Transportation has taken over as the leading contributor of CO2 emissions in many countries around the world. Canada has avoided this distinction by remaining a strong advocate of green driving practices. Canada has consistently pushed measures to reward responsible environmental practices from the top down. With Canadian fleets responding to the growing demand for electrification, XLFleet’s Eric Foellmer shares how hybrids play a pivotal role in this transformation .
Although the Canadian government is firmly embracing alternative fuels to support sustainable transportation, a century’s worth of internal combustion engine (ICE) infrastructure cannot be displaced overnight. As a result, gas- and diesel-powered fleet vehicles remain the norm for most forms of commercial transportation.
Even as electrified vehicles have emerged as the clean propulsion technology of choice among consumers and fleets alike, all-electric, or battery electric vehicles (BEVs) remain limited by several distinct challenges that have limited their widescale adoption thus far.
- High capital cost. Battery electric vehicles cost significantly more than their conventional counterparts, particularly for larger vehicles with enormous battery capacities.
- Insufficient infrastructure. The infrastructure needed to reliably power BEVs, both inside a fleet’s facility and on the routes in which they operate, is still in its infancy.
- Lack of product availability. Fleet-ready BEV options remain largely in the concept or early development stage, despite the news cycles they have generated in recent years.
As battery prices slowly come down and the nationwide charging infrastructure continues to become more robust, the transportation industry is clearly headed toward a day when full battery electric vehicle propulsion becomes the norm, and not the exception. But we are not close to being there yet. In fact, most estimates suggest we are decades, not years, from this being the case.
In the meantime, hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) will remain the largest-selling electrified vehicle category for the foreseeable future. Hybrids, along with plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), provide a demonstrable return on investment, reduce a fleet’s carbon footprint, and eliminate the range anxiety and operational requirements that are barriers to adopting BEVs in large quantities today.
- Reduced capital and operating costs. While incentive programs are typically needed to purchase even a single battery electric commercial fleet vehicle, HEVs and PHEVs can be purchased at a fraction of the cost, with or without incentives, delivering immediate value and lowering operating expenses over time.
- Minimal infrastructure requirements. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles continue to leverage the vehicle’s internal combustion engine, so there’s no range anxiety to consider.
- A wide range of vehicles and applications. When hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric drive solutions are offered as aftermarket upfits, they can be installed onto a wide range of popular fleet vehicles from multiple OEMs.
While some consider hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric drive solutions to be a bridge to an all-electric future, they are actually an accelerating technology that speeds the adoption of those long-term BEV applications. They offer a number of advantages that can support BEV adoption as those technologies and supporting infrastructure continue to develop.
- Immediate results with longer-term demand. Adopting commercial HEVs and PHEVs now can help drivers, maintenance teams and fleet managers become accustomed to operating and maintaining electrified vehicles immediately, creating further demand for electric powertrains down the road.
- Strong installation and service capacity. Aftermarket electrification providers like XL Fleet have built comprehensive networks throughout North America where customers can buy, install and service their electrified vehicles from the same location – often from the same dealer or upfitter they’re already working with.
- Greater charging efficiency with minimal infrastructure. A single EVSE station can often charge multiple plug-in hybrid vehicles in the same time required to fully charge an all-electric vehicle. This maximizes shift efficiency and can help defer costly power system upgrades needed to support a BEV fleet.
Canadian fleets are helping to set the national standard for sustainability, and they are adopting electrified vehicles in growing numbers for a wide range of applications. Because of their strong sustainability performance and ease of adoption, hybrids have become a leading option among Canadian fleets today. XL Fleet hybrid and plug-in hybrid systems, for example, can improve the fuel economy of standard gas- and diesel-powered fleet vehicles from Ford, GM and Isuzu by up to 25-50%, while reducing emissions by 20-33%, all without operational disruption, range anxiety, or high capital costs. Most importantly, they are helping environmentally conscious fleets adopt cleaner, greener vehicles right away, without needing to wait for BEVs to become more affordable, available or viable for the challenges of daily fleet use.
In this way, hybrids are helping to propel the Canadian fleet industry into a more fully electrified future, while providing immediate sustainability value for their users for years to come.