Transitioning to an Electric Fleet: A Strategic Approach

Advanced fleet planning and charge management strategies with the BetterFleet platform accelerate delivery of zero emissions outcomes

A Fleet Charged with a Challenge: Going Electric

Contributing to an overall target of net-zero emissions by 2045, the state of Victoria in Australia has committed to purchasing only Zero Emission Buses (ZEB) from 2025 onwards. To kick-start this transition, understand the challenges and foster industry collaboration, the Victorian Government launched a ZEB Trial with $20 million in funding for 50 buses throughout the state. 

As part of this initiative, nine electric buses and the associated charging infrastructure were funded for the bus depot in West Footscray, serving the inner western suburbs of Melbourne. With the funding approved and Australian-made electric buses from Volgren going into production, focus turned to the next big challenge: planning the infrastructure installation and charging schedules in a way that facilitated efficient operations while avoiding a grid upgrade and maximising government funding. 

To uncover the right charge management strategy for the depot, the Evenergi team worked in collaboration with Transit Systems, operator of the vehicles providing service at the West Footscray depot, in addition to thousands of buses throughout Australia. 

A Data-Driven Plan

To get an accurate understanding of how much time each vehicle would need to charge upon returning to the depot, different route schedules had to be accounted for. Route data was imported into Evenergi’s fleet planning and management software, the BetterFleet platform, and analysed to provide detailed insight into the amount of energy each 348kWh vehicle would consume and need to replenish before hitting the road again.

The existing grid infrastructure at the West Footscray depot is able to support a limited number of kilowatts (kW) of overall power demand, and existing equipment at the site was already utilizing up to 75% or more of the available capacity throughout the day. This left an even more limited amount of capacity that could be dedicated to charging buses (minus additional safety margins), only available at certain times when not needed for offices, workshop, bus wash and other onsite facilities.

Energy consumption load profile
Example from BetterFleet scenario modeling results 

With robust energy modeling capabilities, the BetterFleet platform enabled the team to quickly look at different charging schedules, compare the grid impacts of using different charge rates and times, and hone in on a smart charging plan that met operational needs while keeping overall energy consumption under required thresholds. 

If a simplistic approach had been taken without a smart charging strategy, power consumption could have easily exceeded the kW threshold and triggered a grid upgrade. An upgrade to the grid equipment providing power to a depot can come with significant cost and lengthy timelines that may entail installation of hardware such as transformers and switchgear, in addition to adding new transmission lines that require trenching along streets and footpaths. 

Instead, a plan was formulated with the BetterFleet platform that used existing grid infrastructure by keeping overall power demand under the limits while ensuring each bus would be charged sufficiently to meet its routes for the day. With an informed plan in hand, the Victorian Government was able to push implementation forward with confidence before breaking any ground. This helped to streamline the deployment of electric buses at the West Footscray depot in addition to lowering upfront cost, getting the state of Victoria one step closer to their goal of zero-emissions by 2045.

“Zero emissions buses are a key part of our plan to decarbonise transport and meet Victoria’s world-leading emissions reduction targets of 75-80 percent by 2035 and net zero by 2045.” – Minister for Climate Action Lily D’Ambrosio

Putting the Plan into Action

Establishing a strategic charging plan provided the necessary inputs for BetterFleet Manage, the charge management system now used on a daily basis to manage the depot’s 160kW Kempower charging system with 3 dual-port dispensers, providing 6 charging plugs distributing power to the new electric buses. Data since the vehicles’ deployment in May 2023 has shown an average charge time of 1 hour 50 minutes per bus and maximum power demand has remained underneath the threshold. 

Taking into account power availability at different times, route schedules and overall grid infrastructure limitations, the BetterFleet charge management system dynamically adjusts charging in response to site loads throughout the day and maximizes use of available capacity. 

Transit Systems CEO Michael McGee said the transport industry is undergoing a remarkable transformation, with technology further accelerating the decarbonisation of cities.

“Getting more passengers on public transport remains our priority as it is the most effective way to reduce a city’s emissions. By creating a public transport network that people want to use, it makes investing in the right technology even more valuable. We’re proud to work with industry leaders to provide solutions to our Government partners and customers to provide a seamless and more sustainable service to the community,” he said.  

With a cloud-based, self-service portal, West Footscray depot managers can see the real-time status of their chargers and vehicles, control chargers remotely, and adjust charging schedules as needed. By using an advanced charge management platform, fleet supervisors can also receive alerts with diagnostics information to quickly resolve issues, and access reports on vehicle and charger performance, including odometer readings, emissions reduced, and energy consumed.  

With the BetterFleet planning and charge management platform, Transit Systems can take advantage of operational data to continuously improve the planning and operations of their electric bus fleet, helping the state of Victoria stay on track to meet their zero-emission vehicle goals. 

“This is another significant milestone for Evenergi and the public transport community, as one of the first bus depots in Australia actively using smart charge management software for a fleet of electric buses,” said Dan Hilson, Evenergi CEO. “We look forward to continued collaboration with Transit Systems and the Victorian Government at the forefront of the transition to zero-emission fleets.”

