Electric van fleets still facing 12V battery issues, alerts AFP.

The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) has issued a strong call for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to take decisive action and enhance the 12V battery technology on electric vans. This urgent plea comes as the AFP raises serious concerns over the current state of many electric Light Commercial Vehicles (eLCVs) that are deemed “unusable”.

Reports from AFP members reveal that electric vans are being delivered with significant 12V battery issues.

In the past, the fleet association has highlighted the prevalent issue of electric vans experiencing “bricking” problems. This occurs when the 12V battery loses charge after the vehicle is left unused for a short period, typically around a couple of weeks.

AFP chair Paul Hollick expressed dismay as members relayed instances of electric vans being delivered in a non-operational state, leading to immediate rejections. Hollick emphasised that such occurrences were wholly unacceptable and detrimental to the overall electrification efforts in the fleet industry.

“The hindrances posed by these 12V battery issues are undeniably impacting the willingness of several fleets to transition to electric vans,” Hollick remarked.

He further outlined the varied responses from manufacturers involved in addressing the challenge, noting discrepancies in the timeliness and effectiveness of their solutions. Some manufacturers have been swift in their actions, while others have shown a slower pace in resolving the issue across multiple models.

Affected vehicles rendered inoperable must be towed to a dealership as they are incapable of starting or recharging, representing a significant inconvenience to fleet operators.

Hollick acknowledged that with the adoption of electric vans, fleet members were at the forefront of leveraging new technological advancements, inevitably encountering initial obstacles. However, he stressed the noticeable lag in the 12V battery technology compared to the noteworthy progress seen in electric vehicle batteries in recent times.

The proposed solution put forward by manufacturers primarily involves revised software aimed at prolonging the lifespan of the 12V battery.

“While some manufacturers have indicated that updated software solutions are in development and could be implemented in a matter of weeks or months, others have been less definitive, eliciting frustration among fleet operators,” Hollick explained.

He underlined that even with the introduction of software fixes, the underlying weakness in the technology could still lead to eventual “bricking”, albeit delayed. Nonetheless, extending the timeframe before battery failure would represent a notable practical improvement, particularly during extended periods of vehicle inactivity such as holidays.

Fleet operators have resorted to innovative measures, with some investing in solar panels to trickle charge the 12V battery. However, this solution is not without limitations and comes at a considerable cost.

“We are aware of an AFP member contemplating a £1 million investment in solar panels, underscoring the scale of the challenge. While this approach does mitigate the issue to a certain extent, the risk of eventual ‘bricking’ still looms. It appears increasingly likely that a comprehensive resolution will only come with the next generation of electric vans. It is imperative for manufacturers to elevate their efforts in addressing this critical issue,” Hollick urged.

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