Turning the blue lights green

Fleet electrification strategies must include infrastructure if they are to be successful and cost-effective. Natasha Fry, head of sales at Mer Fleet Services, outlines how to properly plan and implement EV charging infrastructure to provide the right support for your EVs.

The UK Government has set ambitious Net Zero targets for emergency services, but how easy is it to turn those blue lights green?

Current affairs

One thing is for sure, fleet electrification is going to have to happen at an almost unprecedented pace. For example, at the launch of the Sustainability Decarbonisation Programme for policing in England and Wales in November 2021, its authors noted the scale of the challenge.

At that time, forces across the two countries had installed fewer than 1,000 EV charging points but would require an estimated 8,000 to support a fully electric police fleet. This is further supported by the findings of a survey by Auto Express last year, which reported that 33 police forces had just over 800 charge points between them, powering 430 EVs.

One force which did not provide EV data for the survey was Police Scotland, which came under fire last year for investing significantly in electric cars – but in some cases, not the charging infrastructure to support them. According to national media reports, some vehicles were wholly reliant on public charging hubs. This is a salutary tale for any blue light service seeking to ramp up its fleet transition to EVs – get the charging right, or your EV strategy risks failure.

The stark reality is that not all of an emergency services fleet can be switched to electric right now. For example, rural services will need vehicles to cover distances that might be beyond the current generation of EVs, particularly if they are travelling at speed as this drains battery power at a faster rate.

However, gathering and understanding data from your fleet will enable you to identify which vehicles you can electrify now.

Planning stage

Once you have got a firm handle on which vehicles you can electrify, there are two more questions to answer: What numbers and types of charge points will you need to support them? And secondly, can your stations or depots access enough electricity to power the charge points those EVs will need? A competent EV charging provide should be able to help in terms of right-sizing your charging infrastructure.

Power supply is also an increasing roadblock to fleet electrification. EV chargers are high load items and in many parts of the UK our energy grid is simply not designed to support them. Again, a good EV charging provider will help you with this stage by carrying out data analysis and site surveys to determine how much power you’ll need compared to how much is actually available.

They can also help you to work around grid connection constraints by installing chargers with load balancing technology. However, make sure first that slower charging will not impact your operations. In addition, be aware that some use cases might require higher capacity chargers. For example, if a vehicle is in use 24/7, you might need a rapid charger to refill the batteries as quickly as possible, so the vehicle is always ready when called for.

Other factors

Another major factor in finding an EV charging partner has to be reliability. Almost all vehicles in a blue light fleet are mission-critical in some respect – if they are going to become electric vehicles, they need charging infrastructure that works to keep them on the road.

As with most purchases, there are two elements to consider. The first is the reliability of the charging infrastructure itself, and the second is the effectiveness of the charging company when it comes to both preventative maintenance and emergency repairs. If you cannot afford for your charge points to go down, look for a provider who offers remote diagnostics capabilities backed up with high quality service level agreements – this will keep downtime to a minimum if a charge point does go offline.

Beyond reliability, another consideration is experience. Look for a charging provider with a track record in successfully supporting emergency services or other mission-critical applications like delivery fleets in their EV transition.

Next steps

Mer is one of Europe’s largest EV charging providers and has a proven track record in supporting emergency services through the EV transition, with clients including London Ambulance Service and Northumbria Police.

Mer is running a free webinar in September for anyone in the blue light sector who wants to know more about EV infrastructure. Experts will explain everything fleet managers and decision-makers need to know about planning, installing, using and maintaining EV charging infrastructure.

Sign up here for Mer’s Electrifying the Emergency Services webinar.


Photo credit: Chalabala on Envato.