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Brightmerge creates simulations of fleets’ operations, analyzing the grid, chargers, and vehicles to create a project finance model to determine whether switching to EVs makes business sense.

Simulate your way to electrification

April 17, 2024
Brightmerge creates simulations of fleet operations, analyzing the grid, chargers, and vehicles to create a project finance model to determine whether switching to EVs makes business sense.

Successful fleet electrification is complicated. It requires fleets to analyze their operations to determine if EVs would make operational sense, provide a return on investment, understand project costs, and plan charging infrastructure operations. Simulations, such as those from data platform Brightmerge, can help fleets do just that.

Current fleet electrification platforms usually “make very broad estimates of what can be done with the vehicles, but they won’t do any deep analysis or optimization algorithms,” Brightmerge founder and COO Daniel Schwab told FleetOwner. “Anyone can create an estimate, but is it bankable? Is it optimal? No, the answer’s no. And that’s where I believe we fill the gap.”

Many fleets that have successfully launched EVs in their operations have had help. From OEM and charging partnerships to fund sourcing and more, companies such as Gladstein Neandross & Associates consult fleets on EV integration. Telematics providers, such as Samsara and Merchants Fleet, also provide EV consulting services to their customers, helping fleets implement their EV strategies from end to end.

See also: It’s not too early to think about your fleet’s future power

Brightmerge, an Israel-based data-driven decision-making platform, can help fleets determine if EVs are right for them by digitizing and simulating their operations and creating a project finance model to see those plans through. The process is in-depth, advanced, and includes data from multiple sources, Schwab said.

“We actually go into the grid and understand the grid situation, and then we also look at potential uses of on-site microgrid technologies,” Schwab said. “We also look at the charging systems, so adding those additional components (give us) a deeper understanding.”

Understanding’ energy reality’

One roadblock in adopting electric fleet vehicles is grid capabilities. Schwab said Brightmerge helps with that because the platform investigates the “energy reality” and the “actual situation of the grid.” In this way, Brightmerge can help fleets see what’s possible.

“Most of the current blockages are where the utility says, ‘Whatever capacity you have on the grid, that’s it—there’s nothing you can add,’ (or) ‘it’ll take five years to add,’” Schwab said. “We will say, ‘OK, maybe, but did you look at charging optimization? Did you look at microgrids to increase capacity? Did you look at different charging systems that produce different results? Did you plan your charging in an optimal way?’”

With these possibilities shown in one data platform, fleets can view a near-identical digital twin of their operations if electrified. “It’s a reality of all of the energy pieces, and not just an estimate,” Schwab explained.

Brightmerge then runs algorithms on the relevant site and fleet operation data to find ideal combinations of possible electrification approaches. This significantly expands fleets’ electrification options, Schwab said. It digests grid data and the possibility of microgrid options alongside different charger options and wraps it up into a project finance model.

See also: Volvo sees fleet profitability paved upon its path to zero

Brightmerge runs electrification simulations on each vehicle in a fleet, calculating its routes, possible payloads, how much time it needs to charge, and more. For some routes, Schwab acknowledged that electrification doesn’t yet meet operational needs or isn’t profitable. However, this could change—and it could change faster than one might think.

Schwab emphasized the importance of evaluating the viability of electrifying a fleet every six months as EV technology advances and prices decrease. That analysis includes running simulations on each vehicle for each route every six months. Having a partner like Brightmerge to run these simulations ensures fleet leaders aren’t taking time away from their fleet while also ensuring the right opportunity to electrify isn’t passing them by.

After the analysis

Once initial analysis takes place and a fleet decides to begin electrifying operations, Brightmerge analysis continues. The platform integrates with the fleet’s vehicles, chargers, and grid systems to continually capture data, monitoring their financial performance, Schwab said.

This helps Brightmerge compare an asset’s actual performance to its simulated performance. The Brightmerge team then works to discover where the performance differs and why and reports back to the fleet leaders and the investors so that the proper action can be taken to eliminate or remediate the problem.

“The goal is really to feed that kind of data to the investors,” Schwab told FleetOwner. “This is not data that stays in the organization at a lower level with the operator. The goal is to give that information to the investors in a format that investors can make sensible decisions.”

While fleet electrification may look like Brightmerge’s goal, Schwab said not every success story ends in electrification.

“We’ve helped investors in some cases to decide not to go ahead (with electrification),” Schwab told FleetOwner. “So, it’s hard to say that that’s a success story, but we saved them money and time and effort to avoid a mistake, which I think is maybe unique and extremely valuable. Risk management and avoiding mistakes is probably just as important as moving forward (with electrification).”

See also: Trucking industry reacts to GHG3 rule pushing zero-emission adoption

Digitize and simulate your fleet’s transition to EVs

The trucking industry is rapidly changing with the implementation of new technology, data capture, and the adoption of electric fleet vehicles. Schwab said fleets can no longer rely solely on their in-house tools and Excel spreadsheets to make strong financial decisions. It’s essential to use all available technology and tools, such as digital simulation and optimization, to keep up with the industry and ensure the fleet doesn’t fall behind the competition.

“(Fleets) err on the side of caution far too often because they just don’t know. The risk is too high, and the unknowns are so unknown that they just say, ‘Well, we can’t take the chance,’” Schwab said. “But if you do real simulation and real optimization and ... use the right tools, use scientifically based decision-making tools, use big data, use machine learning, use optimization algorithms, and look at this at scale, you’ll see the numbers make sense.”

Schwab believes the industry is now at a point where fleets should begin making big electrification decisions but cautions that waiting too late could cost even more.

“We’re reaching a stage where the opportunity cost of not switching is greater than the mistake of switching too soon.”

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.    

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