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  • Writer's pictureArizona Contractor & Community

Considerations About Converting Fleets to Electric

By The Utility Expo

The greening of U.S. utilities is already underway, as the nation has committed to reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 50-52 percent from 2005 levels. Electric utility production accounts for 25 percent of those emissions, and utilities must turn to cleaner energy sources. Electrifying their fleets is just another step toward reducing the carbon footprint of their operations.

Southern California Edison was recently named to the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) 2023 Utility Transformation Leaderboard for their progress in transforming to a carbon-free electricity sector. SCE has already taken significant steps to electrify much of its fleet, which includes approximately 5,000 vehicles, 1,000 trailers, and 700 off-road assets.

Todd Carlson, SCE Principal Manager of Fleet Asset Management, outlined their ambitious goals. “SCE seeks to lean into electrification opportunities and must be aggressive to meet proposed California air quality and greenhouse gas reduction goals associated with the proposed California Advanced Clean Fleet rule,” he says. “SCE plans to have 90 percent of our light-duty vehicles electrified by the end of 2025 and 100 percent by 2030. That same year, we expect to exceed 30 percent of our medium-duty and 10 percent of our heavy-duty.”

SCE’s electrification journey offers leaders insights to consider for transforming a fleet.


According to Carlson, SCE partnered with the other members of the Edison Electric Institute when developing initial public 2030 EV targets in 2020. It was helpful to have an industry group assist in leading the initiative,” Carlson says. "Also, as a California fleet, we actively comment on proposals from our regulators attempting to address local air quality concerns." Other resources on fleet electrification are available from the American Association of Public Power and SEPA.


SCE used a telematics fleet assessment to outline vehicles targeted to be replaced by EVs, where they park, and how long they must charge. This was used to calculate the charger size required at each facility by year. “We collaborated with our facilities team on a construction plan to install the infrastructure and chargers needed for the next 5 to 15 years at each site,” Carlson says. “Each site has its own project plan.”


Infrastructure lead times and budgets are vital considerations. "Construction is costly, and you may need to cut concrete or asphalt across a parking lot or add a new panel or switchgear,” Carlson says. In addition, SCE had to contend with a few circuit-constrained sites that required the utility to upgrade the circuit. Other conditions that required longer lead times include new to-the-meter service drops when switchgear is needed.


Both federal and state incentives can help offset costs for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. Refer to the U.S. Department of Energy website for a list of incentives, laws and regulations, funding opportunities, and other federal initiatives related to electric vehicles.


Beyond meeting air quality and carbon emission goals, a strong business case can help utilities build consensus and commitment to change. At SCE, the business case for electric pickups and ePTO bucket trucks is supported by the high fuel cost in California. Expect lower maintenance costs to be part of the value proposition for electric vehicles. “Our EVs that replaced gas vehicles have very favorable maintenance outcomes, as have our traditional hybrid vehicles,” says Carlson. SCE expects similar results for newly delivered EV tractors replacing diesel units.


Carlson recommends surveying your drivers to assess if they are excited, neutral, or opposed to replacing their fleet vehicle with an EV. “Ask your drivers if they own an EV or if they have ever driven an EV for context as a starting point for organizational change management,” says Carlson. “The EVs often sell themselves because drivers like the quiet operation and reduced job site emissions.” According to Carlson, providing test or demo units to drivers often results in drivers asking, “When can I get one?”


According to Carlson, product availability is the biggest issue in the electrification of the fleet, and not just medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. “Even the exploding pickup truck space has been hit by availability and production constraints,” he says. Once SCE achieves full-scale adoption of EV work trucks, portable chargers and robust public charging for storm support and emergencies will be required. So there's a lot to consider when electrifying your fleet. Still, because fleets like SCE are sharing how they plan to reach their goals, it's making electrification easier for other utilities and their commercial customers.

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