Commercial fleets on the verge of supporting the electric vehicle market


AAs the consumer vehicle market gradually shifts to electrified models, auto experts say the commercial fleet segment has the potential to transform the industry faster.

Businesses and municipalities are increasingly considering electrification as they begin to rethink fuels for their fleets. Whether fleet operators are motivated by financial results, anticipated issuance mandates, or public opinion, industry analysts suggest mass adoption by commercial fleets is on the horizon.

“When you look at commercial fleets and public fleets, there’s no question that electrification – or some form of electrification, not necessarily a fully electric vehicle – is definitely where everyone is looking for a variety of reasons.” said Glenn Stevens, executive director of the national auto industry association MICHauto.

According to the Federal Bureau of Transport Statistics, plug-in hybrid vehicles and all-electric vehicles made up only 2.1% of the light vehicle market in 2019. However, experts say the adoption of commercial fleets could accelerate the market for light vehicles. slowly changing consumption.

“Adopting (all electric) or some form of electric vehicles on fleets can help you increase the scale, and a lot of people think that can really have a big influence on future trends,” Stevens said. . “We know that consumer electrification is all the rage with OEMs right now, but fleet management and conversion is a logical place to start. “

A push to electrify

According to Stevens, the widespread adoption of electric or hybrid commercial fleet vehicles can be much less burdensome compared to mainstream vehicles.

For example, many fleet vehicles take fixed or predictable routes and return to a specific depot or location to recharge. This means that a fleet manager does not have to rely on the availability of consumer charging stations.

Fleet vehicles are also used frequently, allowing a business or municipality to recoup initial costs relatively quickly through fuel savings, and electric vehicles are less expensive to maintain compared to internal combustion models. This makes shuttles, delivery vans, box trucks and similar light vehicles good candidates for electrification, experts say.

In addition to the fuel-saving benefits of on-board technology, hybrid and electric vehicles are equipped with advanced telematics, which can provide valuable information to fleet managers.

Based on Novi The Shyft Group Inc., a manufacturer formerly known as Spartan Motors which maintains a strong presence in Charlotte, saw an opportunity in the field of electric vehicles, particularly for light Class 3 vehicles such as minibuses, motorhomes, vans and city delivery vehicles.

The specialty vehicle maker announced earlier this month that it will bring to market a fully electric Class 3 chassis platform designed to serve a wide range of markets from medium-duty trucks, from delivery fleets to last mile packages to work trucks, passenger buses and recreational vehicles.

Shyft Group President and CEO Daryl Adams said MiBiz that two of the company’s biggest customers pressured it to fill a void of quality products in the Class 3 space. The Shyft Group management team saw an opportunity.

The Shyft Group is currently looking for a location to produce the chassis and is ready for full-scale production at the end of 2023, Adams said.

As a company that has built more than 2,500 alternative drive vehicles in its history, Shyft executives foresee an era where Class 3 electrified vehicles will be critical to operations, Adams said.

“We’re seeing it in Europe, where a lot of cities are saying you have to be green to deliver within city limits,” Adams said. “It would be perfect to do part of the delivery in a city that imposes something like that. “

The Shyft Group is a leader in the North American market for bespoke delivery vehicle solutions, a $ 3.2 billion industry dominated by parcel delivery. This segment of The Shyft Group generated $ 491 million in sales for the company in 2020.

A third-party study commissioned by The Shyft Group showed that the country’s van and van fleet totaled some 150,000 vehicles in 2015 and is expected to grow to 450,000 by 2025, fueled in part by a booming e-commerce industry that accelerated. two or three years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“From a delivery point of view, or anyone who leaves one place and comes back to the exact same place on a daily basis, I think EVs will be for them as the adoption rate continues to increase over the years,” Adams said.

Boston based XL Fleet Corp. is another company looking to capitalize on the growing demand for electrified fleet vehicles. XL Fleet recently opened a 24,655 square foot facility at Wixom – its fourth facility nationwide – for product research and development programs. The site has technological capabilities for prototyping, control development, and electrical and systems engineering.

XL Fleet has developed kits to equip existing vehicles with plug-in hybrid technology. This allows fleet managers to reap similar benefits without going all-electric.

“The industry wants to evolve into a fully electric landscape, but there are still a number of significant challenges today and they existed 10 years ago when we founded the company,” said Eric Foellmer, Director of Marketing for XL Fleet.

Foellmer pointed to the lack of widespread infrastructure, the scarcity of electric vehicles, and the fact that fully electric vehicles might never be ideal for certain fleet applications.

However, when clean energy mandates come from states, municipalities or a company itself, many customers look to XL Fleet’s hybrid solution as a necessity more than a budget luxury, said Foellmer. .

“We now hear our clients saying to us much more frequently: ‘I have a lasting mandate. What do you have that can help me answer this right now? ‘ With respect to questions about system costs and return on investment, he said. “It’s a much different conversation now than it used to be. ”

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