What is fleet charging as a service (CaaS)?

Today’s fleet managers now have the option to bundle hardware and software together and pay for everything as part of one subscription. But how does CaaS work? And what are the alternatives? Let’s dive into the pros, the cons, and the alternatives to the ‘charging as a service’ business model…

Keeping an EV fleet charged up and ready to go isn’t without its challenges, so what solutions are there out there? One of the newer models on the market is charging as a service (CaaS), which wraps up everything fleet managers need into a monthly subscription.

But how exactly does that work? And is CaaS the most efficient way to set up an EV fleet for ongoing success?  

Let’s dive into the pros, the cons, and the alternatives to the ‘charging as a service’ business model…

What is fleet charging?

Fleet charging is the act of keeping electric fleet vehicles road-ready with enough battery power to perform their duties. And, unlike their petrol-powered equivalents, that normally requires a bit of forethought, strategy, and infrastructural investment.

Any commercial or enterprise vehicle fleet needs to be on the road more than it is off. That means ensuring that each car, van, truck, bus, or taxi is roadworthy, safe, reliable, and – importantly – fuelled up.  

With internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, that often means trusting drivers to go to gas/petrol stations, fill up, and charge the expense to a company card. But with electric vehicles, things are different.  

Crucially, electric vehicles take longer to charge than an ICE vehicle takes to refuel, and that presents fleet managers with an important challenge: how do you ensure that fleet vehicles have the charge they need and that drivers aren’t spending too much time off the road while batteries are being refilled?

While that longer refueling time seems like a big disadvantage on the surface, the nature of eMobility actually presents a big opportunity: with the ability to install chargers at the company depot, office, or campus, fleet managers can stop having to rely on third parties for fuel, and bring everything in-house.  

That means charging the fleet overnight, in shifts, or otherwise alternately when not in use. And that, in a nutshell, is fleet charging.

What is charging as a service (CaaS)?

Charging as a service (CaaS) is where one company provides the hardware and software infrastructure necessary for EV charging as an ongoing subscription.  

You’ve probably noticed that a lot of services are moving to subscription models these days – from audiobooks to Adobe Photoshop. CaaS is no different; it’s a way for providers to receive regular subscription revenue in return for the wholesale provision of charging services to residential and commercial properties.

For fleet managers, that means paying a regular monthly subscription for everything, including the charge stations themselves, the software that manages them, and also the human service of monitoring and optimizing the charging experience. That makes it a hands-off proposition for fleet managers.

How does charging as a service work?

Imagine you’re a fleet manager for a delivery company. In your local depot, you’ve just replaced 100 ICE vans with electric alternatives. Now you need charging infrastructure that can ensure all 100 vans have the juice they need to hit your targets, keep drivers happy, and keep operational costs as low as possible.  

You might, in this instance, choose to go with a ‘charging as a service’ provider that packages everything up for you.

A CaaS provider will install chargers and manage their operation, handle repairs and maintenance, and take care of billing for energy for a regular monthly or annual fee. The main downside here is that if you chose to cancel that subscription, you’ll not only lose access to the ‘service’ side of that offering but also to the hardware.

That’s why CaaS deals usually lock fleets into contracts with a minimum term of five years or more.

Is charging as a service the best option for EV fleets?

As with pretty much any business decision, there are a bunch of pros and cons that come with choosing a full-on CaaS provider to service EV fleet needs. Each pro has an associated con when compared to buying charging hardware outright from a turnkey solution provider (which we’ll come onto in a bit) – so it’s well worth covering all the angles.

Here are the ups and downs of ‘charging as a service’:

Pros of CaaS:

CaaS offers EV fleet managers the flexibility to choose and customize charging solutions to meet a wide range of scales, levels, and needs, which should help them build a service with limited unnecessary overheads.

With CaaS, fleet managers can scale their charging infrastructure up or down quite quickly, allowing them to adapt to changes in fleet size and charging demands without significant upfront investments.  

Simplified management
CaaS relieves fleet managers of the operational worries associated with charging infrastructure by outsourcing all of the maintenance, repairs, and updates to the service provider – freeing up their time and resources.

Reduced upfront investment
With a CaaS solution, fleet managers can avoid the need for substantial upfront investments in charging infrastructure and hardware, since the infrastructure is owned and managed by the service provider.

CaaS ensures that fleet charging infrastructure stays up to date with ever-evolving standards and technology advancements. That can be especially useful in terms of keeping up with any regulatory changes, where the compliance process is managed fully by the service provider.

Cons of CaaS:

Relying on external service providers for charging infrastructure introduces a level of dependency, as fleet managers must rely on the service provider fully for uninterrupted access to their charging services.

