Fleet FYIs: A Podcast by Utilimarc

Should you be concerned about vampire drain for electric vehicles? | Utilimarc Fleet FYIs

October 21, 2022 Utilimarc Season 3 Episode 33
Fleet FYIs: A Podcast by Utilimarc
Should you be concerned about vampire drain for electric vehicles? | Utilimarc Fleet FYIs
Show Notes Transcript

Should you be concerned about vampire drain? Find out on today's episode of #UtilimarcFleetFYIs.

Show notes for today's episode can be found at: https://www.utilimarc.com/blog
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Gretchen Reese (00:08):

Hey there. Welcome to the Fleet FYIs podcast, the weekly podcast by Utilimarc that reveals how you can make the most of your data for smarter fleet management. My name is Gretchen, and every week you'll hear from me or some of the industry's finest in candid conversations that will not only shed some light on over two decades' worth of fleet data insights, but also some of the industry's hottest talking points and key metric analysis with the aim to help you better understand your fleet from every angle. But before we begin, if this is the first time you've heard our show, thanks for stopping by. I'm so glad you decided to come along for the ride with us.


But I've got a quick favor to ask you. Once you finish today's episode, if you could take a few minutes to leave us a review on your favorite podcasting platform, we would really appreciate it. Give us a rating, five stars, I hope, or tell us what you liked or leave us a comment or a question about what you've heard in today's episode. If we haven't yet covered a topic that you're interested in hearing more about, let us know. We would be happy to go over it in detail in a later show.


Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. I have an interesting topic for you guys today, and we've talked about this a bit in an earlier episode. I think this was probably, I don't know, maybe around April time, maybe it was March, but we were talking about phantom drain, and I wanted to retouch on this topic because it's come out, phantom drain, vampire drain, whatever you want to call it, there's a lot of synonyms here, but really the whole question is how does it in fact affect EV batteries as a whole? And I think this is something that as a lot of fleets are starting to electrify and they're starting to actually look into electric technology too, this is going to be something that as you start to charge, wonder what infrastructure is right for your fleet for the location that you're in and also if it's going to be a viable option, people will have to start looking into. Let's dig in.


So before I kick off this episode, I just wanted to tell you guys something that I'm super excited about. I'm going to be speaking on a panel on environmental social governance or ESG at the Fleet Forward Conference coming up the second week of November so if you guys are going to be in Santa Clara for the show itself, I would hope to see you there. I'm really looking forward to it and I think especially because, and it reminded me of it with this episode, I think it'll be a really interesting conversation on electric vehicles and also some of the hidden consequences and frustrations that you see a lot of folks in fleet experiencing, it's not just the electrification first perspective, which is really cool.


But as that leads me into today's topic for the day, phantom drain or vampire drain, we all know that electric vehicle range is one of the most important aspects for any driver or any fleet manager to consider when you're actually adopting this new technology. It's imperative when it comes to planning the logistics behind daily vehicle routes and charging schedules as a lower range could mean shorter, inefficient routes and more frequent charging needs, which can lead to complications if you don't have access to a private fleet charging yard or public fleet charging. Anyways, fleet managers that have these electric vehicles will also have to consider the various situations and the factors that cause batteries to drain faster or inhibit efficient charging. Thermal management can come into this, into play here, and we'll have an episode coming up in the near future probably about three weeks from now, talking about how thermal management can be the key to a successful EV pilot. But what I wanted to talk about today is the extreme temperature side of this thermal management argument, and it's one of the main factors that can actually cause these batteries to drain faster or inhibit efficient charging.


Think of your cell phone. That is one thing that your battery probably dies a lot faster when it's cold or even when it's hot or it completely shuts down. It's the same type of concept here. For fleets that operate in extremely hot or extremely cold weather conditions, battery capacity and it's charging speed can be negatively affected, especially for a vehicle that is exposed to the elements and not garaged. Now, these effects can be permanent and they can also lessen an EV's range over time, which is why I wanted to talk about them today. What they're also noticing, these fleet managers that have electric vehicles, they're noticing this phenomenon called phantom drain, which affects battery performance and fuel efficiency. Now, for those of you that have only heard of vampire drain, phantom drain is a pretty similar topic, synonymous, like I said earlier. But basically what that is it occurs when energy is lost from a battery when the vehicle is not actually in use, so say for example, parked on the street or parked in a garage.


