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Four Critical Factors for Electrifying your Commercial Fleet

October 13, 2021

San Diego International Airport Case Study

John Walsh

Electrification of commercial fleets is becoming increasingly necessary as technology advances, and state and local governments start to regulate the use of zero-emission vehicles. Governmental agencies such as airports have emerged as early candidates to adopt these new fleet regulations as most airports own and operate substantial fleets as part of everyday operations. Recently, the San Diego International Airport became the first airport to deploy over 30 shuttles, making it the largest fleet of commercial electric shuttles of any airport in North America to date. 


To be successful in your conversion to an electric fleet, many other factors play critical roles in ensuring that fleet operators and airport executives understand and embrace the electrification process. Through our deployment with the San Diego International Airport, we recommend following these four considerations for undergoing an electric fleet conversion.


1. Outlining Objectives


We know that electric vehicles yield massive improvements in efficiency over their combustion engine counterparts. ACE and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority had to evaluate transforming their sizable passenger and employee shuttle fleet to electric based on weighing feasibility and cost. The supplier provided key information and analysis to ensure the cost of a new fleet yielded the desired results, which were:


Allow for the same useable in-service availability of the fleet without increasing the size of the fleet


Reduce downtime and costs of maintenance 


Improve rider-experience with the quality of the vehicles


Maintain the same high service level standards (on-time performance and headways) as before with the previous LPG and CNG fleet


Ultimately, ACE found the right balance of value and performance by selecting 29 vehicles that would meet the desired passenger service levels with ease. Each unit’s fast charge capabilities enabled ACE to avoid increasing the number of buses needed to meet their operational goals.


Some key questions for operations to consider include: 


What are the requirements of our organization? 


What are the service standards our customers require?


What infrastructure do we need?


What size fleet is best for our desired operational goals?


Where can we change aspects of our operation to accommodate for the change in gas to electric? 


What are our budgetary goals? 


 


2. Understand your requirements and operational data while keeping an open mind


A majority of operators will try to apply operational conditions geared for gas-powered fleets to electric and ultimately, it is not the most efficient approach. At San Diego International Airport, we worked with ACE to map out and design a new operating structure, using the all-electric shuttles and the new charging and range requirements to meet its operational goals. 


To accomplish this, Endera worked with ACE to gather and analyze critical operational data ranging from: headways, passenger loads, driver service hours, driver schedules, driver tendencies and behaviors, road traffic analysis, and management practices and actions. 


 


3. Work to understand and plan local infrastructure


Infrastructure is the critical element that dictates the success of any electric vehicle deployment. Without the right infrastructure and the right plan, deploying a fleet of electric vehicles can prove difficult to manage once the vehicles are delivered.


Therefore, certain questions need answering to plan for the success of your electric fleet implementation effectively and are more critical to your electrification’s viability than the total cost of shuttles and your time planning combined:


Where are you going to store your buses? 


Where are you going to charge them? 


Is there enough power on your grid to charge them? 


What types of infrastructure are necessary to charge electric buses?


Who do I engage to aid in this process?


The main lesson is to engage your clients, understand the constraints present in terms of infrastructure (such as availability to required power in underdeveloped areas, access to enough land in major metropolitan areas, etc.), and determining how a public-private partnership could be created to ensure both the local utility and your fleet needs are met and successful long term.


4. Capitalize on subsidies


There are currently hundreds of millions of dollars available through state and federal grant programs that will make your transition even more affordable. We highly recommend exploring subsidiaries available to you in your area to support your purchase, or customize one around your specific solution. Endera worked tirelessly to gather and educate ACE and the San Diego Airport about the various subsidies available locally and on the state and federal levels.  


At San Diego International Airport, the supplier and ACE worked directly with San Diego Gas and Electric to evaluate the fleet’s needs to ensure the airport’s new charging stations would be considered for the program. As a result, ACE Parking and San Diego International Airport successfully reduced the total cost of its new fleet, amounting to savings of over a few million dollars.


Having a partner that can guide you and your firm’s understanding of the new electric vehicle space, aid in developing and meeting attainable goals for your operation, analyze the current state and determining future state, coordinate and plan infrastructure, and ultimately leverage subsidies and provide financing is pivotal to successfully make the switch to electric. 


John Walsh is Founder and CEO of Endera. He can be reached at john@enderacorp.com


 



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