Frito-Lay | NACFE
Frito-Lay electric box truck

Run on Less participants work through the EV paradigm shift

Aug. 27, 2021
Thorough training, route planning and optimization, and regenerative braking can help fleets overcome their drivers’ electric vehicle charging and range anxieties.

Vehicle routes and usage patterns, return on investment, compliance, sustainability goals, charging infrastructure—the list goes on. But when—and if—fleets decide it’s time to begin transitioning to electric vehicles from internal combustion engines (ICE), driver buy-in, training, and support are essential.

As one of the fleets participating in the North American Council for Freight Efficiency’s Run on Less Electric (RoL-E), PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay Division has sought new opportunities to improve fleet efficiency and sustainability, particularly for a company that offers a lot of different products and needs a lot of different vehicles to deliver those products to market.

At one point in time over the last 10 years, Frito-Lay had a fleet of nearly 300 electric vehicles, explained Ken Marko, senior national fleet sustainability manager with PepsiCo’s Frito Lay, during NACFE’s Aug. 24 Electric Bootcamp session discussion. NACFE’s Electric Bootcamp is a 10-part educational series on electric trucks leading up to the official launch of RoL-E on Sept. 2.

Like the other fleets participating in RoL-E, Marko said Frito-Lay’s fleet is constantly evaluating different technologies to help meet internal sustainability goals and regulatory mandates. The company initiated a project at one of its larger sites to fully convert diesel equipment to zero-emission and near-zero-emission technologies.

With all this new technology, additional driver training has been more important than ever.

“Range anxiety was one of the things that we had to deal with, and we had to help drivers understand what the capabilities of the vehicles were and how to manage their routes,” Marko said.

“We also had to plan for our routes a little bit differently and make sure that we understood how many miles those typical routes were going to operate, and make sure that we selected routes that were within the capability of the electric vehicles,” he added.

Reliability, Marko said, is vital for drivers.  Drivers want to know that they can recharge and start the vehicle every day. They also want feedback throughout the operation, Marko noted. That could mean how driver behaviors, temperature, and terrain play into the overall range factor.

“Part of it was helping the drivers understand how they contribute to the overall range efficiency,” Marko added. “Drivers are starting to learn tricks on how to anticipate when they are coming to a stop and slow the vehicle down using regenerative braking. They know that helps them with efficiency and range capability of the vehicle.” 

The paradigm shift

During the Electric Bootcamp training session, Jim Castelaz, CTO and founder of Motiv Power Systems, explained that when switching to electric, fleets will realize that many vehicle elements become much simpler. For instance, oil changes and transmission work are all eliminated, brake work is significantly reduced due to regenerative braking, there is no exhaust system components or fluids, and no emissions testing or air filters are required.

Motiv powers electric trucks and buses across the U.S. and Canada in various applications. The company’s main focus is on medium-duty vehicles.

“When we deploy new electric trucks to fleets, we help them through the paradigm shift of moving from internal combustion engines to EVs,” Castelaz said.

Castelaz broke down the ICE to EV paradigm shift that fleets should understand:

  • Motor versus engine. Instead of an engine, fleets and their maintenance departments will be dealing with an electric motor. According to Castelaz, that also means a quieter operation and zero tailpipe emissions.
  • Charging versus fueling. The vehicle now runs on electricity rather than fuel. When running on electricity, no emissions are coming from the vehicle. However, charging tends to take longer than refueling a conventional ICE vehicle.
  • The degree of electronic complexity on vehicles is increasing, and electrification drives that trend. Electric vehicles rely heavily on software and the embedded computers and electronic controls built into the vehicle, Castelaz explained. “Mechanically, the vehicle is very simple, but the complexity is in the software controls,” he added. “This drives a paradigm shift as far as how the vehicles are used and upgraded, and how drivers are trained on them.”
  • Adjustments and upgrades are made via software. Adjustments that used to be mechanical adjustments are now software adjustments that can be done remotely, over the air.
  • Engine braking charges the batteries (regenerative braking). “We have the opportunity to recapture the kinetic energy of the vehicle and put that energy back in,” Castelaz added.

When vehicles are delivered to fleets, Castelaz pointed out that Motiv provides training for drivers and all others responsible for monitoring or plugging in vehicles. Because EVs look almost identical to traditional ICE vehicles, Castelaz has noticed initial confusion and hesitancy about the new technology. The biggest concern at first, he noted, is that drivers might think the new technology will slow them down or keep them from doing their job.

“What we find is that with proper training and the initial experience where we are walking them through getting acquainted with the vehicle, very shortly after, any skepticism is gone,” Castelaz said.  

Julie Johnson, enterprise business development manager at Lightning eMotors, which manufactures battery-electric and fuel cell electric Class 3-7 vehicles, noted that the data derived from EVs could help fleets determine best practices for HVAC energy use, acceleration and routing, regenerative braking, and driver training.

“A critical piece is the use of air conditioning and heat,” Johnson said. “The last thing we want to have happening is for someone to be uncomfortable; this is their mobile office. But we have seen some interesting things in the data when it comes to driver behavioral changes and habits.”

Johnson offered the following tips to help fleets and drivers maximize EV range:

  • Do not accelerate too rapidly. Accelerating quickly will use more current, therefore reduce kWh (battery storage) and range, according to Lightning eMotors.
  • Utilize regenerative braking by allowing the vehicle to slow itself rather than pushing the brake pedal to slow.
  • Turn off the A/C or heat when possible. A/C and heat are the largest consumers of battery storage (aside from acceleration) and can significantly reduce range, Johnson noted.
  • Avoid having the air conditioning and heat on simultaneously.
  • Do not leave the ignition in run or accessory mode when the vehicle is not in use. Johnson explained this would drain the 12V battery, reducing vehicle battery storage.

Next week during ACT Expo, NACFE will provide additional insights and hold an interactive workshop to crowdsource ideas to help speed the adoption of electric vehicles. NACFE will also share some preliminary findings from its 10 Electric Truck Bootcamp sessions and interviews with the Run on Less fleets.

“We are excited for the kickoff of Run on Less - Electric on September 2 following ACT Expo," Mike Roeth, NACFE executive director, said. “We are thrilled to meet with anyone who is joining us at ACT Expo.”

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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