It was first observed in a study conducted on a 2013 Tesla Model S, which showed that onboard electronics contributed to a range loss of up to five miles when vehicles sat unused and unplugged for 18 hours or more. The question of why this happens, well, there's a lot of contributing reasons, but I'm just going to focus on a couple here today. But basically my point is when EVs are turned off, they're still using these standby power features to run these assets such as power locks, battery climate control, and third party applications. Most electric vehicles have a small lead acid battery, which is responsible for powering some essential functions, but the main vehicle battery still suffers phantom drain from other sources.


Now, something I really would like to touch on here too is it's not just electric vehicles that experience this. If you had an internal combustion engine that was either powered by diesel or petrol, if you parked it outside in the sun, you'd still have fuel that evaporates from the tank, but it's easier to attribute that fuel loss to evaporation where some people have more questions when it comes to battery life and why they're losing charge or why they're losing range capabilities when the vehicle is parked and turned off because it's just a battery, right? Well, while five miles of lost range, it might not pose a lot of a threat. If you think about it's maybe a trip to the gas station and back, the constantly advancing technology and third party applications in electric vehicles hold the potential to drain the power of the battery going forward even more. This drain from energy intensive technology in combination with the external factors like we were talking about, extreme weather, for example, can amplify the overall decrease in battery performance, which if you ask me it's not ideal, but we already knew that, right?


Let's talk about what this means for electric vehicle drivers though, because I know that sounds a bit doom and gloom and perhaps a little bit scary when you talk about third party apps draining the battery from your technology, very well aware of that. But what I really want to stress is that phantom drain can have some serious implications for fleets that plan to or are using their EVs less frequently than an internal combustion engine vehicle. Now, this is easy to understand when you imagine how it would be if an internal combustion engine vehicle lost a gallon of fuel to evaporation every day like we talked about, and over the course of several months or a year, this could quickly add up to a substantial amount of excess fuel consumed. Evaporation, if it's taking a gallon a day, you have 365 days in a year, there's 365 gallons of fuel evaporated that you're still paying for. Same concept here with electric vehicles.


Now, to combat this, a lot of drivers will leave their vehicles plugged into charging ports until they are ready to be driven and this actually muddles this EV charging data at an event level. By event level, I'm talking about when you plug in your vehicle or when you unplug it, that's considered a charging event because the act of plugging or unplugging fits into it. Anyways, many small charging events tend to keep vehicles topped off, but for business purposes, they should be aggregated into a single charging event representing the total amount of energy consumed during the vehicle's time where it's actually plugged into these charging ports. Now, electric vehicle drivers and fleet managers can take some preventative measures. If you turn off any of these non-essential features or even switching your vehicle into energy saver mode, that can be a really, really, really good first step.


Additionally, keeping your car warm whenever possible can be a huge help in preserving battery performance because extremely low temperatures, hello of my fellow Minnesotans or Canadians or anyone that experiences super low temperatures on the East coast or the northern us, they could be a major culprit for weakened battery capacity, so keeping cars in a covered grudge can help prevent batteries from exposure to freezing temperatures. Always a good thing.


All in all, phantom drain should not be a deterrent for those that are considering the switch to electric vehicles, nor should it be a major concern for fleet managers. It's just something to keep an eye on and to keep tabs on. As lithium ion batteries continue to evolve and increase in capacity, the slight loss of energy should become even less of a threat in theory.


I want to know what you guys think, though. If you have any questions about electric vehicles, battery capacity, lead acid batteries versus lithium ion batteries, phantom drain, vampire drain, any questions at all, I'd love to hear them. Again, if you have any thermal management questions, please, please, please feel free to send them to me before we record our next episode on thermal management if you'd like to get them answered. I would love to be able to talk about this further with you all. You can send me an email, you can tag me on LinkedIn, use the hashtag #utilimarcfleetfyis, or you can even send me a carrier pigeon. We all know how fond I am of that. Anyways, that's all from me this week. I will speak to you again next Friday. Ciao.

Gretchen Reese (11:26):

Hey there. I think this is the time that I should cue the virtual high five because you've just finished listening to another episode of the Fleet FYIs podcast. If you're already wanting more content, head over to utilimarc.com, which is Utilimarc, with a C, U-T-I-L-I-M-A-R-C.com for this episode's show notes and extra insights coming straight from our analysts to you. That's all from me this week, so until next time, I'll catch you later.