Growing up, people often told me that it is good to be unique, have my own opinions and not always follow the masses. I am grateful for this mindset, as it has pushed me to find my way in life and grow as a professional and individual. But when it comes to the electric vehicle industry, it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a different opinion than "EVs are great!"
While EVs are great, fit many driver and fleet use cases, and customers finally have numerous EV options to choose from, public charging infrastructure is still scaling.
No question, charging an EV is becoming easier each day, as charging providers install new public charging stations and develop innovative solutions. It has always been super easy if you charge at home, the workplace or a fleet depot. However, when it comes to using public EV charging stations, primarily fast-charging stations, locating a public fast-charging station that works as intended can still sometimes feel like finding a needle in a haystack.
A quick Google search illustrates the extent of the problem. In the last month alone, numerous stories across Business Insider, The Drive and California Globe have showcased just how difficult and unreliable the U.S. public fast-charging infrastructure can be — with stations that are broken or that do not work as intended. The situation is not much better in other parts of the world.
We have not thought about public EV charging networks because it is simply too much of a variable to feel confident in meeting customer service level agreements ...
Luckily, the Biden-Harris administration recently released the long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for proposed minimum standards and requirements for EV charging projects funded by the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program. These minimum standards are designed to turbocharge the EV industry and directly address the hurdles identified in the articles linked above, such as requiring a minimum number of charging ports per location and mandating a minimum of 97 percent uptime for all federally funded public charging stations.
With all that in mind, I was curious to learn how corporate fleets use public EV charging stations and whether they are experiencing similar issues as everyday drivers. In speaking with industry executives from Siemens and Iron Mountain, I learned how each company is leveraging the public EV charging stations in their geographic region — or in this case, not using it for the most part, which says a lot right there.
For both companies, like for many EV drivers and fleets, home charging is the best way to charge their EV fleet. That use case is followed by work/depot charging, and then — maybe, just maybe — public EV charging comes into the picture.
Both companies have made a commitment to electrify their fleets through the Climate Group’s EV100 initiative, and I worked with them in my prior role as the EV100 Program Manager. Each company's commitment and progress is tracked in the annual EV100 Progress and Insight Report.
When I spoke with Kevin Hagen, vice president of environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy at Iron Mountain, he said Iron Mountain’s fleet includes a mix of light-duty passenger vehicles, medium-duty cargo vans, last-mile delivery vehicles and traditional fleet vehicles.
Iron Mountain operates a worldwide fleet of over 5,000 vehicles, and as part of its fleet electrification journey, Iron Mountain is committed to electrifying 1,110 of its vehicles up to 7.5 tons in curb vehicle weight by 2030. That translates to 100 percent of their company passenger cars and 50 percent of their vans. Iron Mountain operates fleet vehicles around the world including in the U.S. and in the U.K., where it recently deployed 12 new electric vans bringing the company’s total EVs on the road to roughly 50 vehicles globally.
For passenger vehicles, the sentiment across Iron Mountain is that people want to charge at home, whether that is at an apartment building or standalone residence. Iron Mountain is providing home chargers, through a partnership with Enel X, to all employees with a company car to support this broad interest.
In speaking with Katie Keeton, fleet manager at Siemens, she shared a similar opinion that 80 percent of Siemens’ passenger vehicle charging takes place at home. Siemens is installing its own home chargers to support this. The other 20 percent of charging happens using the public EV charging network. This 80/20 split in charging for Siemens follows a long-standing notion across the industry that 80 percent of charging happens at home.
Siemens has a global commitment to electrify more than 43,000 of its vehicles up to 7.5 tons in curb vehicle weight by 2030. About 3,000 EVs, many of which are passenger vehicles, were already deployed across the globe as of Marc, according to the recent EV100 Annual Progress and Insight Report.
Thoughts on public charging networks
Even for larger vehicles, such as cargo vans and last-mile delivery vehicles, Iron Mountain doesn’t rely on the public EV charging network. "The team has designed driver routes with no need to charge outside of the workplace/depot setting," Hagen said, noting that vehicles come back to a depot to charge.
"We have not thought about public EV charging networks because it is simply too much of a variable to feel confident in meeting customer service level agreements (SLAs)... For us, it is all about the customer SLA," Hagen said. A variable could mean the station is being used when an Iron Mountain driver urgently needs it or the charging station is not working as intended, causing a delay.
In the case of Siemens, most of the fleet that Keeton is electrifying is made up of passenger vehicles, whether the vehicles are for sales representatives or executives. The first set of service fleet vehicles (Ford F-150 Lightnings) are coming in the next couple of weeks, and Siemens is branching out into other EV brands.
Keeton said that for the 20 percent of charging activities that happen on public networks, drivers have experienced few charging issues relating to malfunctioning charging stations. Many of those vehicles are Tesla models, which can use the notoriously more reliable Supercharger network. Still, even the non-Tesla vehicles have not experienced many issues, Keeton said, although she noted there isn’t much activity using public EV charging stations, as drivers charge mostly at home.
Full circle, drivers love EVs
When I asked both Hagen and Keeton to share something they did not anticipate happening in their company’s transition towards EVs, both said they were surprised by just how much drivers want EVs.
"It is a food fight for who gets to drive an EV at Iron Mountain," Hagen said, adding that EVs are a huge perk for employee retention and driver satisfaction.
Keeton said she did not anticipate just how much drivers would appreciate Siemens’ fleet electrification strategy and how they are a part of it. Drivers think it is "so cool how they are at the forefront of this transition," Keeton said. She noted that a major reason for that success is because Siemens has involved its employees and drivers across the whole transition, providing educational resources and ensuring drivers feel comfortable and aware of what vehicle models exist.
At the end of the day, a corporate fleet electrification journey is nothing without the employees who drive the EVs. Among the many decisions a company must make as they set out on this journey, none can be more important than ensuring employees feel involved and a part of the road ahead!