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Electrification: Ambitious Goals, Practical Realities

I spent a few days in June at the Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Ann Brown-Hailey, Seth Skydel, the EUFMC board and the entire EUFMC staff put on an amazing event. It felt great to see everyone in person for the first time in three years.

The theme that pervaded the conference: The future of fleet is electrification – and the future is now.

Terex Utilities unveiled the industry’s first all-electric bucket truck (see article on page 34). GM and Ford touted their upcoming electric pickup trucks and other battery-powered models. And the utility construction equipment OEMs talked about their EV machine lineups (see page 26 for more).

But as I spoke with fleet managers during the conference, I got the sense that some of them felt conflicted by the industry’s march toward all-electric.

They’re excited about being on the leading edge of transforming the industry. But they also feel pressure from their senior management to meet ambitious goals without sufficient clarity and line of sight into how they can deliver.

They’re wrestling with a number of questions: Will there be enough EV models available for each vehicle and equipment class by 2030? Will those EVs perform reliably in all utility fleet applications? Is leadership fully committed to spending the 1.5 to 2 times more per unit for EVs over the next several years? What does the fleet’s charging infrastructure need to look like for on-site and at-home charging to support a 100% EV fleet? How will utility fleets recharge EVs during extended storm response events? What are the consequences if the fleet falls short of the company’s zero-emission goal? How will senior management judge the fleet manager’s performance if the department misses the target because of factors outside of their control? Will they get credit for progress made? What is Plan B down the road if it appears that EV availability, reliability and infrastructure won’t meet demand by the 2030 target?

The bottom line: Fleet electrification offers a lot of promise to protect the environment. And OEMs have made substantial strides toward delivering more and more EV models. But hitting an “all-electric by 2030” target depends on so many factors falling into place that are beyond a fleet manager’s control.

Senior leadership must get on the same page with their fleet managers to strike the optimal balance between the company’s ambitious goals and the practical realities of the market.


Sean M. Lyden

Sean M. Lyden is the editor of Utility Fleet Professional magazine.