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Phoenix Motorcars’ Fully Electric Medium-Duty Vehicles Enable Cost Reductions For Fleets

Phoenix Motorcars was started to develop and manufacture a host of medium-duty vehicles ranging from shuttle buses to flatbed trucks and beyond to provide commercial and government fleets a way to cut emissions and embrace the low-maintenance benefits of electric powertrains.

Sponsored by Phoenix Motorcars
Written by Kyle Field

Phoenix Motorcars was started to develop and manufacture a host of medium-duty vehicles ranging from shuttle buses to flatbed trucks and beyond to provide commercial and government fleets a way to cut emissions and embrace the low-maintenance benefits of electric powertrains.

We covered a sampling of the vehicles Phoenix produces a few months back and are back today to dive deeper into the total cost of ownership these fully battery-electric medium-duty vehicles enable for fleets.

Total Cost of Ownership

One of the many benefits of electric vehicles is the lower cost of operation, which is primarily driven by two areas — lower cost of electricity compared to gasoline, diesel, or natural gas (for the same total vehicle movement) and lower maintenance costs as a result of the simplified powertrain. The offset is that battery electric vehicles are more expensive up front (today) due to the higher relative cost of batteries.

Diving into these areas for Phoenix Motorcars’ electric shuttle bus, their calculations return a cost per mile of $0.14 compared to $0.41 for CNG and $0.50 for a gasoline-fired shuttle bus. At $3/gallon and $.12/kWh, that adds up to an impressive $150,000 savings over a very approachable 300,000 miles / 480,000 km.

Operating expenses are further improved by reduced maintenance costs. Electric vehicles do not require oil or oil filter changes — though, this is not common knowledge, even for some auto dealerships. While getting our Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive serviced at the local Mercedes-Benz dealership, I found that the invoice indicated an oil change had been performed even though the service writer assured me it had not (obviously).

Phoenix Motorcars knows these maintenance benefits well and knows that they translate into real cost savings as fleet managers are able to slash vehicle maintenance costs that have come to be seen as expected, mandatory costs of running a fleet. Cutting maintenance goes beyond just the financial savings on the cost of maintenance, as it also correlates to a direct increase in fleet uptime. If the shuttle doesn’t need as much maintenance, that means more days on the road generating income instead of time spent in the shop getting tuned up.

This translates into real cash, with Phoenix Motorcars estimates putting its shuttles nearly $17,000 cheaper than a comparable gas shuttle maintenance program and more than $21,000 cheaper than a CNG shuttle. Eliminating the need for emission control equipment, spark plugs, and related systems really shines when the typical expenses for maintenance are taken into account.

Electric Drivetrain Efficiency

Medium-duty vehicles are well suited for electrification as electric drivetrains are much more efficient at the lower speeds than their internal combustion counterparts. A recent Air Resources Board Study found that delivery vehicles and urban buses operated at an average of 11 and 12 miles per hour respectively and that at those speeds, electric vehicles were much more efficient than their internal combustion counterparts.

The study specifically noted that, “the implication of these results is that the GHG emissions benefits and fuel saving from electrification of trucks and buses are better than previously understood especially for low speed duty cycles.” The trend towards the electrification of low speed vehicles is not just something being pushed by manufacturers but rather, is seeing significant traction with fleet operators, like the USPS Next Generation Delivery Vehicle design competition that aims to modernize the US Postal Service’s entire 190,000 vehicle fleet.

Getting down into the data, the study revealed impressive efficiency improvements: “the data shows a vehicle efficiency improvement of about 3.5 times at highway speeds and efficiencies that are 5 to 6 times higher than conventional diesel vehicles when operated at lower speed duty cycles where idling and coasting loses from conventional engines are highest.”

That’s right — electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles operating at lower speeds are 5–6 times more efficient than diesel vehicles. In a lot of ways, that seems obvious, but having data from an unbiased source on the matter is powerful. The study compared vehicle efficiency both on a dynamometer and in normal driving conditions on the road with equally impressive results from each.

Reduction of Fleet Emissions

The simple fact of the matter is that buying electric vehicles for fleet applications is a purely financial decision for most companies, organizations, or agencies. What also holds true as a part of that equation is that switching to electric vehicles also drives significant, impactful reductions in tailpipe emissions that are worth talking about.

Digging into the data shows that switching from a diesel shuttle bus to a fully electric shuttle bus like a Phoenix Motorcars shuttle results in an annual reduction of 61 tonnes of CO2 equivalent GHGs. As fleets look to mitigate the environmental impact they are having on the environment as part of corporate emission reporting requirements, it is clear that switching to an electric powertrain from combustion engines is one of the most effective ways of doing so.

Cutting emissions from vehicles also minimizes exposing employees to noxious exhaust fumes. Millions of workers, students, and transit riders expose themselves daily to tailpipe emissions as a means of making money, getting to school, and just getting around town. Fleet operators finally have a cost-effective means for cutting those tailpipe emissions out of the picture.

Comply with Current and Future Regulations

Emission regulations in California are getting tougher every day. Those standards are echoed around the country and around the world as environmental protection agencies seek to enhance protections for the public. Converting a fleet to zero emissions not only ensures compliance with current and future emission regulations — it does so in a way that can and should be advertised to the public. True zero-tailpipe-emission vehicles are, unfortunately, rare today, and upgrading a fleet to fully electric still sets the fleet apart.

For example, when I travel and have to leave my car at the airport, I prefer to park at Wally Park because they have converted their fleet at LAX to Phoenix Motorcars’ Zero Emission Utility Shuttle (ZEUS) vehicles. Beyond just being the right thing for the environment, the electric shuttles provide a quieter ride to the airport, don’t rattle like crazy, and don’t stink like their diesel or gas counterparts.

 
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