Sometimes, a charging solution is kind of an afterthought in the process of converting a commercial fleet to electric vehicles.
“The right strategy can mean the difference between saving up to half on fuel costs, or costing even more,” said Darren Palmer, general manager Ford battery electric vehicles.
Solutions will vary based on locations and applications. Via Ford Pro Charging, Ford offers a complete package from surveying drivers and getting chargers installed in their homes or designing temporary charging sites or complicated depot locations for hundreds of E-Transits, Ford F-150 Lightning Pros and other Ford and non-Ford vehicles. Through the app, the company can even extend financing options as part of its one-stop shop experience.
“These are tailor-made solutions based on industry standards to make sure that our commercial customers are covered and are able to accelerate their productivity with electrification,” said Joel Torr manager Ford Pro Charging.
Ford Pro Charging was built to provide end-to-end solutions for commercial business fleets, whether they charge at home, in public or at a depot. “It is designed from the ground up to make the fleet manager's life easy,” said Muffi Ghadiali, general manager of Ford Pro Charging. As with the vehicle telematics provided by Ford Pro Intelligence, data from the chargers are treated in much the same way. All the chargers are cloud-connected through cellular systems like the phones in your pockets.
“Our dashboard is designed precisely for this, to simplify the process, minimize the guesswork and maximize efficiency,” Ghadiali said. “Behind the scenes, Ford Pro Charging is making sure that every vehicle is charged and ready, while keeping the energy costs as low as possible. This algorithm operates in real time, observing the entire fleet and calculating the needs for individual vehicles.”
Ford Pro maintains a team of consultants ready to engage with commercial businesses from the start of their electrification journey.
“What's nice about this setup is it's for Ford and non-Ford vehicles,” Torr said. “Whether it's a big grocer, a school district or a smaller fleet operation, we're able to cover their charging solutions, starting with consultation, designing what they need, all the way up through DC fast-charging, if they want those quick turn charges in the middle of the day.”
More than just power
Additional information provided to fleet managers provides insights into taking advantage of incentives, such as low-carbon credits.
Ghadiali noted that on-the-road intelligence shows managers the impacts of better driving and road conditions.
“A fleet manager can see their operational metrics, how much they're saving on fuel costs and the carbon emissions their business is reducing and even their charging expenses by day, by week, or by month,” he said. “These are all the reasons why electric vehicles and charging cannot be separated and every customer needs a clear, customized charging strategy.”
In addition, he noted that Ford Pro is working on collaborating with utilities across the country on scalable solutions to help manage individual installations of commercial-grade charging outlets.
On the road and looking to charge, drivers will be provided directions to the nearest charging station. Currently the Blue Oval charge network has access to over 70,000 public charging outlets and another 7,000 DC outlets. More are coming as more money is being spent on this type of infrastructure. “We want to make those work as one combined network, where it's easy to search, locate and authorize the charging,” Palmer said.
Outside of public or depot outlets, for many smaller businesses, employees may use home charging. Like a depot site, Palmer said, to minimize mileage and maximize uptime, Ford Pro handles the ordering, scheduling and installation.
An important factor in the system is preconditioning, which allows the battery to warm up and the cabin to warm up (or cool down) while it’s still plugged in. The function preserves range for what’s needed on the road. Schedules can be set for optimal time of day and energy rate for preconditioning.
“We're focusing on making sure our customers know when their vehicles are plugged in, we schedule their charging, and they can schedule preconditioning to make sure the vehicles are charged and ready and they get maximum range,” Torr said. Businesses in cold weather states need not be concerned as the chargers are for commercial use and the preconditioning solution is designed to ensure peak range even in the most adverse conditions. “That's the commercial focus that we take, making sure that this isn't a retail charger that works at the shopping mall occasionally or may or may not work,” he said. “This has to be always on, just like our customers are always on.”
Torr noted that everything done by Ford Pro is based on industry standards, so the commercial fleet managers don’t have to worry about which plug works with which vehicle.
“The focus is on productivity for Ford and non-Ford vehicles and the fact that this team was built specifically for commercial customers is really our central message,” he said.
“Building a fully operational service solution for a business is a major undertaking and offers unparalleled benefits if it's done well,” Ghadiali said. “We've done the hard work for our customers and Ford Pro solution brings it together.”