Understanding the fleet market
In general, fleets are big customers for vehicle makers. Almost
15 percent of 2015’s 17. 5 million light-duty vehicle sales in
the United States were to fleet purchasers, according to
TrueCar, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based vehicle research and
sales-assistance company. This translates into approximately
1. 2 million new fleet vehicles purchased last year.
However, light-duty vehicles (essentially, passenger cars)
are just one segment of the fleet market, which encompasses
a broad range of offerings. Light- and heavy-duty trucks, city
buses and even industrial forklifts all fit into this category.
“Fleet purchases will be a significant part of the EV mar-
ket,” said Dr. Peter Harrop, chairman of market research firm
IDTechEx Ltd., London, and co-author of the recently
released report, “Industrial and Commercial Electric
Vehicles on Land 2016–2026.”
He said commercial and industrial vehicles now
represent 60 percent of the total EV market, in terms
of sales dollars, and fleets are the major buyers in these
“That’s where the big profits are,” Harrop said.
Hybrid EVs, such as the original Toyota Prius, have
been a part of many municipal fleets for years. Because
these vehicles don’t need to plug in to recharge, fleet
owners have enjoyed significantly reduced fuel costs
without worrying about travel range or the need for
Newer plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs), such as the
Chevy Volt, which can fall back on gasoline for power, and pure-play battery EVs (BEVs), such as the Nissan Leaf and all of Tesla’s
offerings, have been a harder sell. Again, governmental agencies
have helped give these newer markets a boost.
“The early adopters have been the municipalities, the cities and the state governments, probably because of the federal
and state mandates [for greener government operations and
zero-emission fleets],” said Alexander Barton, director of
accreditation development with the National Association of
Fleet Administrators (NAFA). He also oversees NAFA’s Sustainable Fleet accreditation program.
It helped that many of these early EV fleet purchasers were
already familiar with alternative fuels.
“The traditional fleet manager/operator is operating gas and
compressed natural gas [CNG] fleets, and they’ve been doing
that for very many years,” said Michael Jones, a sales vice president with charging equipment and services leader ChargePoint,
However, this isn’t to say that these fleet pros didn’t face a
“The first thing was finding out how disruptive this was,”
Jones said, noting the lack of the kind of fueling infrastruc-
ture fleets had become used to with gasoline, diesel and CNG.
“As they met all those challenges, now they’re more familiar;
they’ve become the vanguard in the market, leading the way.”
ChargePoint recently expanded its offerings with a fleet-
dedicated charging station and a card that fleet drivers can use
to pay to power up at a large number of commercial charging
stations on the road. Similar to products such as the WEX Fleet
Card, for operators of conventional gasoline-powered vehicles,
stations across ChargePoint’s extensive network accept these
cards as well as those of other networks with whom Charge-
Point has established agreements.
With fueling issues becoming less of a concern, EV fleet operators who have been working with the vehicles for several years
are beginning to recognize some significant operational advantages with their electric cars and trucks. Fleets can represent a
sweet spot for capturing the maintenance and fuel-cost savings
EVs can offer. According to FleetCarma, a Waterloo, Ontario-based consulting firm specializing in EV fleet deployment, the
average daily distance traveled by a baseline fleet vehicle is just
12. 4 miles, well within the range limits of even BEVs.
As these high-use vehicles rack up mileage, they benefit
from significantly reduced maintenance requirements. The
need to change oil and transmission fluid disappears, along
with any emission-equipment upkeep because there are no
mufflers or tailpipes to replace. Also, an EV’s regenerative
brakes see significantly less wear and tear, rarely requiring
replacement. Add in significantly lower fuel costs—even in
today’s era of low gasoline prices—and an owner’s total cost of
ownership can drop quickly.
“The majority of the time, they have a ‘hive,’ and they’re able
to do their job and come back to the hive,” Barton said, using an
industry term for a terminal or hub. “For fleets, it works very
well. They don’t go too far, they know their routes, they know
their territories and range for each application.”
Playing with the big boys
One EV fleet application seeing rapid growth is transit buses.
In fact, the world’s largest EV manufacturer isn’t Tesla, as one
might think, but Chinese manufacturer BYD, which has benefited from that country’s push to reduce airborne pollutants.
Though little known in the United States, it has a manufactur-
> FOCUS FLEETING BENEFITS
As these high-use vehicles rack up mileage, they
benefit from significantly reduced maintenance
requirements. The need to change oil and transmission
fluid disappears, along with
upkeep because there are no
mufflers or tailpipes to replace.
Continued from page 90
Continued on page 94 ➜