Bernard Magee, director of electric vehicle charging infrastructure at Siemens GB&I, and Mark McLoughlin, Siemens financing partner, are speakers in the 'Electric Unplugged' seminar at this year’s Freight in the City event.
In the viewpoint below, Magee sets out the case for looking beyond which charger to install and pinpoints the other factors that will enable businesses to operate efficient, profitable and reliable EV fleets.
A great many column inches have been dedicated to reviewing the effectiveness of electric vehicle (EV) charging systems: how quickly do they charge, how many are needed, do we lease or buy and how user-friendly and reliable are they?
These questions are important pieces of the EV fleet jigsaw but not the only ones.
At Siemens, delivering reliable, cost-efficient energy solutions is the bedrock of our business and has been for decades. Reliable electrical infrastructure is the foundation of a reliable EV charging network and the reason why we offer our road transport industry customers a grid-to-vehicle approach.
So, what does grid-to-vehicle mean in practice?
It begins with a discussion on fleet operations, vehicle types and route schedules followed by a site survey.
Making sure your grid connection is right for your EV fleet is an important component. Many depots will need extra power and working out exactly how much more (the grid connection size) is a key first step.
By following these steps, you will better understand your site’s specific energy needs, enable the conversation with your network operator to increase power to site to begin and avoid under or over-forecasting the size of the grid connection your depot actually needs.
This may seem like another technical headache on the EV journey. But it is easier than it sounds, and the right partner can assess your power requirement and handle the grid connection work. It is a bit of early homework worth doing.
In my experience, the importance of the early site assessment cannot be underestimated. Many of our current road transport customers have also found the survey approach invaluable when it comes to visualising how their depot is going to operate with an EV fleet.
For example, the actual sighting of your EV charging systems is critical.
How can they be installed without changing an efficient, familiar and safe depot layout and without losing precious square meters or potentially having to pay for more space?
Additionally, how can they be seamlessly installed without disrupting day-to-day business?
Early engagement with a partner with wider energy-management and master planning expertise can make this process much easier.
My own team has already worked successfully with a range of city-based customers on these very issues. Their brief is to find the ideal connection points so space is not lost and customers don’t need an expensive depot redesign. And installations can be staggered to avoid disruption and meet the customer needs as their EV fleet grows.
What about the ongoing costs?
Returning to the grid-to-vehicle theme, one element of the EV debate that does not get enough airtime is how to work efficiently once the EV fleet is rolling. What happens in the months and years after the “switch on” is critical; especially when it comes to controlling day-to-day operating costs?
Even a small fleet needs to be mindful of the power they’re using. Not least because it becomes a daily outgoing and UK energy tariffs remain challenging and volatile.
There’s a plethora of EV charging systems to choose from but time spent investigating what they can deliver beyond the speed of charge is essential when it comes to controlling expenditure.
The right underlying software can schedule any charging when the tariff is lowest, avoid the need to charge at a peak power level and even be aligned with an individual vehicle’s commitments. This can reduce both capital expenditure and operating costs, essential for your long term EV business case.
In simple terms, it is worth asking whether an EV charging system has the right ‘tool kit’ to make it as consistently cost and energy efficient as it possibly can be. Does it work smart?
Support and aftercare
One additional thought about life after the “switch on” is reliability and service support.
We’re already seeing instances where businesses don’t get the rapid response they need or struggle to work out who is responsible for getting a problem fixed.
My view is that a direct relationship with the EV charging system manufacturer offers some welcome peace of mind. They can provide the field technicians, service and support packages to get the issue resolved quickly.
Finally, there is the key question of financing - how do you ensure any changeover does not come with a significant upfront cost and that ongoing payments are affordable and tailored to your business? Siemens Financial Services is able to fully support this transition and my colleague and financing partner Mark McLoughlin and his team understand how daunting this can be for operators.
“We have developed a wide range of leasing options with fleet operators in mind. After all, it’s about sensibly spreading costs and avoiding the requirement for large capital expenditure. Whether you need a complete solution or assistance with one lease or purchasing element, the expertise and willing is there to support you," said McLoughlin.
- At this year’s Freight in the City Expo on 28 September at London's Alexandra Palace, Siemens is offering free Charging Surgeries where you can discuss your EV challenges, talk through the end-to-end process of building your infrastructure, EV Fleet and finance options with our experts. We are also demonstrating our high-performance chargers and you can review our software solutions. Book your free ticket to attend today!