How to prepare your heavy fleet for a zero emission transition

Environmental objectives permeate through every industry and logistics is no exception. Currently, macroeconomic factors such as high fuel prices, economic uncertainty and supply chain disruptions are adding to the already complex job of fleet managers. Suppliers of the industry, such as truck manufacturers, are struggling to provide products and services, and the real competition isn’t for the best value for money anymore but who can get you the much-needed product sooner, driving transaction prices up.

Comparatively, customers have increased demand for cheaper, faster and more predictable deliveries to minimise overall costs. These issues are driving internal reviews of operational and financial metrics of fleets as they seek productivity improvements through optimisation. 

At the same time there are technological advancements on several fronts in zero-emissions vehicles appropriate for the industry. Lighter, cheaper and more efficient batteries, faster chargers and fuel cell technology are rapidly reaching commercialisation maturity. Major OEMs have announced the launch of 500+ kWh vehicles that could potentially replace 100+ litres of diesel journeys, and wide availability is expected from 2024 onwards. 

Hydrogen, deemed by some as the future fuel, will play an essential role in decarbonising many industries, long haul included. R&D for most truck manufacturers is still in early phases,  however, and widespread availability isn’t expected until later in the decade, particularly given the challenges with Green Hydrogen production and distribution.

With many pressing short-term challenges, how can heavy fleets prepare for the transition to EVs without consuming scarce bandwidth inside businesses? As the journey to overcome the new-normal challenges and optimise operations, from route planning to asset replacement management, an opportunity presents to baseline and optimise the transition of each asset in your fleet with the following steps:

  1. Create a fleet transition framework
    • Understand the needs of your existing assets as they relate to current alternative fuel technologies. This requires data collection and tracking.
    • Understand your depot infrastructure and garaging requirements. This again requires good data.
    • Use tools such as BetterFleet to establish a suitable platform for analysis for your whole fleet transition – map how and when assets can be transitioned in your replacement cycles and how to ensure there is the appropriate infrastructure to support them.
  1. Engage with OEMs
  2. Do internal stakeholder engagement to create alignment
  3. Look for grants and subsidies to secure early pilots

Knowing where assets sit in the transition pathway to zero emission transport solutions can set operators up for economically optimal and sustainable transition of each asset group ahead of competitors without compromising financial results and the quality of service provided to customers.

Do you want to know more about the right questions to ask your enterprise in preparation for the common goal of a clean transportation future with net zero emissions? Reach you to our team. At Evenergi, we’ve been helping fleets and governments to collect the right information, interpret data and model economic and leadership transition pathways to a carbon-neutral future of people and goods movements using our advisory services and BetterFleet platform.

Zero Emissions Bus Planning – How do we get it right?

10 Top Tips for a Successful Transition

Since the US Government’s commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, transit agencies across North America are focusing on the adoption of zero emissions technology for their fleets.

While this is a must-have for the transportation industry, planning a zero emissions bus network can bring new challenges. A zero emissions fleet requires a shift in procurement, planning, operations and maintenance..

How do we overcome these barriers so that we can reduce the risk and increase financial and environmental benefits?

At Evenergi, 100% of our focus is on the zero emissions transport market. Using our experience with hundreds of clients globally, we’ve identified the following steps for a successful transition.

  1. Approach with a clear mind, without prejudice: The more transitions we’ve done, the more we see that individual context drives different outcomes. Try to stay away from perceived accepted approaches. This is still a new area and individual context in terms of barriers and opportunities matter
  2. Approach your transition systematically: Charging, scheduling, battery-sizing and impact on labor require a systems approach. Each can impact on the other –  charging can impact battery life for example. 
  3. Iterate towards solutions: There are many interdependencies, so be iterative in your approach. 
  4. Data is power: The quality of the transition will relate to the quality of data analytics.
  5. Stakeholder buy-in: Organizational alignment is key in this transition. Work with suppliers who can create a shared understanding, using robust and bankable data. Route level models provide confidence to decision makers and depot emulation provides confidence to operations teams.
  6. Establish protocols and standards before procurement: Focus on being vendor agnostic but understand and demand standards compliance.
  7. Re-evaluate procurement strategies: There are multiple ways to approach procurement, i.e. purchasing assets, financial leasing and operating leases. Find a strategy that works for you.
  8. Measure what you manage: Measurement is critical for continual improvement,  but also for funding mechanisms such as Low Carbon Fuel Standards credits. 
  9. Move from plans to frameworks: Adopt a framework model that allows you to keep the transition updated and current each year. Capture learnings and integrate them into the plan.
  10. Seize grant and funding opportunities: Familiarize yourself with grant opportunities to fuel your transition – there are plenty out there!

There’s a right and wrong way to approach these transitions. The wrong way will leave you with reports that are quickly out of date, oversized infrastructure and high-risk decisions that cost time and money. The right approach will ensure you have a framework that provides you with the agility and intelligence required to make good decisions, and operational insights to allow you to refine the strategy as you move forward. 

Evenergi’s BetterFleet has been designed to provide a best-practice framework for transitioning and managing zero emission fleets. It delivers a cost effective, fast and simple approach that sets you off on the right path, providing powerful decision making tools for your team and consulting partners.