How Should Your Fleet Navigate EVs and Alternative Fuel Vehicles? Insights From Onward’s Founder
If your finger is on the pulse, you’ve already seen the statistics on eclectic vehicle (EV) adoption. Between 2018 and 2019, there was a 40% increase in EV sales; they now account for more than 2.6% of global car purchases. Battery prices are dropping and technology is evolving, making EVs more affordable, and less limited by range issues, than at any other time in history. Add in incentives, many of which apply to fleets, and the landscape is quickly shifting. Simply put, EVs are becoming more feasible for fleet owners—and the trend toward increased capabilities and decreased costs is only expected to continue.
As a longtime fleet management executive, I’ve witnessed this shift taking place over the last 10+ years. But statistics are one thing; experience is another. Despite the rapid increase in adoption, teams with quantifiable “boots on the ground” EV experience are hard to come by. Content online reflects this reality, with few articles providing insights gleaned from real EV fleet projects. That’s why I’ve decided to share my experience, both as a fleet manager overseeing EV acquisition, infrastructure and implementation strategies, and as a customer.
Whether you’re considering a shift to EVs or are interested in keeping tabs on “what’s next” for our industry, I hope these insights will help you navigate the terrain—and, when the time is right, seize this emerging opportunity for enhanced efficiency.
Launching a CNG Fleet
In 2008, EVs were just entering the fleet world’s radar. It was around this time when I began studying the viability of alternative fuel strategies—primarily CNG and EV—for Chesapeake Energy’s 7,000 vehicle fleet. As Vice President of Administration, the company’s fleet was one of the many areas that I directly led. We were ahead of the curve in terms of alternative fuels, and it was exciting to be on the ground floor of this two-year project. Our emphasis was on designing a solution that optimized the TCO—a goal just as relevant today as it was a decade ago.
Over the course of those two years, I learned a tremendous deal about the reality of alternative fuels for growing fleets. Once we confirmed the viability of CNG adoption, I worked with infrastructure, installation and service partners, and the OEM, to ensure our vehicle lifecycle accommodated the shift. This alignment was, and still is, critical to maximizing the value of your alternative fuel strategy. Every stage of the vehicle lifecycle needs to reflect your decision to “go EV.”
Another key piece of the puzzle was navigating infrastructure—a job that required both private and public relationships. We brought on Love’s and OnCue as primary partners, helping Oklahoma rank #2 in the nation for per capita CNG infrastructure. Along with establishing those relationships, my team also took on another major challenge: Purchasing city and state vehicles, converting them to CNG and establishing conversion kit tax incentives. Many of those incentives still exist in Oklahoma today. Although EV infrastructure is seemingly becoming more established by the day, it’s important to identify what your fleet requires from an operational standpoint—and build partnerships to deliver on that need. Charging stations, serviceability, OEM options and both federal and state incentives are all critical to optimizing your EV fleet’s TCO.
After-market installations are complex undertakings for any fleet, but CNG conversions required an even more sizable learning curve. I helped facilitate the installation of CNG kits, ensuring that manufacturers received certifications from both the OEM and EPA. In all, our internal conversion project involved 1,000 vehicles. I led those efforts, developing and overseeing a strategy that completed the job in 12 months without disrupting operations. When undergoing conversions, senior leadership buy-in is critical. So is a solid understanding of all the variable key resources, how they integrate, and the factors that could negatively impact the project financially and operationally.
At the time, Chesapeake Energy was leading the charge toward alternative fuel vehicles. But as with CNG infrastructure itself, wider industry adoption required true partnership. I was part of a working team that unified key players in the E&P industry behind CNG adoption. The result was a nine-figure multiyear commitment to purchase OEM bi-fuel vehicles that could run on CNG and gasoline. This eliminated fuel range anxiety. With the industry taking notice, I shared my experience at a NAFA and Telogis Latitude conference. The emphasis of my presentation? Bringing the chicken and the egg together to develop a solution delivering measurable ROI.
Preparing Fleets for EV Adoption
After my time at Chesapeake Energy, I continued to drive progress in the alternative fuel vehicle space. As Chief Administrative Officer for a major auto group, I helped prepare brands for the shift to EV: training service departments on the requirements of EVs; reviewing infrastructure footprints locally, regionally and nationally; identifying grant applications; and, similar to the CNG project, navigating OEM options, serviceability, resale value, charging station availability and required partnerships. Each step of the way, my process reflected the same ethos we embody at Onward: driving progress that optimizes the TCO.
As the EV landscape evolves, fleet owners and managers are hearing more buzz than ever. But few people talk about issues like scaling serviceability and determining resale value. These details are critical to reaping the most value from alternative fuel vehicles. Getting them right requires real “boots on the ground” experience with EVs. At Onward, our team has demonstrated leadership in alternative fuel vehicles, and that experience gives us the insights required to craft end-to-end strategies for our customers. Because when your fleet’s profitability is on the line, your decision should be about more than fuel costs alone. From service and maintenance to tax incentives and remarketing, every stage of the vehicle lifecycle is impacted by the shift to EV. The more experience in navigating that shift, the more opportunities you have to ensure it optimizes your TCO.
Are you exploring whether alternative fuel vehicles are right for your fleet? Do you need a partner with a track record for optimizing EV fleet operations? We’re here to help.