Perhaps the most well-known benefit of switching to an electric vehicle is the environmental impact due to the elimination of tailpipe emissions compared to an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. But what isn’t as obvious is that they can also be less expensive over the operating lifecycle.
Why? For starters, we tend to focus on fuel prices, yet one thing that often gets overlooked is the reduced maintenance costs electric vehicles can offer. The U.S. Government's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy estimates that scheduled maintenance costs for light-duty battery electric vehicles are about 6 cents per mile, compared to 10 cents per mile for a conventional vehicle. Someone buying a passenger car for private use is less likely to worry about maintenance, but for large fleet managers these cost savings can be meaningful over time.
Another costly issue for fleets is unscheduled repairs caused by breakdowns. According to the Deepview True Cost Second Owner Study by predictive analytics and data company We Predict, unplanned repair costs for electric commercial vans are on average 22 percent lower compared to internal combustion engine equivalents after three years on the road. The reason for this is that electric vehicles have fewer mechanical parts than internal combustion engine vehicles. This is significant because reductions in repairs also mean more time on the road for busy delivery fleets. In a world where downtime is death for fleets, keeping vehicles on the road is critical to meeting the ever-increasing demand for last-mile deliveries.
Meanwhile, in March 2022, CNBC reported that diesel fuel was already costing over $5 (USD) per gallon nationally, with gasoline hitting $6 (USD) in some parts of the country. So there can be important fuel cost savings to be made for fleets that switch to electric vans. In fact, BrightDrop estimates fleet owners will save over $10,000 (USD) per vehicle per year in fuel and maintenance when switching to one of our Zevo 600 electric vans, compared to its diesel equivalent. Let’s take a closer look.
Fewer Moving Parts
Why do we expect electric vehicles will need less maintenance? Moving parts are a big part of it, because it’s the moving parts that most often encounter problems. Standard internal combustion engine vehicles usually have over 2,000 moving parts in the drivetrain, while electric vehicles tend only to have about 20. For example, a battery electric vehicle has no timing or fan belt and no alternator. Additionally, an electric vehicle also lacks many of the complex non-moving parts that often fail in internal combustion engines, such as oxygen sensors, spark plugs, and catalytic converters. A 2020 CarMD Vehicle Health Index assessment of the top 10 most popular car repairs in America found replacing a catalytic converter was the most common, while replacing an oxygen sensor came second. According to Forbes, only one of these top ten repairs could ever happen to an electric vehicle (and it was the cheapest to fix at $15). The lack of moving parts also means that repairs on electric vehicles can be less complicated.
Additionally, electric vehicles usually don’t use transmissions, meaning that the common (and expensive) issue of damage to gears is not an issue. Many electric vehicles also use regenerative braking to repurpose expended energy back into the batteries. In addition to electricity savings, regenerative braking can also increase the life (and therefore reduce spending on replacing) of conventional brake parts, due to minimal use. Finally, electric vehicles don’t use engine oil and, although they do use engine lubricants, these rarely require a refill or change.
Advantages of Electrifying Fleets
Electric vehicles can be cheaper to maintain and repair than their ICE or diesel alternatives. They also can be kept on the road longer by reducing the frequency of unplanned repairs, as well as reducing the amount of labor that would otherwise be spent dealing with these problems. All of these benefits take time to accrue. They can only be realized if fleet managers take a ‘total cost of ownership’ perspective that considers all costs over the lifetime of a fleet.
Perhaps the biggest concern that electric vehicle buyers have is that the battery will degrade over time, ultimately requiring an expensive replacement. We believe that such concerns can be overhyped or misplaced. Battery range has improved markedly in recent years, and all BrightDrop vehicles adhere to or exceed federal regulations, which require that electric vehicle batteries are covered by warranty for a minimum of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Now is the time to switch fleets to electric vans. It's an opportunity not only to help reduce vehicle emissions, but also to help realize potential cost savings.
Steve Hornyak is Chief Commercial Officer and Executive Director at BrightDrop