The 100K EV Chicken-and-Egg Charging Problem

by Annie Wechter

Betting big on EVs seems to attract a magic number – 100,000.  

In 2019 off the back of its Climate Pledge to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040, Amazon announced a strategic partnership with Rivian which included a plan to purchase 100,000 electric delivery vans to be rolled out to Amazon depots globally.  Although 17,000 chargers have already been installed at 120 U.S. warehouses to support the first 13,500 vans, scaling up the depot charging infrastructure on pace with vehicle deliveries has shown to create a chicken-and-egg problem. 

Hertz, brought under new ownership in 2021, launched a brand strategy refresh, placing an order for 100,000 Teslas in a move to aggressively electrify their car rental fleet. However, earlier this year, Hertz began to sell-off 20,000 of their Teslas, citing expensive repairs for frequent fender benders and clunky charging operations in their garages. 

So where did fleet operations powerhouses such as Amazon and Hertz misfire in their decisions to go in big on EV fleets without proper foresight into the charging infrastructure adjustments that would need to be made to power a profitable business? Their learnings will be a beacon for fleets who follow in their footsteps. Let’s dive into a few of them: 

Amazon chicken-and-egg problem to scaling warehouse charging 

  • High power requirements: Installing 100 charge points per warehouse could require 10-20 times the power currently available 
  • Long construction times: Where power is not readily available through local transmission lines, grid upgrades can take years 
  • Complexity: Differing size and layouts of warehouse parking lots and local utility governance does not allow for a one-size-fits all scaling approach 
  • High capex: Initial investments into charging hardware on top of digging and trenching to upgrade power lines and install power cabinets could cost upwards of $100 million per project 
  • Labor Inefficiency: As the van to charger ratio increases, charging wait periods require extra staff to rotate vans through chargers overnight 

Hertz first-mover disadvantage 

  • Customer uncertainty: due to the temporality of rental drivers, a general lack of familiarity with public charging networks creates range anxiety and lower take-rates for EV rentals 
  • Weak infrastructure: Lack of substantial power availability and car park charging stations resulted in employees driving Teslas off the airport lot to charge offsite 

Fortunately, both companies have been consistent in sticking to their electrification strategy over the long term. Overcoming stumbling blocks to adopt new technologies into fast-paced, high uptime business operations is simply part of the learning curve, especially when you’re leading the pack. But we do have a few ideas that could improve the adoption of fleet electrification for car rental and last-mile delivery operations: 

  1. Reduce, Reduce, Reduce: Smaller battery packs with more power, allow for shorter, faster re-charge cycles, reducing the time and labor required to power the fleet on the regular. 
  1. Integrate mobile superchargers or chargebots into the parking lots: Extend the usability of limited charging infrastructure by charging a small fleet of mobile superchargers to roam around the airport or warehouse lot, turning any parking bay into a charging bay. Get a glimpse into the future with Nyobolt’s Boltee here. 
  1. Design for high-uptime operations: As high-power battery technology like Nyobolt’s becomes adopted by EV OEMs, fleet managers should optimize their fleet by installing a high-power charging system (350kW or higher) which can replenish the battery fully in minutes, rather than hours, keeping vehicles quickly rotating through chargers and getting back to work. 

Just think: if a Rivian delivery van with 270 miles of range could be replaced with a battery pack half the size suitable for urban deliveries, but capable of charging in just 6 minutes, Amazon could increase payload and decrease charging times, all while extending overall delivery uptime. 

Now that’s a 100K bet worth making.