Terry Rivers, Cox Automotive: Are Electric Vehicles Good for Your Fleet?

Terry Rivers, Cox Automotive: Are Electric Vehicles Good for Your Fleet?

When it comes to fleet management, converting to an electric vehicle is a viable option for certain fleet profiles, according to Terry Rivers, vice president of maintenance for Cox Automotive Mobility Fleet Services and provost of the company’s Fleet Tec Academy.

To get an idea of ​​what type of fleet would be good to make this switch, I had a brief chat with Mr. Rivers on the sidelines of the Top Tech Finals, a Fleet Tec Academy world-class truck technician competition. .

Terry Rivers and Global Fleet Editor Daniel Bland at Top Tech 2022 Finals in Indianapolis Indiana (source: Global Fleet)

You convert your own fleet to electric. Can you tell me about that?

Rivers: Yes, for our fleet of maintenance trucks we use most of our energy on site rather than going to and from the site. Keep in mind that if you work in the cold or in extreme heat, you will need air conditioning and this will consume a lot of energy.

Other companies such as electricity or cable companies have similar fleet cycles. For example, they can have a lineman electrician work hours on a telephone pole. To escape bad weather, they should use the air conditioning or heating for a few minutes.

A mechanic can also get into the car to have lunch or snack, among other things, to take notes.

That said, an electric vehicle (EV) uses a fraction of the energy an internal combustion engine (ICE) uses to keep the cabin cool or warm for driver shelter. In an hour, a diesel burns about half a gallon (about US$2.80). Also consider that an internal combustion engine has almost 10,000 parts on average, while an EV has only about 700. Overall, the maintenance costs of an EV are about 30% lower than the ICE maintenance costs.

Which activities are carried out by your maintenance fleet?

Rivers: Our on-site maintenance includes performing services on various vehicles. In addition to preventive maintenance, other duties may include air conditioning repairs, brake work, and tire changes. In general, our technicians work on class 4-8 trucks and could potentially spend half their time on construction sites.

We also have our Ride Clean service which provides vehicle cleaning with less than a liter of water, a sustainable way to keep fleets in top condition.

And how does EV maintenance differ?

Rivers: One difference you may encounter in the operations of an EV fleet is the management and repair of regenerative braking systems. However, there are no problems such as oil change and fuel filter replacement. From what I understand, maintenance on an EV is about a third of the maintenance cost of ICE engine platforms. Still, one of the biggest challenges facing EV deployment today is the lack of charging infrastructure, something that should improve in the coming years.

So, if I have a fleet of 1,000 vehicles, how many maintenance technicians do I need?

Rivers: Good question. For diesel-powered fleets, the industry-accepted standard is roughly one technician per 30 vehicles. However, for EVs it could be one technician per 90 vehicles or maybe even 100.

In addition to building your own EV fleet, you are also building these types of fleets for other companies, right?

Absolute. Our goal is to reduce our greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions, but we also want to help our customers. Although we serve several customers, DHL is one of the most important multinational companies we care for.

How do you see the evolution of electrified fleets?

Rivers: First, this is not new. Some 100 years ago, Henry Ford hired Thomas Edison to create an electric version of the Model T for his wife. Basically she was a little lady who wasn’t strong enough to crank the engine physically because there was no starter. So you can see that this is not new, but that there are several new developments going on.

There were about 450 new form factor ICE start-ups at the time, such as Ford, Chrysler and Chevrolet, and now there are about 400 new form factor start-up manufacturers. Evolution is underway and it is an interesting time to work in the vehicle industry today.

Top photo: Terry Rivers (source: Handout)