Ford acquires Electriphi to help with key EV commercial fleet strategy
Commercial fleet operators are a critical part of Ford’s customer base and its plan to get back on a stronger financial footing. These same fleets are seen as key to the automaker’s plan to successfully sell electric vehicles. But going electric isn’t as easy as swapping gasoline and diesel for an electrical outlet. It takes longer to charge electric vehicles than it does to fill a fuel tank and managing how, when and where it happens is a whole new challenge for fleets. To help with that, Ford acquired a Silicon Valley startup called Electriphi.
On its recent Financial Markets Investor Day, Ford announced the creation of Ford Pro, a new business unit focused on meeting the needs of business customers. Ford Pro includes fleet telematics, vehicle sales, service and charging.
Fleets typically have a much higher use of their vehicles than average consumers and because the vehicles they use are typically much less fuel efficient than the vehicles most people drive, the fuel costs add up to a lot more. quickly. In addition to increasing maintenance costs, the overall operating costs of commercial vehicles represent a much larger share of the total cost of ownership.
This is what makes the electrification of the fleet so attractive. Compared to putting gasoline or diesel in a full-size van or loaded pickup truck and eliminating a lot of the maintenance, using an EV can be considerably less expensive.
However, for a fleet, it’s not as easy as going to the dealership and buying electric vehicles. A consumer may need to install a dryer outlet or wall charger in their garage. A fleet can have a few vehicles or dozens of vehicles that need to be operational to complete the job that needs to be done.
This is where Electriphi comes in. They have developed an integrated software as a service (SaaS) platform that Ford will integrate into its fleet telematics system. With standard connectivity on vehicles, Electriphi will be able to monitor the charge status of each vehicle in the fleet. It will also have access to all chargers in the depot as well as other data such as vehicle routes, area maps, weather and even driver behavior. The system requires chargers connected via wifi which can be managed remotely.
“So we are tied to the operation of the fleet in order to know when each vehicle arrives, when it actually connects to the charger, we look at utility rates as they change,” said Muffi Ghadiali, founder and CEO of Electriphi. “Our algorithm therefore integrates all of this, it assumes that a vehicle can show up at any time, it will leave within a certain period of time. We dynamically calculate the recharge schedule so that it examines everything that is happening in the fleet in real time. And, in fact, the way the algorithm actually works is that every minute it’s watching all of these variables change, and there are some really interesting things too, on the right, for example, the weather.
The Electriphi system can track the amount of energy used by plugged-in vehicles, the times the depot is charged for peak rates, and then manage the load of each vehicle to balance the loads to avoid demand charges and peak rates. Knowing each vehicle’s state of charge and upcoming routes, individual chargers can be automatically prioritized to ensure the fleet has vehicles available when needed while minimizing costs. A dashboard can tell the fleet manager which vehicles are ready to go on which trips to get the job done.
Another challenge for a fleet that wants to go electric is to finance the initial transition. In addition to vehicles, chargers will need to be installed in the depot and electrical upgrades may be required. Ford Pro has made arrangements with Ford Credit to fund the required infrastructure in addition to vehicle financing.
Electriphi also has a total cost of ownership modeling tool that can be used with fleet customers to analyze their actual vehicle usage and determine the optimal combination of electric and internal combustion vehicles and infrastructure requirements. . It’s all part of Ford’s larger plan to have an ongoing relationship with customers, whether they are retail customers or fleets.