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June 7, 2024
Thought leadership

State of the Union : Commercial EVs

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Mark Braby, CCO

After attending the Advanced Clean Transport (ACT) Expo a couple weeks ago where over 12,000 clean transport stakeholders gathered and reflecting on a variety of recent conversations I had with customers, partners, and investors I wanted to highlight a few trends and observations. 

1. EV Remains the [Near] Future

While there has been quite a bit of noise in the media and from auto OEMs, and a bit of softness in the medium- and heavy-duty fleet market, it’s still a matter of when for an EV hockey stick, not if.

There are numerous factors that are leading to slower than expected adoption including interconnection delays, funding deployment delays, vehicle and infrastructure supply constraints, funding delays, or regulation litigation. At the same time, vehicle prices remain stubbornly high for a variety of reasons. However, in any technology disruption that is as big as EV (and the infrastructure that goes along with it), these types of growing pains are inevitable. It was never going to be easy.  What gives me confidence in the inevitable transition is that the EV technology is superior to ICE vehicles, the cost of the vehicles will come down as supply chains and manufacturing scale, and the funding and regulatory politics will follow based on customer choice and superior economics  Whether the true “hockey stick” in adoption is 2024, 2025, or 2026 I’m not smart enough to say, but I do believe it’s still driven by TCO and infrastructure buildout that will happen. The tipping point will come and this period of transition will be a footnote.

2. Light Duty Fleets in Transition

Though I mentioned the softness of the medium- and heavy-duty market, light-duty fleets are also in a transitional stage, but for different reasons. 

Some of the growing pains related to corporate fleets include capex constraints, trying to work out whether telematics or chargers are the best way to manage reimbursement, and/or waiting on the CCS/NACS conversion to sort itself out. But just as with medium- and heavy-duty fleets, what we do know is that corporate fleets will go electric as the cost of EVs come down. 

The fact remains that EVs are a superior technology to ICE vehicles, and these growing pains will be in the rearview mirror soon enough. 

3. Interoperability is More Important Than Ever

The recent shakeout in EVSE hardware highlights the need to avoid being dependent on one manufacturer and underscores the importance of interoperability and hardware agnostic software for both telematics and charging. From Tritium to Freewire to others not public yet, hardware exits are happening left and right, which is part of any technology transition. Ensuring your EVSE manufacturer is OCPP compliant, diversifying your vendors, and having a plan if they go away is paramount when choosing a hardware partner.

Additionally, on the telematics side, providers have different motivations and timelines to support data feeds that are integral to charging optimization. Because telematics providers still have the golden goose of ICE vehicles, surfacing information relevant to EVs, whether from the most basic of SoC or more granular like HVAC usage, is not their greatest priority. Therefore it’s imperative to choose a telematics provider wisely, and not necessarily be dependent on any one provider. In this way fleets can maintain leverage to ensure telematics suppliers are advancing their roadmaps at the speed the industry needs.

4. Charging Management Software is Critical 

Because interoperability can make or break the success of EV fleets, selecting charge management software is the most critical decision point in a fleet operator's electrification journey.  Furthermore, not all charging management software is created equally. 

A charging management software that is great at integrations and has the capabilities needed to seamlessly manage an EV fleet should be the first decision point for any entity managing chargers or fleet EVs. It is worth noting that for cost conscious operators, a CMS is the least expensive part of the value chain that also enables a customer to diversify the most expensive parts of the value chain, which also happen to need the most maintenance – vehicles and chargers. 

We are also seeing our fleet customers need an increasingly robust toolset from their CMS. It’s not just managing chargers and vehicles anymore, it’s managing onsite generators and storage, integrating with ticketing or O&M providers, managing reimbursements for take-home vehicles, and managing subscriptions for depot, amongst other use cases. Building out these capabilities is time intensive, and at Synop we started at the depot management level and have worked our way out from there. We’re confident our all-in-one platform, which ties together vehicle management, charging management, energy management, and payment management, is equipped to service the needs of any fleet operator, from the lightest duty augment to the heaviest of heavy duty. 

Technological disruption can often start to feel like cultural overhaul, which is never an easy road, but I’m confident that the bumps are smoothing and we’re heading towards a clean energy future in commercial transportation. 

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