249273776 | Jonathan Weiss | Dreamstime.com
665774f17c32ef6cfe9f95ce Dreamstime M 249273776

Is the EV infrastructure worry bigger than it should be?

May 29, 2024
Public charging infrastructure is holding back fleets from buying into the EV transportation transformation. But could most local, light- and medium-duty fleets run efficient operations relying solely on home base power instead of public power?

The path to zero-emission fleet technologies looks different for every operation, especially in 2024 when fleets can choose from multiple options. Where one fleet might choose to be 100% electric, another might choose a “mixed bag” of propulsion systems and motors, Trent Broberg told FleetOwner.

Broberg is the CEO of Acertus, a vehicle logistics company that “moves, manages, stores, and titles and registers vehicles of all sizes”—up to 2 million different vehicles annually, Broberg said. Acertus services fleets directly and works with fleet management companies to meet its customers’ vehicle needs.

While some fleets are still creating zero-emission strategies, the companies that build the vehicles have been focused on their futures for years. Whether these strategies align depends on who’s asked, but one thing both fleets and OEMs can agree on is that for EVs and alt-powered vehicles to succeed, they’ll need fueling infrastructure to support them. Yet, is having more public charging infrastructure a want or a need?

See also: What are EV truck charging stations’ needs?

Does public charging infrastructure meet fleet requirements?

Most Americans don’t have to travel far to find the nearest gasoline or diesel refueling station. Further, Broberg explained that if the goal is to have most vehicles on the road be EVs, then we’ll need just as many charging stations as we have gasoline and diesel fueling stations—if not more—due to the amount of time it takes to charge.

“There is such a gap between the infrastructure for pure EVs and ICE [internal combustion engine] vehicles right now,” Broberg said. But Broberg, an owner of two EVs himself, said that while much of the negative rhetoric around EV adoption focuses on the need for public infrastructure, for consumers and some fleets, infrastructure isn’t a problem.

For consumers, most of their charging will be done at home. It's similar for fleets that “control the charging in a more confined space rather than the public market,” Broberg told FleetOwner.

“I believe that fleets are less impacted [by public charging infrastructure], because typically, they're either in-sourcing the charging abilities or they're outsourcing it to a specific vendor,” Broberg explained. “They're not using those public chargers much.”

See also: New Penske venture wants to help fleets with charging infrastructure

There are times when a fleet EV might need a public charge, and perhaps it's those instances that scare fleet owners from considering EVs more seriously. Broberg said fleets should think about when those times occur and carefully consider whether employing an EV on that route is even a good idea.

“If you're a fleet owner and your vehicles often fuel up en route on a frequent basis, then an EV is not good for you,” Broberg said. Current public EV charging infrastructure will prove “that's going to be tough to make EVs work [in those applications] for a long time.”

While Broberg’s sentiment sounds grim, the government is supporting the advancement of public charging infrastructure. There are subsidies for private businesses, such as EVGo, Electrify America, and more, to build charging infrastructure across the U.S.

See also: WattEV continues to make charging infrastructure a non-issue along the West Coast

Earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that $623 million of federal grants and funding will be allocated to building charging infrastructure programs nationwide. The Federal Highway Administration will use $311 million to fund additional EV charging projects in 36 communities across the U.S. In addition to this federal funding, states are also pumping money into EV charging and alt-fuel infrastructure. California announced more than $100 million from the Energy Infrastructure Incentives for Zero-Emission Commercial Vehicles Project will go toward charging infrastructure incentives to qualified applicants.

These incentives and grant programs are ideal to get the ball rolling in alternative fuel and EV development and infrastructure, but Broberg said there must be “a path to profitability for these EVs and in the infrastructure supporting the EVs” to see true growth.

See also: CARB approves $624 million funding plan

Fleet electrification support from OEMs

Another way to support the growth of EV adoption among fleets, specifically with light- and medium-duty EVs, is through OEM programs, like those offered by Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. These programs, known as Ford Pro, GM Envolve, and Ram Professional, are designed for fleets. While their focus might not be on electric vehicles, these programs certainly tout their ability to help fleets electrify operations.

See also: Scaling up: Ecolab to electrify fleet with Ford Pro

These programs are “an easier avenue to drive EVs where they make sense,” Broberg explained. “When you think about small businesses out there—even large—that have trucks running around intracity, it does make sense, often, to have an EV.”

