How close are we to a tipping point for large-scale electric vehicle adoption? Following GE’s move last week to buy 25,000 electric vehicles for its own fleet and its fleet customers, on November 16 the non-profit Electrification Coalition released its detailed, 80-page analysis, the Fleet Electrification Roadmap. It spells out the advantages, challenges, and policies necessary to spur electric drive technology in commercial and government vehicles.

The report underscores that the nation’s fleet vehicles stand out as “possessing unique characteristics” that could make them clear beneficiaries of EV technology. Those attributes can accelerate early adoption, which in turn will help drive down EV costs.

For example, one of the biggest items in favor of fleets is that they drive predictable routes every day. That means “range anxiety” — the worry that your battery charge will run out on a longer trip — is less of an issue for large commercial customers.

As the coalition report points out, most consumer vehicles travel less than 30 miles per day, but automakers are gearing up to produce EVs with bigger batteries to address range anxiety. “Providing 100 miles of range could add as much as $14,400 to the cost of a vehicle for the battery alone — 33 percent of the total vehicle cost,” they note. On the other hand, fleet customers can cut EV costs by not having, or needing, extended range batteries.

 

Now and then: “In essence, today’s EVs and PHEVs are being designed to provide for consumers’ longest expected trips, even if those trips rarely occur.” Click the chart to see a larger view on the report itself.

Other factors also make EVs great cost-cutters for fleets. Because fleets use their vehicles so frequently (more than a regular consumer), they can recoup their upfront costs earlier. When it comes to charging, they usually have their own depots, which brings down the cost of initial investment in charging infrastructure. And EVs are also expected to bring down maintenance costs vs. traditional gasoline engines.

 

Big Dent: The report points out that the fleet opportunities in the U.S. are immense, with more than 16 million public and private fleet vehicles on the road. While fleet sizes vary, the top 50 fleet operators together manage more than half a million cars and trucks. That concentrated buying power offers “a significant opportunity to assist the early development of the electric drive vehicle industry,” the report notes. Click to enlarge.

Fleet adoption also creates an unknown “X” factor when it comes to EV technology. As David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, said at the coalition’s panel discussion in Washington, D.C. this morning, widespread adoption of EVs will spur unintended technological advances — and radically change daily habits. EVs aren’t just cars, he said, “they are a disruptive technology.” He compared them to smart phones, which started out as simply better communication devices but soon became interwoven into the fabric of our daily lives — in ways we never expected at the outset.

* Learn more about the Electrification Coalition
* Read about GE Capital’s Fleet Services work with the Coalition
* Read “How GE Connects the Dots to Bring EVs to Market” on GE Reports
* Read more electric vehicle stories on GE Reports
* Read “Chevy Volt: Fact vs. Fiction” on Detroit Free Press
* Read the Coalition’s statement in support of GE’s fleet purchase announcement