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A Better Access to EV Charging for Commercial Fleets

A Better Access to EV Charging for Commercial Fleets

A guide to prepare your public charging strategy


EVs are here to stay and will progressively be adopted by commercial fleets at different levels and for different use cases. The question is not if this will happen, but at what speed and to what extent. So far, charging has been an obstacle to fleet electrification, and fleets choosing to go electric have focused on back-to-base charging strategies. With depot charging requiring substantial planning and investment, and with it restricting vehicles to a certain geography, a successful transition to EVs requires a sound public charging strategy for most fleets going forward.


In this article, we will discuss the challenges of EV charging for fleets, the importance of increasing public charging access to fleets, must-ask questions, and paths to define high-level strategies for public EV charging.

EV charging for fleets is complex

Fleets looking to electrify must look at a variety of factors when planning out how the charging will be handled. There is no one-size-fits-all approach and it is important to note that public charging can never be completely avoided even for fleets that are adopting a back-to-base strategy as they will always need a backup solution. The complexity of EV charging for fleets can be summarized by the following variables that are fundamental to a commercial fleet EV charging needs assessment:

  1. Were is my fleet going to charge?
    There is probably more than one answer but typically, fleets will use a mix of charging options such as the driver’s home, the workplace, a dedicated EV charging depot, and public charging on several different charging networks.
  2. At what speed do I need to charge my EVs?
    There is no simple answer but commercial fleets need to define how quickly their fleet will need to charge. This may vary based on use cases. These choices will have a direct impact on cost and will dictate choices on level 1, level 2, and level 3 (DCFC fast charging) charging.
  3. What type of vehicles do I need for my fleet?
    Commercial fleets are diverse and may include a mix of light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty vehicles. The type of vehicle and its usage will be a key element of your EV charging needs assessment.
  4. What geography does your fleet cover?
    Is your fleet mostly traveling locally, regionally, or between Canada and the USA? The larger the area you need to cover, the more inevitable public charging becomes.


Why it matters to increase public charging access to fleets


As explained previously, public charging may be at the center of a fleet charging strategy or a backup solution. Whatever its place in the commercial fleet strategy, public charging will remain critical for the success of fleet electrification.

With more than 100 different charging networks and more than 200,000 charging stations in Canada and the USA, the good news is that the infrastructure is growing exponentially. The flip side is that the public charging infrastructure is also becoming more fragmented, which creates a multiplication of payment systems and compatibility issues.

This should not scare commercial fleets as EV roaming, which enables electric vehicle drivers to charge their vehicles easily and conveniently, regardless of the network, is also growing fast. EV roaming is supported by major industry players who are working together to improve the payment and charging experience to accelerate EV adoption for commercial fleets.

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Defining a public EV charging strategy

As commercial fleets dig deeper into their EV charging strategy, they will discover that there are different approaches to developing the right strategy. For small fleets with limited charging needs, using one or a few charging networks and managing the activation and payment directly from the charging network application should be a no-brainer. 

However, larger fleets have a wide range of variables to consider in building their use cases as shown above. Here are examples of questions that should be asked in assessing your EV public charging needs:

  1. What geography does my fleet cover?
  2. Are local/national networks sufficient for our needs?
  3. If I aim mostly for back-to-base charging, how will I manage the public charging portion?
  4. How quickly do I want to electrify my fleet?
  5. What level of control do I require in the public charging experience of my fleet?
  6. What kind of user experience do I want for my drivers/clients?
  7. What is our pricing strategy vs. “public rates”?
  8. What sorts of fraud detection mechanisms should we implement?
  9. How do I want to authenticate users?


As your thinking matures, you might realize that it is necessary for your business to build direct connections to charging point operators (CPOs) to enable better integration to your existing systems. Unforeseen pain points may arise as commercial fleets discover what it entails to take a do-it-yourself approach:

  1. Commercial
    Identifying the relevant charging networks and aligning on pricing might prove challenging on multiple commercial agreements. Many networks also don’t have the required bandwidth to integrate with every fleet interested in roaming on their stations.
  2. Legal
    The multiplication of legal agreements can be taxing as they multiply.
  3. Technical
    Technical teams are required to have expertise in specific communication protocols (OCPI) and time to carry on integration with their internal systems. As with commercial needs, this requires availability on the network’s part, which might prove more challenging than expected.
  4. Accounting
    Managing payment reconciliation is no easy task and CPOs may have different payment modalities.
  5. Support
    Each new CPO onboarded requires an understanding of the activation process to provide customer support. 

EV public charging paths

As you have discovered in this article, developing a public EV Charging strategy will be key to most commercial fleets. It also comes with challenges that can be overcome with the right planning and strategy.

Depending on different fleet needs, there are two main paths to developing the right public charging solution and thankfully this kind of expertise exists in the market:

  1. Use “off the shelf” solutions
    It is simple to use applications that will give your fleet the best coverage. Roaming agreements are growing and might be sufficient for your fleet's public charging needs. There are also dedicated fleet vendors that have developed solutions to simplify public charging for commercial fleets.
  2. Build your own solution
    Depending on your specific public charging needs and the size of your fleet, it might make sense to build your own solution. Connecting your fleet application/systems to the EV charging networks that best suit your needs or joining an EV roaming hub are valuable paths. At the end of the day, if you take that direction, choosing between direct connections with CPOs or joining an EV Roaming hub will depend on how much internal resources you want to deploy on this kind of project, how fast you want to go, and how much control you want to keep.

Prepare your EV public charging strategy!