What you need to know about EV driver safety
June 07, 2022
We’re at the beginning of the adoption curve of commercial electric vehicles. Before you begin rapidly adding them to your fleet, you’ll need a firm grasp on utilization patterns, fuel spend, and an often-overlooked consideration – driver safety.
During an EV pilot, such as Arc by Element™, fleet management stakeholders need to engage their driver pool to accept the shift from internal-combustion-engine (ICE) power to electrification.
While this may sound simple, fleet leaders need to answer these five operational questions about EV driver safety:
Have I provided enough training resources?
Rolling EVs into your fleet requires support from within the organization as well as from Element Fleet Management, which provides training resources that reduce driver anxiety.
Training should cover topics such as:
- Owner’s manual
- Driver authentication (keys)
- Driver preferences
- Vehicle options
- Vehicle charging
- Software updates
Reviewing the owner’s manual helps the driver better understand the nuances of the assigned EV. As one example, Tesla vehicles have electronically actuated doors, so if the vehicle is involved in an accident, the driver should know where to locate the mechanical door release latch from the inside.
Driver training can be delivered both in a video-based or in-person format.
It can be provided as a self-directed option of dovetail into regular one-on-one coaching sessions fleet admins schedule with drivers.
How am I helping drivers plan ahead for an electrified trip?
EVs require more pre-trip planning than their ICE counterparts. Drivers need to manage the vehicle’s charge level, so they don’t become stranded on a business trip. This means researching the charging systems on the map.
It’s important to know which stations are available and ready to charge the company EV. In 2021, there were 108,000 charging ports in the U.S. compared to between 111,000 and 150,000 gas stations, according to Electrek.
Tesla sells an adaptor that allows drivers to charge these vehicles outside of the Supercharger network. And in late 2021, Tesla announced it was allowing non-Tesla EV owners charge at 10 of its stations in The Netherlands.
Non-Tesla EV owners have many more options to find charging. Mobile apps such as PlugShare, Open Charge Map, and Charge Hub help drivers find a charger.
Drivers need to understand other considerations:
- How to extend range – Energy consumption is based on driving behavior. It can be conserved by driving at lower speeds
- Optimizing regen braking safety – EVs allow drivers to set the aggressiveness of the regenerative braking, which at its highest setting can jerk the vehicle to a sudden stop. It may be better to opt for a middle setting so reduce the chance of a low-speed, rear-end crash.
- Using a phone as a key – Consider trip details, such as driving into an underground garage or other area without cellular coverage, so your drivers don’t get locked out of their vehicle.
Do EVs come with more advanced technology?
An investment in EVs can boost safe driving, because newer-model EVs typically arrive with more advanced safety technology than their ICE counterparts.
This technology, known as ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems), can help reduce leading causes of fatal accidents such as leaving a highway lane.
Drivers who unintentionally drift off the roadway or into another lane cause almost 60% of fatal accidents on major roadways, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
The development of commercial battery-electric EVs is still early-stage, but manufacturers are ramping up quickly, especially with delivery vans and light-duty trucks for field service workers.
Ford’s E-Transit comes standard with a collision warning, automatic braking, and lane-keep assist. Every Rivian pickup comes with Driver+, a safety bundle with a lane departure warning, automated counter-steering to keep the vehicle in the lane, and collision mitigation.
What are the implications for my driver safety policy?
We recommend developing a separate driver policy for electric vehicles that covers topics such as:
- Charging equipment - home charging
- Public charging
- Reimbursement for charging
- Ownership of the charging equipment
- Tesla EV maintenance
- Warranty repairs
- Tesla 3 vehicle features
- Tesla data privacy
- Tips for driving electric vehicles
The EV policy should be put in writing and be provided alongside the company’s non-EV driving safety policy.
How can video-based telematics systems help?
GPS tracking and video telematics systems gather a tremendous amount of data about the way a vehicle is being driven, so fleet admins can lower risky driving behaviors such as speeding, aggression, and distraction.
EVs don’t use traditional fleet telematics, because tracking modules rely on an ignition-key turn to pull ICE engine data from the vehicle’s electronic architecture (CAN or J-Bus).
EVs have a lower rate of adoption of telematics systems, but many video driver management systems can be used independently of fleet tracking. Installing a road- or driver-facing camera can help fleets gather driving data for safety coaching sessions.
More advanced video systems use AI to deliver in-vehicle alerts that help drivers self-coach in real time. AI alerts can detect cell-phone, food and drink, fatigue and other risky behaviors that lead to collisions.
Are you ready to take action?
If you’re considering managing your EV driver safety in a more hands-on way, Element can help with safety enhancements and details about what to consider for policy adjustments. Get in touch with us to learn more.
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