Cost structure
CaaS may have higher long-term costs compared to turnkey solutions. Ongoing service fees and usage charges can accumulate over time, potentially exceeding the cost of owning and operating a turnkey charging solution.

Limited control
Fleet managers have quite limited control over their charging infrastructure when using CaaS, since they rely on service providers for pretty much every part of the day-to-day operation and optimization. That can result in timing and quality issues.

Customization constraints
CaaS solutions can also have limitations in terms of customization options compared to turnkey solutions. That includes white labeling and integration into existing services that help fleet managers tailor their charging infrastructure to their company’s specific requirements.

Service reliability
The reliability and uptime of CaaS solutions are dependent on the service provider's performance, as any service outages, technical issues, or maintenance activities by the provider can impact the availability of charging services.

Long-term cost stability
While CaaS eliminates upfront infrastructure costs, the long-term cost stability may be uncertain; if service providers adjust their pricing structures, it’ll result in potential pricing shocks down the line.

Potential disruptions
Because CaaS users are entirely dependent on the provider for every part of their charging infrastructure, any service outages or technical problems that happen on the CaaS provider’s end can disrupt charging operations – leading to downtime for the EV fleet that can hamper the business’s bottom line or employee engagement.

So what’s the alternative to charging as a service?

The alternative to using a charging as a service provider is a turnkey solution. Here, fleet managers own their own hardware and use a licensed software platform to manage their fleet charging system themselves – albeit with included support and maintenance help.

As an analogy, let’s think about a couple of the options you have when it comes to exercise. With a gym membership, you get access to a bunch of equipment to use whenever you like – but the second you stop paying the subscription, you won’t be allowed in. Your fee covers everything you need, but you’re not paying anything off; you’re just renting access.

The turnkey alternative in this instance would be buying home gym equipment and paying for online personal training sessions. If you stop paying for those services you’d lose access to the training sessions, but you’d still have the equipment. That’s how we at Spirii operate.

At Spirii, we believe in putting the power of EV charging firmly in our partners’ and clients’ hands. That means that, while we’ll guide you through everything you could ever need to consider when setting up your charging infrastructure, we also want your charging network to be yours, not ours.

For EV fleets, that means offering a wealth of Spirii-Certified hardware options or letting you choose your own – we’re fully hardware agnostic.  

Underpinning everything, though, is intelligent, cloud-based software built to put you in control. The Spirii Platform consolidates every EV fleet charging process into one place – from where you can effortlessly monitor all your chargers, respond to service issues with remote troubleshooting, and manage user groups, permissions, and prices.  

Dynamic Load Management, for instance, allows you to optimize electricity capacity and lower installation and operational costs, while real-time energy market insights and Dynamic Pricing can help you shift charging sessions to when electricity prices and the climate impact are at their lowest.  

With our platform solutions, you can also easily set up compensation schemes and automated reimbursement for employees charging their company car at home or in public, and get real-time insights from datasets such as charging behavior, usage, and energy consumption. All of which makes it easier for you to optimize and scale your charging solution.

Our turnkey solutions even allow for full white-labeling and API support, letting you wrap our offering up in your branding, and integrate our solutions into your business as much – or as little – as you’d like.

The big benefit Spirii offers over CaaS providers is that you retain control and ownership of your charging network – letting you manage it fully in-house – without losing access to 24/7 support and guidance from a team of local experts.

The Spirii Go app puts drivers in control

Fleet managers looking to empower their drivers to transition to electric without worry should definitely take a look at the Spirii Go app, which acts as a true co-pilot for EV drivers.  

Available on Android or iOS, Spirii Go makes it super simple to search and navigate to nearby compatible chargers, wherever drivers are in Europe, as well as making charging and payment a breeze thanks to a wide range of payment options and currencies.

Spirii Go also lets drivers redeem discount vouchers, roam at over 225,000 charge points across Europe, and keep an eye on their personal energy consumption – all with 24/7 support from our team of local experts.

Spirii Go is the best way for EV fleet managers to empower employees to adapt to driving electric without worry.

Can I charge my car at Fleet Services?

Fleet Services, found between Junctions 4A and 5 of the M3 motorway, are owned and operated by Welcome Break. It has charge points for a range of EV types, with public charge points as well as food and drink options, a hotel, and free parking.

How many EV chargers does Fleet Services have?

At the time of writing, Fleet Services has 8 Tesla superchargers with 16 connectors as well as a growing number of GridServe chargers. Tesla superchargers are now open to all modern EV cars, not just Tesla models.  

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