4 key factors to consider when transporting electric vehicles

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  • As electric vehicles become more popular, dealers, fleet managers, OEMs and consumers should follow best practices for their transportation.
  • Charging locations, weather conditions and ever-changing compliance factors come into play.
  • Automotive logistics service providers are already improving business models to anticipate the electric vehicle transportation curve.

By Rich Pinnock, executive vice president of ACERTUS, Fleet Services.

Electric Vehicles (VE) I’m here to stay. Reports from the auto industry have proven record sales of electric vehicles in China, the US and Europe for 2021, while companies like Amazon, UPS and FedEx with large fleets are already starting to convert their gas-powered vehicles to electric.

At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation continue to push for a ambitious clean energy plan which requires 40 percent of all new vehicle sales to be electric vehicles by 2030. Working to put their states in a good position to support electric car needs, five Midwestern governors they even decided to create a multi-state charging network for these vehicles.

But as automotive trends, business decision makers, and government pressure are shifting towards more electrification, many companies wanting to invest further in these vehicles are considering how to successfully transport them while keeping them in the best possible shape given the limited product.

Below are four important factors that automakers, consumers, dealers and other fleets need to consider when developing a plan for moving, storing and caring for electric vehicles.

# 1: plan ahead for storage and refilling

Planning ahead is key to having a successful electric vehicle transportation strategy. Companies need to consider where their electric vehicles can be stored, as well as how and where charging will take place.

Since electric vehicles need a place where they can be safely parked and recharged (ideally outside of extremely hot or cold weather conditions), storage facilities often come into play with electric vehicle transports. Generally, it is a good idea to charge electric vehicles overnight or when they are not in use (for example between transports).

Companies with electric vehicle fleets can efficiently transport their vehicles if they have access to a “hub-and-spoke” storage system, i.e. when vehicles can be moved to a storage site and loaded before they are delivered or reach a final destination. This model is useful for electric vehicle fleets that need to be well charged to maintain their daily operations and is ideal for dealers hoping to supply fully or nearly charged EVs to their customers.

As charging stations may be less available depending on location, particularly in more rural or remote areas, companies should provide drivers with a plan on how best to keep EVs charged during the transportation process. This can include providing drivers with public charging station locations or, better yet, equipping them with quick personal chargers to use “on the go” whenever the battery gets too low. However, some models of electric vehicles require very specific types of chargers. They may not be able to accept charges from public stations, which makes it essential to be aware of any particular EV model needs in advance.

# 2: The role of the driver can change

While the requirements for driving or transporting a vehicle are currently the same when it comes to electric vehicles, some of the tasks associated with daily maintenance are different. It is vital that all drivers or carriers responsible for transporting electric vehicles know the basics when it comes to caring for them.

Of course, one of the biggest differences between an electric vehicle and a fuel-powered vehicle comes down to refilling versus refueling.Although drivers can sometimes get away with waiting for a gasoline-powered vehicle to be nearly empty before filling the tank, this it is not recommended when it comes to charging electric vehicles. Instead, the best practice for electric vehicles is Not to charge them to full capacity – while, at the same time, being careful not to get them too close to zero. Most electric vehicles, ideally, should always stay between 20 and 80% charged, except when the vehicle’s full range is required for driving.

Charging can sometimes prove difficult, depending on where the vehicle is being driven, as there are far fewer charging stations than gas stations across the country. Drivers will have better luck finding charging stations in more populated areas, such as cities, but ultimately, they need to have a general charging plan in place before commencing transport, so as not to run out of power at an inopportune time or find yourself in a desert in charge. Drivers should also be familiar with the specific electric vehicle they are driving to know if they can be charged with any public charger or just a few types.

Keeping your battery in tip-top shape is key. Repeatedly charging the battery to 100% or letting it go to zero will charge the car battery over time. Extreme heat or cold can also degrade the battery and shorten its range, which means drivers need to pay attention to the outside temperature and store EVs in a climate-controlled location whenever possible. Garages are always more ideal than open lots, where there may be more hours of hot sun or extremely cold weather.

# 3: Electric Vehicle Compliance Management

Electric vehicle compliance standards are by no means set in stone. In fact, they are still evolving, and compliance experts are working to keep up with ever-changing federal and state regulations. But despite all of this, it’s critical for businesses to stay current on compliance needs, even without clear regulations.

Basically, all states with highway use taxes (HUTs) or weight / mile taxes for commercial vehicles must apply the same taxes to electric vehicles as well. With taxes like these, mileage needs to be tracked for EVs just like for all other vehicles in those areas.

Tracking gets a little more complicated when it comes to the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA). Since electric vehicles require no fuel and cannot be taxed based on the gallons of fuel consumed, these standards do not apply equally. At present, most states are working on how they should determine IFTA standards for electric vehicles in the future. Although states still require IFTA stickers for heavy electric vehicles, there is still no official filing procedure or official requirements for these vehicles.

Ideally, companies investing in commercial electric vehicles should plan the best way to track the mileage of these vehicles. That way, they can use it for any HUT or Weight / Mileage Tax, and they’ll already have that mileage in case it becomes needed for IFTA. It is also a good practice for companies with electric vehicles to keep track of all charging times by maintaining kW / h records and developing a list of all charging locations used by their electric vehicles.

If companies with electric vehicles take the time to keep clear records of mileage, charging locations, and charging times for their zero-emission vehicles, they will be well positioned when states have more specific compliance standards.

# 4: Choosing an Electric Vehicle Logistics Partner

Vehicle logistics service providers are making electric vehicle logistics and transportation investments now to ensure EVs can be moved successfully in the future. Companies are providing the necessary charging infrastructure – both stationary and fast-charging equipment on the go – so that drivers and carriers can properly move, store and care for their automotive partners’ electric vehicles.

In addition to repairs, refills, or care and maintenance work, logistics service providers can also assist automotive partners and their stakeholders with vehicle titles, registrations, and compliance services. These services can also be performed while the vehicles are in storage, ensuring they are fully ready to drive and compliant before they leave the facility and reach their final destination.

Rich Pinnock has over 20 years of experience in the supply chain and logistics space. Most recently, Pinnock was AmeriFleet’s Vice President and Chief Information Officer. Previously, Pinnock worked at a major fleet management company, where he focused on strategic planning and developing new initiatives. Pinnock previously worked in the financial sector as a financial advisor. Pinnock is a graduate of the University of Baltimore and holds an MBA in International Business and an MS in Electronic Commerce from the University of Maryland.

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