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Driving Change

What corporate fleet managers want out of EVs

Survey by Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance reveals the features buyers want most over the next five years.

EV fleet models

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What electric trucks, vans, sedans and sports utility vehicles do corporate buyers plan to add to their fleets over the next five years?

The Corporate Electric Vehicle Alliance (CEVA) — a group coordinated by Ceres representing collective purchase plans for at least 330,000 EVs over the next five years — last week published a survey offering guidance for the automotive majors and startups manufacturing them. The research covered preferences related to a wide range of vehicle types, including sedans, SUVs, pickup trucks, cargo/panel vans, step vans, box trucks, utility/service trucks and tractor trailers.

CEVA was created in 2019, and its current members (about two dozen companies) own, lease or operate nearly 1.3 million "on-road" vehicles in the United States. Who are we talking about? Some of the more high-profile names include Amazon, Best Buy, DHL, Hertz, Schindler Elevator, T-Mobile and United Natural Foods.

None of the high-level takeaways from an analysis of the survey should be particularly surprising to anyone who believes in the electrification of transportation, but the other message that comes through should give manufacturers pause: 96 percent of the respondents are willing to switch suppliers if they can’t find the features they want.

"This survey leaves no doubt that if manufacturers want to remain relevant over the next decade, they must prioritize developing specific electric vehicles to meet key commercial use cases, while also working to fulfill niche needs as the industry grows," wrote Sara Forni, director of clean vehicles at Ceres, in the press release for the survey results. "Alliance members recognize that the future is electric. By speaking with a common voice, they demonstrate the power of collective action to steer and speed the transition to electrified transportation."

Here are some takeaways that leapt out: 

  • There’s a strong preference for battery-electric vehicles, rather than plug-in hybrids or vehicles that use hydrogen fuel cells. The glaring exception was related to the utility/service trucks category, where respondents were more inclined to invest in plug-in hybrid powertrains.
  • Corporate fleet buyers want more focus on solutions for public on-road charging, especially for regional and long-haul trucking applications. This is despite the fact that most respondents expect the majority of charging to take place in private locations, including depots and employee homes.
  • How might that 330,000 potential EV purchase number be split up? Most of those purchase orders (roughly 269,000) over the next five years would be for light-duty models including sedans, SUVs and pickups, based on the survey responses. The weighted minimum battery range for the various use cases being considered by the respondents is 275 miles. Two other things that jump out: Most sedan orders are planned by one "primary" respondent, as is also the case for SUVs. A wider range of the buyers plan to buy pickups (24,000 collectively for that vehicle category) over the short term.
  • The most-desired vehicle among respondents in the medium- and heavy-duty vehicle category was the cargo van. Collectively, members anticipate needing at least 42,000 of this vehicle format, with models boasting ranges of 200 to 300 miles per charge. 
  • When it comes to tractor trailers, the respondents hope to buy more than 6,000 of the biggest of the big on-road EVs between now and 2026. "Within the range responses, very few use cases would be met by a 300-400 mile range vehicle," the analysis notes.

Where will the road lead? According to the report’s authors: "Manufacturers can ensure that they retain a place in the future auto and truck industry by both increasing model release timing transparency and prioritizing the design and production of zero-emission vehicles that meet commercial fleets’ most commonly selected configurations and minimum required specifications, including electric range, payload and towing capacity."

We anticipate plenty of EV models to be announced during 2022 across all of the categories considered by this report. For an update on what some high-profile automotive manufacturers have in store — notably those focused on a range of truck models — check out our latest annual list of upcoming EV vans and trucks. (There are links to past lists, as well, to help with fleet buyer research.)

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