Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging: What’s data got to do with it?

Many of us may be in the market to buy an EV soon, but one of our greatest concerns is where and how we can “fuel up” our new rides. Imagine making that transition not just for one vehicle, but for an entire fleet of more than 200,000 vehicles. Charging becomes an exponentially more important issue.

The electrification of the transportation sector is critical if we as a company intend to meet our carbon neutral operations goal by 2040. According to the “Pathways to Net Zero for the US Energy Transition,” by Energy Pathways USA, transportation made up 27.3% of the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions since 1990. Therefore, electrification of the transportation sector will have a large impact on U.S. efforts to become carbon neutral.

Easier said than done, right? This is exactly why FedEx chose to invest in the Rocky Mountain Institute’s electric mobility data science project. This initiative is providing real-world data on how to electrify the transportation sector for fleet managers, charging providers, policymakers, utilities, and regulators. With so many stakeholders, the data is helping actors across the electrification ecosystem, including FedEx, determine when and where all types of vehicles will need to charge.

For example, with our rollout of 150 EVs in Southern California, FedEx had to build out charging infrastructure at our facilities for these pickup and delivery vehicles – the ones that complete the “last-mile” in delivering packages to your home or business—to charge overnight at their home station. For long-haul trucking to move goods across the country, the nation needs an interstate charging infrastructure in the right place and the right time for the journey. According to National Grid (using RMI data tools), a long-haul charging station will likely have the electricity demand equivalent to that of a small town.

Additionally, as ports, airports, and states seek to become carbon neutral, knowing where to locate charging stations should not only consider driver convenience, but also where the grid is available and ready for the increased demand. As stated in the Energy Pathways USA report, “The grid will also need to accommodate more information, be more resilient, and maintain reliability, all of which will require significant grid modernization.”

The key factor recognized in this research was that data is a vital tool to help charging infrastructure keep pace with the transition to electric vehicles. Data from RMI is being leveraged by many actors, including policymakers, utilities, and regulators, to coordinate short- and long-term plans for building out the country’s grid. It is an exciting time, and this work can help inform future power generation and consumption.