efficiency in certain conditions, she added.

“Finally, production is still somewhat limited and most fleets will only be able to purchase/lease one or two of these vehicles within their fleet,” Mathis noted. “In the eyes of a fleet manager, there are simply too many unknowns at this time.”

She pointed out that the private and government fleets participating in the survey operate equipment that spans the motor vehicle continuum, from passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks up through medium- and heavy-duty units. Almost 40% of the respondents, Mathis noted, has more than ten medium- or heavy-duty vehicles in their fleet.

However, those fleets in favor of adopting plug-in electric vehicles view them as a potential opportunity to reduce operating costs and emissions, improve corporate image, and decrease dependence on foreign oil.

Roughly 35% of fleets responding to Donlen’s survey viewed saw a plug-in electric vehicle as a good fit for sales application drivers, with 25% targeting service drivers. More than 25% of respondents would target the Midwest region as the starting point for the use of plug-in electric vehicles, while the majority would consider multiple regions.

More than 46% of respondents would charge their electric vehicles at an office location with 33% charging their vehicles at home, according to the survey.

“Right now, the short term use for electric vehicles is as demo and test units, as fleets gather information to determine level of driver acceptance,” said Donlen’s Mathis. “We’ve also seen fleets experiment with heavy-duty electric vehicles to a greater success, specifically with lighter weight products, realizing a decrease in their emissions and cost.”

She added that while the fleets Donlen surveyed in favor of adopting electric vehicle are targeting the Midwest region as a test area for the use of electric vehicles, most of the public charging stations/electric highways being built on the coasts.

“Without the equivalent infrastructure in the Midwest, it may be more difficult for fleets to operate electric vehicles in the Midwest,” Mathis pointed out.

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