Fleet Telematics Has Vital Role in Move to EVs

Increasingly, organizations are turning to electric vehicles (EVs) while setting goals to reduce emissions and improve operational fleet efficiency.

However, there are implications on changing the powertrain of a vehicle and how it’s managed in fleet operations. Noah Gates, senior product owner at Omnitracs, says he’s noticed that one of the biggest trends at the moment is the use of telematics data to drive autopilot systems in EVs. “Telematics data is also providing information about those systems to Tesla, which is being used to refine the technology,” he adds. From Tesla’s perspective, the aim is to improve the self-driving capabilities of its vehicles while making the data readily available for legal purposes.

Real-time data

His colleague Tyler Forcum, a senior product manager at Omnitracs, adds that telematics is providing fleets with real-time data: “In the case of electric vehicles, this means instant information on energy and fuel usage and overall functionality.” He also explains that the data collated from fleet electric vehicles is “helping policymakers understand the infrastructure that needs to be put in place to support these models and it isn’t just the policy makers using this data.”

Automakers are using the data to analyze how they can expand nationwide vehicle charging station infrastructure. He emphasizes that this is a critical aspect of fleet adoption of EVs. He therefore asks: “Are fleets going to build out the infrastructure to support EVs or will they call on OEMs’ support as part of their vehicle purchasing contracts?” In response to his own question, he replies: “That’s a big question right now and telematics can be used to inform these questions.”

Charging challenges

Despite the charging infrastructure challenges that EVs have, Nate Bryer, vice-president of innovation at Azuga, finds that more people are turning to electric vehicles, including consumers and commercial fleets that have the pockets “to spend on the newly manufactured vehicles, such as buses”.

He says the consumer EV market is growing and yet it remains small: “It will take time to reach a mass threshold but electric vehicles are here to stay and some stats say that by 2040, 50% of the market will be EVs but I think it might be sooner than that. The groundswell of opinion and the feeling towards them is more positive, and the myths about them around performance have gone.”

Slow truck market

“The electric truck market is slower. You will see buses first. They hit on the sweet spots, such as short trips, and they have a centralized hub around which they drive. So they can be re-charged. Tesla is close to having its heavy truck and having lots of orders for them. If its track record of not hitting target dates rings true, it will be on the road next year in 2019.”

Octavian Chelu, principal consultant mobility at Frost & Sullivan adds that it’s nevertheless difficult to “provide an exact number with regards to how many electric vehicles are being used by fleets (especially heavy vehicles); this happens mainly owing to the increased mix of the fleet’s components – ICE vehicles, hybrid and EVs, as well as because of the lack of information currently available.”

He agrees that EV adoption is not extremely high because the current offering of EV technology is very limited, expensive and still under development. The consequence of this is that many companies find themselves on a virtual waiting list. “Nevertheless, as this is a transition phase towards a new “core” powertrain, we expect that the number of EVs will increase over the next period, gradually taking the place of the traditional internal combustion engines,” he says.

No quid pro quo

Bryer adds that telematics and electric vehicles are not a quid pro quo. He says all electric vehicles have telematics, and some of the data “trickles down to consumer services such as where’s my car, where’s the nearest charging station – performance statistics”.

From his perspective, he reveals that he’s mostly interested in exploiting telematics data for fleet management, “offering much the same data as it would with a diesel or petrol-driven vehicle – including braking and cornering performance”. Perhaps, for this reason, he suggests that electronic logging devices (ELDs) will be tailored. “ELD is specific – focused on driving hours and so there is no new benefit compared to non-electric vehicles,” he comments.


“Telematics and mobility are key features of car-sharing,” Gates adds before explaining that telematics “creates the basis of the service with its location services and then provides a sense of security for the car owner by knowing the exact location of his or her vehicle. In the near future, we may also start see remote vehicle shutdown via the ignition”.

Although car-sharing is straddling the fence between the commercial fleet and consumer markets, Bryer suggests that with mobility offerings, “there is a change from single ownership to shared ownership (e.g. in Italy). So I don’t think it’s only in the US. It’s wherever there is a large number of people, such as in a city.” In such a highly populated area, the biggest issue is parking.

However, he believes that it can be resolved as a win-win for everybody with the offer of shared mobility services. Nevertheless, this cannot work without telematics. Without it there would be no means of offering information about where to re-charge an EV or to park it.

Truck stops

Forcum adds: “In terms of parking, fleets won’t likely have to make any major modifications to their current approach. The only exception is parking on a highway or at a truck-stop and at on-site facility parking for fleets. Truck stops would need to add charging stations to their current infrastructure and consider the pricing model for using these stations.”

He also thinks that on-site facility parking may need to change for fleets, “because the charging time for an EV truck is anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes for an 80% charge, while fueling a truck with 100 gallons takes 10 minutes (flow of 10 gallons per min)”.

Fleet maintenance

“As for maintenance, the trucking industry is still reeling from a limited number of qualified maintenance technicians for diesel vehicles. The biggest open question I have around EVs is who will be performing maintenance on these vehicles? Regional-based EV fleets may be quick to adopt the technology but if a truck needs an immediate repair, who will have the training to fix an EV issue? This may create additional backlogs of maintenance time for fleets.”

EV use cases

Finally, talking about how different EV fleet use cases will emerge for freight, last-mile delivery, enterprise and supply chains, Forcum concludes: “There are several EV use cases on the market right now, especially related to last-mile delivery.”

“Electric box trucks are a good example of a last-mile delivery use case that is likely to occur in the short term. Why? EV products that have been introduced are advertised to have a range of about 230 miles, which is only 50% of the range for a typical 26-foot box truck with a 50-gallon tank on it (assuming 10 mpg).”

“Semi-truck application is another use case that is similar to box truck applications. However, the range gap of travel between EV and diesel can be much larger, depending on the size of fuel tanks a diesel vehicle is equipped with.” So there are many miles to go before EVs become commonplace within commercial fleets and much depends on having the infrastructure in place.

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