When considering electric vehicles for a commercial or government fleet, fleet owners and managers must always ask, “How much will this cost?” Fleet managers try to prolong the working lives of their vehicles with regular maintenance and efficient usage. Regardless of the vehicle drivetrain, all light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles will eventually need maintenance or repairs on the hundreds of moving parts. Here’s what you need to know about maintaining your EV fleet.
The Typical Lifespan of a Fleet Vehicle
If a consumer vehicle drives 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year, a fleet vehicle can average 20,000 to 30,000 miles annually, and this increased mileage decreases lifespan. Vehicle lifespan is one of the many areas where electric vehicles (EVs) have an advantage over internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. EVs have fewer moving parts, which are most likely to wear out and break. This means there is far less of a chance that a component will fail and leave an EV in the repair bay costing you time and money to repair.
The average age of a vehicle in the United States is 12.7 years, but fleet vehicle management company Zeeba says that the average lifespan of a fleet vehicle is only 3-5 years, depending on the make and model. Zeeba’s reasons include: the excessive mileage, fleet owners wanting to maintain vehicles’ resale value, maintenance costs, lost revenue from vehicle downtime, expiring warranties, and outdated technology.
EV Fleet Maintenance
Automotive research and rating company Kelley Blue Book (KBB) says an electric vehicle can be expected to last at least as long as an ICE vehicle, and potentially even longer, citing the lower number of moving parts.
How many moving parts are in an EV drivetrain and engine? Just 20, according to Drive Electric, a New Zealand based EV advocacy group. At the same time, the typical ICE vehicle has around 2,000. There are no fuel pumps or crankshafts or gears in an EV that can wear out and break. While EVs still need brakes, tires, windshield wipers, and cabin air filters, fleet managers can save thousands by no longer paying for oil changes and engine maintenance. By following your manufacturer’s recommended service schedule and using strategic charging, you can prolong the life of your electric fleet.
How Long Do EV Batteries Last?
There are two battery lifespans that a car owner probably knows best: the 2-3 year lifespan of a smartphone lithium-ion battery and the 3-5 year lifespan of the conventional lead-acid battery in an ICE vehicle. It makes sense for the non-EV driver to assume that once they go electric, they too will need to replace the battery (easily the most expensive component) every few years. But as Kelley Blue Book points out, EV batteries can last 15-20 years, meaning they can often outlive the vehicle itself.
Why do EV batteries last longer? It all comes down to the technology. Gas cars typically use a lead-acid battery (which receives a limited charge from the vehicle alternator), while EVs use a lithium-ion battery (which does not require an alternator). Lithium-ion battery cells are smaller physically and have greater density than lead-acid battery cells, which means that a manufacturer can increase the battery capacity without increasing the total size. EnergySage notes that “it is normal to use 85 percent or more of a lithium-ion battery’s total capacity in a single cycle, [but] lead acid batteries should not be discharged past roughly 50 percent.” Lithium-ion batteries can discharge more energy in a single cycle, which means it can recharge less often and therefore last longer. In an article about solar energy batteries, Clean Energy Reviews notes that “lithium (LFP) batteries are designed to be discharged up to 90% total capacity (10% SOC) while the traditional lead-acid (gel & AGM) batteries are generally not discharged more than 30-40% on a daily basis.” EnergySage also notes that lithium-ion batteries are 95% or more efficient, though a lead-acid battery only has 80-85% efficiency. Due to this higher efficiency and depth of discharge, lithium-ion batteries in an EV can hold energy longer, which means they can complete fewer annual charging cycles than a comparable ICE vehicle.
How Expensive Is EV Battery Maintenance?
If you do need a new EV battery, Kelley Blue Book notes that EV batteries are protected under warranty for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some are even covered for longer periods of time/distance. An EV battery represents approximately 30-40% of the entire cost of the new vehicle, and you can expect to pay $4,000-$20,000 for a replacement battery.
It’s true that EV batteries do degrade over time, which causes them to lose their charging capacity. However, many EV battery warranties will replace the battery if its capacity drops below a given level during the coverage period, and the odds of an EV battery completely dying are miniscule. Because the modern EV market is less than 15 years old, there is limited data on the lifespan of today’s EVs compared to an ICE vehicle. Research and development continues, and fleet managers may soon be able to recycle their used EV batteries for a battery energy storage system to further save money. As long as you maintain general maintenance schedule as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, your EV fleet should last as long as you need.
Selecting the Right Chargers for Your EV Fleet
Once you transition your fleet completely to EVs, you’ll need to keep them charged with the right electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). While all fleets are different, generally speaking, a mixture of Level 2 chargers and Direct Current Fast Chargers (DCFCs) will suffice for charging most light- or medium-duty fleets. Your specific number of chargers will depend on factors like the number of vehicles, distance traveled per route, and downtime between trips.
Level 2 chargers like the Blink Series 7 Commercial Level 2 Charging Station, which was specially designed for fleets and other large-scale charger deployments, can charge an EV in four to eight hours depending on amperage and vehicle type. This slim, dual-port charger can charge two EVs at the same time and even offers payment options if you would like to open charging to employees or public users. A DCFC like the Blink Series 9 30kW DC Fast Charging Station or the 60-360kW DC Fast Charging Station are two faster options that can charge an EV in under an hour.
While DC fast charging stations are faster, they require a significantly higher investment. Therefore, we generally recommend installing Level 2 chargers to take care of the bulk of your daily or overnight charging while vehicles are parked, and having a few DCFCs for when you need a faster charge during the day.
Blink Fleet Management
When you install Blink chargers, they will be added to the Blink Network. For fleet managers, the Blink Network provides you access to Blink Fleet Management, where you can manage and track all your vehicles, manage energy usage and charging schedules, schedule charging to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates, and view environmental reports that provide summaries of CO2 reductions, barrels of oil saved, gallons of fuel saved, and millions of fuel dollars saved annually.
If your fleet has its own roadside assistance program, you can add the Blink Mobile Charger to it and avoid your fleet vehicles being stranded. Depending on the vehicle, this Level 2 charger can provide approximately one mile of driving distance per minute so you can get the stranded vehicle to the nearest available charger.
Electric fleet vehicles are not only cheaper to fuel, but they also require less maintenance than their internal combustion engine counterparts. This means lower maintenance costs and vehicles that do not wear out as quickly, which allows fleet managers to extend their lifespan. Ready to start planning your fleet charging? Blink walks you through the process of deciding the right number of chargers to suit your fleet. Click here to get started today.