Benefits of going electric at depots06 February 2024

fleets electric depot

Fleets may have reservations about making the switch to electric, but Ben Spencer discovers how this transition could yield benefits further down the line

Installing electric charging infrastructure at depots may be expensive, but a study has predicted how the investment will reach parity with diesel, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

For this study, TCO included the unit purchase, initial charging infrastructure, network connection reinforcement, energy costs, service and maintenance.

The graph (pictured) is part of a feasibility study into depot-based charging of electric heavy goods vehicles (eHGV) in which project leader provided input on fleet operations and charging infrastructure and energy network connections. Project partner Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult supplied input about modelling the charging infrastructure and power equipment, while Levistor offered an insight into energy storage.

The graph compares a variety of fuels for a representative fleet depot over ten years, with the TCO (£million) accumulated over this period. The modelling shows that electric incurs a higher upfront cost (Point A) but can reach parity in seven years (Point B) or even sooner (Point C).

Syselek business development director Alan Walker reveals the study was borne out of a Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) analysis ( that advocates infrastructure investment. The partners aim to determine the necessary support for eHGV charging at fixed locations.

“We need to understand what the TCO looks like over this period, while also recognising there is no one size fits all for electric,” says Walker. “A depot could implement electric in a smart way to gain economic opportunities or a way that would take them longer to reach parity with diesel.”

Fleet operators have to work with their existing depot facilities when transitioning to electric. Therefore, the study assessed whether fleets should invest in the network connection or use a local energy storage system that serves as a buffer.

Such a decision needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, a depot that only uses two chargers would not need to operate them at full power 24/7 if they only had to power 10 trucks. “The energy storage would be able to deliver the energy in peaks but would receive it from the network in a flat curve all day long or during the night when electricity is cheap, so you would not need to reinforce the network connection,” says Walker.


Fleet operators can also reduce time to reach parity with diesel to five years (Point C) via bidirectional and smart charging. European truck manufacturers have started trials with bidirectional-charging-capable trucks so operators can sell unused energy at a premium when not required. “A depot could use fleet telematics to time when they are charging and use an energy storage [option] to take energy from the network when it is cheap and give it to the vehicles in a managed way. An energy management system can also be used to help minimise costs.”

Suppliers are already offering the charging equipment up to 250kW, but Walker describes the energy management technology as the enabler. “We supply an energy management system that looks at the tariff information and how the vehicles operate to predict how much energy vehicles are going to need to recharge and determining when would be the right time to deliver it.”

Ben Spencer

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