Why Fleet Managers Should Consider Microgrids in Their EV Strategy

EV fleets are gaining ground and hold multiple upsides for fleet managers. Microgrids can take savings and operational efficiency even higher.

Managing fleets often means having to think bigger – even though it might sound contrary when talking about microgrids.

For example, integrating electric vehicles (EVs) has multiple positives for fleet managers. Your operational costs and vehicle efficiency levels can grow exponentially.

On the other hand, EV fleets require large amounts of energy – and a reliable source.

On-site microgrids can be a resilient, cost-effective alternative to relying solely on the main energy grid for power.

The challenges of EV fleets

In most – if not all – countries, it does not matter if you operate a few vehicles or large-scale fleets: EVs are the way of the future. Not only do they have upsides for our planet, but they can also cut costs for EV fleet managers. Then, there is the fact that most countries are phasing out fossil fuel-driven vehicles.

However, facility and fleet managers need to be aware of the challenges that often come with switching to EVs. For example, your increased electricity needs can challenge existing setups. In other words, you might need to invest in bigger electricity cables and grid infrastructure. Electricity costs can also be changeable, making your operational costs less predictable.

In a perfect world, EV fleet charging requires large amounts of reliable energy during specific charging windows. And this is something a utility can struggle to make readily available for fleet facilities – especially as reliance on less predictable renewable energy sources increases.

How much energy do you need for EV fleets?

Fleet managers considering the switch to EVs need to consider increased electric needs and related electrical infrastructure. These changes can be significant. One calculation puts the need for 100 EV light-duty trucks at about 1.5 to 3 MW of additional power. While calculating equivalents is tricky, this represents quite a few households worth of power.

The figures above are back-of-the-napkin calculations. However, they illustrate that EV fleets require a lot of charging capacity. The exact capacity will depend on multiple factors, including fleet charging schedules, average miles driven, battery status, electric infrastructure, and more.

Another factor to consider is that power loads needed for EV fleet charging might not be readily available. They may also require significant build-out of high-voltage transmission lines, interconnections, substation upgrades, and more. These costs will likely influence energy and operating costs for fleet operators.

Thinking microgrids into the equation

To lower costs, fleet managers have a range of available strategies, depending on their location. For example, some facilities can use off-peak charging to reduce energy costs. However, this assumes that power prices follow your charging needs – and that you have the necessary software to make the plan work.

Microgrids represent a different opportunity for reliable, cost-effective power. Calling something a microgrid makes it sound like a very advanced system. In reality, it’s mainly a way to generate, store and use power on your property.

The most common microgrid solutions incorporate a renewable energy source – such as solar, wind or renewable natural gas (RNG) – paired with battery energy storage. Going further, EV fleet operators can use more advanced microgrid and EV fleet software to optimise energy distribution and ensure fleet efficiency.

The upsides of microgrids for fleet managers

A microgrid can lead to multiple advantages for EV fleet managers. For example, it enables more control over the energy supply chain.

Other advantages include:

  •       Resilience: helps prevent operational disruptions and increase reliability, including during grid outages.
  •       Lower costs: minimise reliance on outside power, especially during peak times, and increase price predictability.
  •       Lower carbon emissions: EV fleets can lower their CO₂ footprint even further by using locally produced renewable energy.
  •       Scalability: make it easier to increase the number of EVs in operation without building out expensive grid and charging infrastructure.

Microgrid considerations should be part of every stage of your EV strategy to maximise your advantages.

How do I know if my EV fleet needs a microgrid?

Microgrids are perhaps not as complicated as you may initially have thought. But does it make sense to invest in one? Luckily, fleet managers don’t need to break out the abacus to find the answer.

Advanced software solutions that help plan, deploy, and operate electric vehicle fleets can also help calculate your charging and infrastructure needs. These tools also offer data-driven insights for efficient management, including optimal charging schedules and route planning, ensuring the fleet runs smoothly and cost-effectively.

With these calculations in hand, you have a platform for evaluating the feasibility and benefits of an on-site microgrid.

Prepare for the future grid of grids

I want to add one further note on microgrids and EV fleets. It revolves around the “grid of grids” – transforming energy production and distribution.

In essence, the grid of grids means that we are moving away from big, semi-siloed energy networks (for example, on a regional or country level) toward collections of smaller energy networks. Each small network produces and uses energy but can also share energy as required between itself and all other networks.

The result is a flexible and resilient energy setup – a grid of grids.

In this coming reality, EVs – and especially fleets of EVs – play an active role. They are decentralised power units capable of contributing to and benefiting from the broader energy system.

In this future, microgrids complement the EVs’ abilities and also play their own role in the grid of grids.