These programs might also be a way for OEMs to supplement consumers’ waning interest in EVs.

“I think it also provides an opportunity for the ‘Big Three’ to drive sales on EVs where the consumer side has not accelerated as fast as in the past,” Broberg told FleetOwner. “So, you have product that you've got to move, and this provides another avenue.”

Cost parity and ESG initiatives help fuel fleets’ EV transitions

Along with support from OEMs and the government driving EV infrastructure development, other driving factors of EV adoption among fleets are purely economical and the fact that running EVs in a fleet can help get customers with carbon reduction goals, Broberg has observed.

At this point in the EV evolution, subsidies and tax incentives are crucial to developing and adopting EVs into fleets. While those subsidies and incentives can’t last forever, the sticker price of EVs compared to ICE vehicles is reaching cost parity, making an EV’s total cost of ownership more attractive to fleets than ICE vehicles.

See also: Incentives worth tens of thousands unlock EV affordability

“The average ICE vehicle sold today is $47,000 and the average EV is $52,000 [for light-duty vehicles],” Broberg said. “The same time last year, if you think about it year over year, that gap was … almost $20,000, and now it's shrunk down to about $5,000. So obviously, the cost of an EV continues to decrease.”

The decreasing sticker price for EVs also contributes to the TCO. Research from the Nickel Institute in 2021 found that owning a mid-sized EV is “considerably less expensive than an ICE” in the U.S., except in cases where the ownership is mid-term (about seven years) and low mileage. This is because gasoline and diesel are more expensive than electricity, and maintenance costs are significantly lower with an EV than with an ICE. Similar research conducted today would likely prove that EVs are even more economical than ICE vehicles due to the decrease in sticker prices.

A lower light- and medium-duty EV sticker price coupled with tax incentives could make a case for fleets to consider EVs on their own, yet, as Broberg recalled, there’s a case to be made about the image set forth by fleets using electric vehicles.

“There's a lot of drive for ESG initiatives in ... publicly traded [companies] ... to drive continued carbon footprint reductions across their entire supply chain,” Broberg told FleetOwner. Therefore, having EVs in the fleet “can be a differentiator for your business to go to a customer and drive a carbon footprint reduction plan or strategy.”

See also: Why fleets should care about ESG

EVs don’t make sense for every fleet 

For fleets that can charge their own vehicles, outsource charging to another company such as Acertus, or use a “controlled charging infrastructure,” as Broberg explained, EVs might begin to look like a much more plausible alternative. However, Broberg stressed that EVs are not the answer for all fleets. ICE vehicles will remain a dominant propulsion system within the fleet and trucking space where higher weights and longer ranges are factors, such as long-haul and over-the-road applications.

“I know some fleets out there that are testing hydrogen and really believe hydrogen is the way to go for longer lengths of haul,” Broberg explained. “Especially when you get into the Class 8s, when you're hauling heavier goods—that's important, especially bulk-type moves where it's always at 48,000 lb. or more, you can't use [EVs] economically.”

For these long-haul fleets and even fleets with smaller Class trucks and vehicles that require an extended range, Broberg anticipates a shift toward plug-in hybrid vehicles as well, underscoring the sentiment that fleets—and OEMs—will continue to own and produce a “mixed bag” of propulsion systems for the next decade, because right now, that’s what the industry needs.

About the Author

Jade Brasher

Senior Editor Jade Brasher has covered vocational trucking and fleets since 2018. A graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in journalism, Jade enjoys telling stories about the people behind the wheel and the intricate processes of the ever-evolving trucking industry.    

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Route Optimization Mastery: Unleash Your Fleet's Potential

Master the road ahead and discover key considerations to elevate your delivery performance

Leveraging telematics to get the most from insurance

Fleet owners are quickly adopting telematics as part of their risk mitigation strategy. Here’s why.

Reliable EV Charging Solution for Last-Mile Delivery Fleets

Selecting the right EV charging infrastructure and the right partner to best solve your needs are critical. Learn which solution PepsiCo is choosing to power their fleet and help...

Overcoming Common Roadblocks Associated with Fleet Electrification at Scale

Fleets in the United States, are increasingly transitioning from internal combustion engine vehicles to electric vehicles. While this shift presents challenges, there are strategies...