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Let’s Talk Power: Charging an Electric Last Mile Delivery Fleet

As businesses consider investing in electric last mile delivery fleets, it's important to focus on the charging infrastructure that will power the fleet.

logistics fleet ev charging

Last mile delivery – what’s driving the switch to electric?

 

Cost

As we discuss in this blog, delivery on the last mile is seen as the most expensive element of a supply chain, with figures in the region of 28% and 40% of total supply chain costs. With low emissions zones on the rise, delivering to urban areas and cities is becoming more expensive. 

Switching to an electric last mile fleet can help companies reduce the cost of this part of the supply chain process significantly. 

Environmental benefits

The last mile delivery process has a huge impact on pollution levels in urban locations. As more customers become environmentally conscious and look to support businesses that make reducing their carbon footprint a priority, switching to an electric fleet will enable logistics businesses to maintain and grow its customer base whilst making its services more planet friendly.  

 

Do not leave last mile charging infrastructure to the last minute

At Mer, we know what happens when the switch to a new fleet is prioritised over the question of how to charge it; delaying making plans around the charging infrastructure could put the operation of your EV fleet at risk.  

Looking into the infrastructure side of your fleet electrification plan now will save you moving forward with a flawed plan that could have a detrimental effect on your fleet’s efficiency. 

In the first of a series of blogs for last mile delivery fleet managers, we share the first things to consider regarding charging infrastructure when switching your last mile fleet to electric, including: 

  • Why starting the conversation early is crucial where power availability is scarce, 
  • How to decide what and how many charge points your fleet needs. 

Start by looking at power

Electric fleet vehicles demand a lot of energy, and so getting the right charging infrastructure to power them is essential. This means businesses must factor in that adding EVs to their fleet will increase power usage at their site(s).  

Because said site only has a finite amount of electricity available, a crucial step is deducing how much power the site is already using and how much that leaves from your grid connection to charge your new fleet.  

Your district network operator (DNO) will issue a charge if you exceed your capacity on a shared connection and draw down more power than your business is allocated. The number and type of EV chargers you install will be led by how much power you can realistically get to site without risking a power outage. 

EV chargers are power-hungry

If you need more power than what you already have for the number of chargers required to correctly power your fleet, a connection upgrade is necessary. This comes at a cost and will be time-consuming; there is a queue system for upgrades, and this timeline can add months onto your project.  

Start with the following questions: 

  • What is the power availability on your site(s)?  
  • Does this provide enough power to install the chargers you need?  
  • If not, what will it cost to upgrade your power supply to provide enough power for your charging infrastructure? 
  • What are the timelines involved in delivering these power upgrades? 

Investigating the power case for your site(s) upfront saves time and money down the line. 

The good news is you do not need to become an energy expert to electrify your fleet. Work with an EV charging infrastructure provider that can help you identify your energy usage and how much extra power you would need for your EVs. 

ev charging solutions for urban logistics

Move onto operational requirements

When you have a solid idea of the power capabilities at your site, you can start to look at the charging infrastructure itself and how many charge points you will need to effectively operate your EVs. 

Decisions around charger type and number should be driven by the vehicles in your fleet. 

 

Example 1: A last-mile logistics company wants to electrify a small portion of its vans as a starting point

Vehicle range: 120 miles on a full charge  

Shift patterns and mileage: the vehicles cover fewer than 100 miles per shift, and do one shift per day before returning to base  

This company will be able to rely on fast charging to charge the batteries overnight. 

 

Example 2: The same company now wants to expand its EV fleet 

Vehicle range: 120 miles per charge  

Shift patterns and mileage: Some of the vehicles travel more than 120 miles per shift  

Electrifying this second set of vehicles will need some operational changes. For example, the company may have to factor in a van returning to base at lunchtime for a top-up charge; a fast charger might not replenish the batteries quickly enough, meaning a rapid charger would be required for these vehicles. Because rapid chargers draw significantly more power than fast chargers, and are more expensive, these factors should be considered when deciding budget and looking at power availability. 

 

Example 3: A company has vehicles which run multiple shifts and sweat every asset 

Shift patterns and mileage: Some vehicles can complete a shift on a single charge, but some vehicles need recharging mid-shift. All the vehicles need recharging between shifts. 

This would require higher-cost rapid chargers for all vehicles, which will most likely need a high voltage DNO upgrade to meet the demanding power requirements.  

 

Public charging can be used to a fleet’s advantage

As well as return to base type charging, fleet managers may wish to consider using a public rapid charging point. This means the vehicles do not have to come all the way back to their depot to charge up mid-shift and may only need to deviate slightly from their route to find this charging. Most electric vans have satnav programmed with the locations of rapid charging stations, which makes it easy for the driver to navigate to one nearby. With some forward planning, this can be scheduled during the driver’s lunch break.   

 Having gathered all the information you need regarding power availability and what type of charging can fit the operational requirements of your fleet, you may need to revise your electrification plan. Do you need to extend the timeline to accommodate DNO upgrades, or increase budget to facilitate these upgrades? 

Plan ahead for the growth of your electric fleet

Think about the long-term at this stage. For example, your depot might only need 10 fast chargers now, but if you are switching an entire fleet to electric gradually, you will need additional charging infrastructure as your EV fleet expands. Think about getting those works done now, so the cabling is there in the ground for future phases.  

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